Fabiola Robles Juarbe

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Seated on a comfortable seat in the living room, drinking a cup of hot black coffee and doing word search puzzles is Francisca. In spite of her brownish gray hair and her white skin already wrinkled, she still looks attractive and elegant.

I show up in the balcony and shout, “Abuela Panchi!”

And smiling, she looks at me and responds, “Here I go mija!” She leaves the coffee cup and the book on the table that is next to the seat and stands up slowly, since the pain in her right knee slows her down.  She grabs the keys sitting on the television set, walks to the door and opens it. When I look at her, she keeps smiling, hugs and kisses me while I ask her blessing. We enter the room, she returns to her seat and I sit on the brown leather sofa that is to the left side of the room.

I asked her for grandpa and she tells me that he went to visit his uncle. While we speak of the family and other related topics, she finishes her coffee and, keeps staring to the street through the door of the living room. She tells me, “Oh Faby, how time has changed things. I remember when I used to live in Utuado and only owned a single pair of shoes. I had to take care of them so much that at times when I returned from school I had to do it on foot, so they wouldn’t get dirty.”

While she recalls those times and people, especially her father, my great-grandfather, whom I never knew, I watch as she takes off her glasses and dries her eyes. She manages to change the subject and asks me if I am hungry.

“Yes I am abuela.

She offers me the leftovers from her lunch. We walk to the kitchen. It is so hot in here, I start to sweat. Abuela Panchi asks me to open the windows of the kitchen. While I open them, Grandma looks for a dish in the wooden cabinet. She takes out one of those made of ceramic, which are decorated with paintings of grapes, apples and other fruit and serves on it a piece of yucca, panapen, batata and guineo. Then, she leaves it on the wooden table, while heating the bacalao stew.

I look at the plate, the yucca with its white color and that peculiar appearance as if it was covered by small white hairs and the batata, my favorite one, of smooth texture and a yellowish medium color. I take the dish and begin to mash the viandas, mixing the roots. Once finished, the mixture looks like mashed potatoes only with a mixture of the colors white and yellow. Grandma takes the old and discolored frying pan and throws some of  bacalao over the viandas. I contemplate my dish. The bacalao in that orange sauce accompanied by the onion, in my opinion, one of the best dishes that you can eat.

I look at grandma, at her hands, the ones responsible for the delicious food I’m about to eat.  They feel rough because of all she has worked throughout her life, but she’s capable of holding mine so gently, that all the roughness disappears. I observe her eyes, the same as my mother’s  but more tired.  They are of that light brown color that I like so much.  I return to my dish and take a bite of the food…but what  flavor!  Along with the onion, the condiments, the salty flavor of the bacalao and the sweet flavor of the viandas, an amazing flavor is obtained. And it is in this precise moment, as I look at my grandmother, an independent, kind and strong woman and as I taste this exquisite dish, that I realize what I truly am. What I always want to be. I am proud to say that I am a Puerto Rican.





Fabiola Robles Juarbe is a twenty-one year old, senior undergraduate Biology student from Arecibo, who is studying at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus and wants to change lives by understanding the human body and its interactions. 

1 Comment

  1. I loved this story. It made me remember my grandma and her cooking. This kind of summarized the traditional Puerto Rican grandmother. Great work!

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