Fiorelys Mendoza

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Abuela Floren when she was fifteen.

THE ONLY PORTRAIT –

“This is the only picture I have from my teenage years,” says my sixty-two-year-old grandma, “It was taken when I was fifteen.”  Reminiscing about her past, she nervously looks at the picture, her picture, taken a long time ago.

Abuela Floren was raised in El Maní, a neighborhood in Mayagüez. She was the eldest of nine other siblings. “We were very poor.  There was never enough food to eat. Our bed sheets were some hard, coarse, brown, potato sacks sewn together.  My mom had post-partum depression when my youngest sister was born and she would disappear from time to time, so I had to take care of my father and everyone else.”

Grandma’s childhood was not an easy one.  Since she was a toddler, grandma had awakened at four every morning to maneuver two buckets of water onto a wooden stick laid across her shoulders, and carry them to the house from the river, for cooking, cleaning and bathing.  As she grew older, after doing her chores, she would get herself and everyone else ready for school.  She did not have the resources to go to school; nor uniforms, shoes, and lunch money but despite the extreme poverty, she managed to thrive in school.

School was wonderful.  Grandma loved every subject, and her performance was excellent, and resulted in her winning a sixty-dollar scholarship for being an outstanding student.  She gave her father half of it to help support the household.

Her parents couldn’t give her gifts or luxury items but one day they gave her something immortal.

“I never expected to have my picture taken. In fact, until that day I have never seen a camera.  However, that afternoon photographer came knocking on our door advertising his studio.  He came to the house offering his services,” recalls Grandma.  “He offered a big photograph in a lighted, wood frame and different small shots for forty-five dollars that could be paid in monthly installments.  “It was a lot of money at the time,” she comments, “I don’t know why my parents decided to do it because we barely had food on the table. I guess it was their way of giving me a gift, the gift they could never give me.”

“The next day, I got ready for my photo shoot.  I was sudando frío because I was not used to going anywhere.  The dress and the shoes were the only formal outfit I had and it was purchased with my scholarship money.  The jewelry was borrowed,” my grandma mentions.

“I don’t know what else to say.  My parents never told me why they did this but when I look at it I know that despite the misery, the hunger and the hard work, I was a powerful, young girl who wanted to have a better life for my family and myself.  It was not an easy road, life never is, but perseverance is the key.”

My grandmother was only able to finish the tenth grade, yet she has never given up on life.  Her portrait is something I treasure, thus it reminds me of the beauty of being alive despite our daily situations or circumstances.  Up to this day, this sixty-two year old woman keeps walking the road of life caring, loving and influencing with her optimism the life of her brothers, sisters, daughters and grandchildren.

 

7 Comments

  1. What an emotive story. It was short, easy to read and filled with details that transported me back to the 1950’s. I really loved this story because it presents the hard daily life people happily lived back then. This also reminds me of what my grandmother always narrates because she had also lived a poverty life when she was a child. I am grateful for those Puerto Ricans who had fought for a better future because, meanwhile, they’ve taught us the real meaning of hard working.

  2. Que historia tan bonita! Realmente la abuelita es una mujer fuerte y luchadora. Es evidente que ese caracter corre en la familia. Que lindo saber que de todas las cosas sobre las cuales se puede escribir, escogiste contar la historia de tu abuelita y honrrar su vida publicamente.

  3. Me ha conmovido el escrito de Fiorelys acerca de una persona (su abuela) tomando como eje de la narrativa su fotografia. Esperamos ansiosos otros escritos de Fiorelys llenos de corazon.

  4. Realmente hermoso, me trae recuerdos de mi madre y su juventud, tampoco hay fotos de ella cuando tenía 15 pero si de unos años más tarde. Esa época no fué nada fácil para muchos pero miren la generación que engendraron, a nosotros, fuertes y capaces de todo. Gracias a todos esos padres y madres luchadoras.

  5. Conozco esta gran mujer… hija de Dios, preciosa por dentro y por fuera. Felicidades, Fiorelys, por este artículo hermoso. Abuela debe estar muy orgullosa de tí.

  6. Hermosa historia. Aunque la había escuchado ya, pues la del retrato es mi madre, me siento contenta de que su nieta se haya animado a escribir sobre ella y de que se sienta orgullosa del legado de su abuela. Gracias Fiorelys.

  7. Esta es mi madre! Que orgullo tenerla en su revista, gracias mi sobrina Fiorelys Mendoza Morales.

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