Grexarie Torres Caraballo

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SPANIARD, TAíNO AND AFRICAN; THE PERFECT MIX FOR A PUERTO RICAN –

“That photo was passed on to me when your grandfather Domingo died,” said my grandmother Palmira, while sitting in her wheelchair. “She was his mother, Ovidia Correa. I believe that it was taken sometime after she was married. There is not much I can tell you about her. I was nine when I first saw her and never had much interest in her past. I can only tell you the little I know from your grandfather and what I saw.”

“It’s ok grandma. Anything you tell me is all right,” I responded, eager to hear a story that upon her death, would be lost if I did not listen.

“Ok, well this is what I know…” 

I. Ovidia Correa

“Ovidia died at the age of eighty, almost forty years ago, so she was born approximately in 1890. She had strong Taíno traits. Her hair was long and silky, her face, long as an oval, with protruding upper cheeks, small eyes, mouth and nose. All this was thanks to her father’s blood. She lived in Guayanilla until her marriage to Natalio Caraballo. After that, she moved to Yauco with his family.

If I remember well, he, your great-grandfather, was a Spaniard with green eyes. After living a few years in Yauco they moved to a small village called Yagüeca, in Adjuntas. There it was where I saw her for the first time.  She was a housewife, and had six kids: Luis, Osvaldo, Fundadora, Pedro Juan, Isolina and Domingo who became my husband. Luis and Osvaldo died young, before they were thirty. The first, Luis, found death in a construction accident. The second, Osvaldo, died in a car accident when he went over a cliff and fell down a mountain in Yagüeca.

Ovidia’s husband, Natalio, was a very fond drinker. One day, during one of his usual bouts of alcoholism, the unexpected happened. During a fight, he hit her with the blunt side of a machete on the side of her body. After this, the pain was always a constant reminder of his brutality. The family, to stop her constant nagging, took her to a hospital, where, after a few check-ups, a doctor diagnosed her of cancer. After Ovidia’s death, Natalio suffered from an extreme depression. He stopped drinking, and seeing himself alone, his health deteriorated. He finally died two years later.

My grandma paused a moment to drink a glass of water, “Now, the other photo that you have in your hands can be better explained. It belongs to my side of the family, so there is more information there.”

“Can you tell me your history? What happened that permitted me to be alive today?”

“Oh, you would never believe it”. My family roots can be traced to the beginning, to the Indians.”

II. The Man Unknown and …

“I was always curious about my family’s roots, so, as a teenager, I started asking and found out something amazing. One of our forefathers, a pure Taíno Indian and slave for the Spaniards in Cabo Rojo, who had escaped from his Masters. His story tells that, a few days later, he was found and recaptured. Sadly, after his failed escape attempt, he was beaten savagely; but, thankfully for us, left alive. From there I know nothing, except that something similar happened to the dad of my grandmother’s grandmother. The daughter of that person was Cornelia Cruz. She married a mulatto from Cabo Rojo named Faustino Lamboy. Their union brought José and Braulio to this world.

José was my father and your great-grandfather. He was born in 1903 and lived in Adjuntas. He married at the age of twenty to Ana Maria Acosta, my mother. She is the one in the photograph carrying a baby. And that baby is you, Grexa. José was a carpenter and a farmer. He was a mulatto, a mix between Taíno and African. During the elections of 1948, he was sitting on a low wall close to the street talking to some friends. In that same moment a car crashed against the wall he was sitting on. His leg was pinned and crushed, and a few hours later cut off. I was thirteen or fourteen when that happened. He died four years later of a cardiac arrest.”

III. Ana Maria Acosta and The Present

“Ana, my mother, was born in 1904. She married young, at the age of nineteen. I remember she had white skin, brown eyes and

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beautiful curly hair. She was tall, at least for what is expected in our family, 5 feet and 6 inches. She worked as a seamstress. Her marriage brought forth seven kids: Willo, Wilfredo, Tino, Domingo, Neko, Ramon, and me. She died in 1998 at the age of ninety-eight.  The rest of the story you know it well. I married Domingo, the son of Ovidia. Five children, God help me, I conceived; and my youngest, Claribet, married your father, Gregorio. From their blessed union came you and your sisters, Natalie and Stephanie. In the photo, she is carrying you as a new born. At the moment she was still in control of her mental state, even if she was ninety-years-old. After a while, everything changed. It got too hard to take care of her, so we had to hospitalize her in a nursing home. You and Stephanie came with Gregorio and me to see her, just a few weeks before she died. The rest is the future.”

I reflected on what she had just said when she ended her story. “I still remember that day,” I said. “She was sitting on a rocking chair and her speech was all mumbled up. It was sad to see her like that, so fragile.”

My grandmother looked at me with sad eyes, as if that memory was too hard to bear, “Well, that is what happens when people get older. We get fragile and forgetful, the same that is happening to me now. For example, that is all I remember. Remember that after you write this, I want to hear it, and if someone sees it, tell me what they think about it, ok?”

“Don’t worry ‘Mamá’, you will be the first to know, and thank you!”

 

Grexarie Torres is a Mechanical Engineering major at UPRM

4 Comments

  1. Beautiful story , I enjoy stories about our history

  2. Wow great story loved it .

  3. I feel a certain connection to this type of article. Ive always found our roots to be fascinating and i am glad to see the time was taken to put this account into writing. As far as history goes it is not only very good to be informed of ones past but as demostrated here it can also be an adventure. It is not until we read something like this when we can fully appreciate what i means to be alive to this day. There are many factor to us being here this day and i believe we owe it our ancestors to inform ourselves where we came from.

  4. This story got me teary eye, because it is so sad to see how life goes by so fast. Also another thing that captivated my attention was the fact of getting to know her roots. I thought about my own roots, because I have never taken the time to start my own investigation to know about my roots. I admire the fact that she interviewed her grandmother and she had a good memory on telling her the story of basically her family tree. This is a very nice interview and it motivated me to ask my mother and grandmother about my own roots.

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