1.07 – El Patio

Carlos A. Rodríguez

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METHUSELAH’S SUNSET – Methuselah is somewhere in my family tree. My great-grandfather died at ninety-six and his mother at one-hundred and one.  His wife and sister died a few years ago at one-hundred two, and one-hundred and one, respectively. Although I had the opportunity to know them well when they were still alive, the forced visits to my great-grandparents’ home when I was younger never inspired the appreciation for my roots that my mother intended. I even have trouble remembering their real names, Marcelino Rosario,“Papitito” and Dolores Lizardi, “Mamitita.” At the beginning of their seventy-year marriage, Marcelino and Dolores built the first concrete house in Hato Nuevo, which stood there for more than eighty years. The antique, uncomfortable...

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Marielys Torres Rodríguez

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WITH JUST THAT LOOK – I found this picture with its old smell in the house where my grandparents lived. When my mother led me to where it was and I saw it for the first time, many questions and feelings came up.  I never had the pleasure of meeting them. Who? My great-grandparents, Gregorio and Santiaga. You are asking, how I know their names? Well, that would be because of my mom, who also told me that they posed for this picture in 1955. I held the image in my hands and it made me so curious, I wanted to know more about them. My mother said: “¿Tan vieja me veo que crees que los conocí desde que eran mas jovenes?” With that response, I realized that few of the living members of my family would know anything about them. Mom remembered a few anecdotes about...

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Lua Harmsen Howard

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WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE “NORMAL?” – She had to be different. She couldn’t just be “normal.” Whenever Lua had to make a decision, she just couldn’t follow the crowd. “That girl, she always has to be some sort of a rebel! Who does she think she is?” That’s what she hears people say. Even as a kid she just couldn’t do it. Other little girls wanted pigtails. Lua boldly stated she wanted to cut her hair as short like a boy. This made her look more like she felt, not at all a girly girl but neither a tomboy. It might have been her family’s fault. To begin her parents were an interracial couple: her father, American, and her mother, Brazilian. I guess as bi-racial kid growing up in suburban Pennsylvania she just decided that she wouldn’t fit into either...

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Amarilis Mercado Cortés

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MY PUERTO RICAN ROOTS – Every morning, my grandmother, María Arcelia Torres Ríos (Celia), was up by 5 a.m. brewing her cup of coffee and preparing for the day. When I moved back to Puerto Rico when I was fifteen, she was the person who taught me how to respect and love my Puerto Rican roots. I never knew what it was to eat pana, aguacate, tembleque, arroz dulce and other typical foods from Puerto Rico. Celia told me that I had to learn how to eat good food not Americanos food. She never liked it when I spoke to her in English. She would say, “Nosotros no estamos en los Estados Unidos y yo no soy Americana.” Celia was the only grandmother I knew. I loved to stay at her house because it was surrounded by nature. Every morning I woke up early to feed the...

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Xiomara Mendez Torres

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THE STORY OF A CHILD – It was a typical day in San Sebastian.  Fundador had gotten up at 5:00 a.m. to open his little store in Pueblo Nuevo where every day he sold rice, bacalao, beans, candy and the children’s favorite, limber.  It was raining and he could see the people walking barefoot through the muddy streets holding their ten-cent shoes in their hands, so they wouldn’t get dirty.  Everybody had lots of children and Fundador and Luisa weren’t the exception. They had eight children, which was an average number of kids for families those days. By 1962, all of Luisa’s and Fundador’s kids had grown up and had children of their own.  But two of their daughters, Cecilia and Ana Luisa (my grandmother), had left Luisa to care for their kids, four from each...

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Alba González

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ILA – There she is, the tallest of the three, with her back straight and eyebrows raised. I have not known her for long and recently (with great sadness, I admit) we’ve been growing apart. My grandmother, a beautiful, strong, independent woman despite her many hardships, still has a smile on her face. Her name is Alba, and even though her youth was cut short by a young marriage, she still keeps a young, playful spirit that sometimes makes me feel as if she were the teenager and I the grandmother. In her youth, her family lived in New York. She says she was often misunderstood by her parents. But, they “were great,” she says. Now she says that. Once, when she was barely sixteen, her father slapped her. “I hate you,” she had said to him.  She confessed she...

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