Emily Cristine Kelly Castro

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This picture is almost fifty years old. It is a portrait of Fidelia Chalas and Inocencio Kelly. All of Fidelia’s children have a copy of this picture framed and displayed in their house, either on the wall or sitting on a shelf, which is where I found it – in my mother’s house.

“I don’t know why you all insist of having this picture in places everyone can see it. If you really cared about me you’d put that picture away somewhere else no one can see it,” said Fidelia to Martha, one of her daughters when she saw the picture on her living room wall.

Fidelia hates looking at it and the fact that each one of her children insists on hanging a copy in their living rooms makes her really mad. When she sees it, all she sees is betrayal and the loss of what could have been happy family. It is like she vividly relives all the anguish she felt during the process of having to raise six children in her own. What she got was not the ideal of what family was supposed to be.

Fidelia and Inocencio married in 1952, in Santo Domingo, D.R.. She was a young lady of twenty-two. In the photograph, she has a noble face, with narrow eyes and a restrained smile. When she met Inocencio, she found him to be a stubborn but charming young man. Fidelia had six children with Inocencio, Alicia, José, Carlos, Daniel, Manuel and Martha.

Fidelia’s children: Alicia, José, Carlos, Daniel, Manuel and Martha – others unknown

Fidelia’s mother died giving birth to her. Her mother’s name was Catalina Chalas. Her father, Bartolo Louis, never acknowledged her. She was raised by Rosa Emilia Mejía and Esteban, her husband.

Growing up in poor family she earned her way milking cows and feeding farm animals.  She also worked for a high-class family at the Capítal, doing dishes, washing and ironing clothes, and sweeping the house.

Inocencio’s birth parents were Luisa Figaro and Benjamin Arturo Thomas. He was also raised in the Capital by another couple, Daniel Kelly and Mamá Nina.

Carlos Rafael, the third child of this couple, was born in Santo Domingo on June 27, 1959. “It makes me think of the dry afternoons I played with my brothers and sisters in the backyard trying to catch the hens. Mamma used to bring us bread and a cool, delicious sweet and sour, yellow lemonade while dad watched us and sometimes joined the fun,” said Carlos Rafael when he saw the picture. He remembers a time when there was unity between them, a time when his parents were still together. His father left them when Carlos was six-years-old.

His father had another family, but Carlos never hated him for it. Following in the footsteps of his mother, at six, he learned how to take care of himself and his siblings. Besides coming from a family of difficulties, they still had good times. Carlos and his brothers had hens and roosters, which they took good care of. Although these memories bring good and bad feelings to her and Carlos, it makes them think that because of what happened, they became who they are. I mention this because of all the people in this family, Carlos and Fidelia are the most alike. They both took life experiences and allowed them to make them who they are today.

Elba Castillo Bayron & Ángel Castro Medina – 1947

This is a picture of my other grandparents, my mother’s side of the family. Elba Castillo Bayron, the woman in the wedding gown, and Ángel Castro Medina, the man beside her, knew each other since they were little kids, because they were neighbors. This picture was taken in 1947. It’s the wedding day of Elba and Ángel. The flower girl is a friend of the family.

They both lived their whole lives in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. Elba’s parents were also from Mayagüez. They were Maximina Bayron and Ángel Castillo. Angel’s parents were Franco Castro and Pimpe Medina.

Even though their faces in this picture do not express happiness, they were really happy because each one of their friends attended their wedding. There were so many people, the floor in their house felt tiny. They loved each other a lot.

Ángel was in the army; he went to the war in Korea in the year 1951 until 1953, while Elba worked in tailoring at Mayagüez.

Ángel Castro Medina (back right) – Korean War – 1951-53

“Even though she quit her job when I was born she used to make dresses for me, like this yellow sundress with black dots,” said Emilia holding the picture of her in a beautiful yellow sundress with black dots.

Elba’s Yellow sundress

Even though Emilia wished she could have had a sibling, she was close to her cousins and more importantly, her parents. In 1976, Ángel Castro Medina died of a renal failure due to liver cirrhosis.

From that moment on, Emilia and Elba stood by each other with love and care. It was sad for Emilia to have lost her father at such an early age, but she remembers all the precious moments with him as if they had just happened.

“I always remember when my dad let me drive his big blue 1969 Chevy Impala. He let me drive from our house up the hill. He also accompanied me to the hair salon and then took me to the nearby stores to buy cute dresses,” said Emilia while looking at a picture of her father.

Elba Castillo died on March 26, 1995.

Beside the hard times, both Carlos and Emilia learned while growing up to make the best of bad moments and turn them into good ones. In 1982, Emilia and Carlos met at the University of Puerto on the Mayagüez campus. “We met in the student center in big group of people and friends and there he was. Before going to class he asked me out that day and I say yes,” explained Emilia to me.

They soon realized they were perfect for each other. In 1985, they got married in Mayagüez and since that moment, even through rough times, they made great memories of their own. Now they have a beautiful family, Emily Cristine and Carlos Emanuel.

All of my people, through their hardships and victories, through never giving up and for always taking care of family have taught me to believe that no matter what happens, there is always a purpose for everything and that we should always keep our heads high.

Emily’s parents – Emilia and Carlos


1 Comment

  1. This story opened my heart, it my be silly but is because most happened in my home town and where I’m studying. One thing I notice and even make me happy is that in the picture of Korea, Angel Castro looks the happiest of all. Like he really wanted to be there for the contry. I also know the feeling that a picture can bring, eather bad or good. But the fact that she didnt like that her sons and daugthers have the picture where anyone can see it, Im not to in accordance with that.

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