Jaileen Del Valle Maldonado

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As I started interviewing my grandfather:
As the interview started my grandfather started talking about all the different jobs he had in New York because he moved there when he was twenty years old. He first began working in a cafeteria until he learned how to speak English. Later on, he worked  sewing luggage for Samsonite. He had this job for approximately five years. After that, he only came to Puerto Rico once which was to marry my grandmother, Maria Magdalena Rivera or, as my grandfather used to call her, Tita.

He went back to New York quickly afterwards and began working at General Motors as a packaging operator for the next ten years. Later on, he went into more details as how he met and finally married my grandmother. He first met her when he was merely fifteen years old because he worked in a sugar-cane plantation that was located in front of where he now lives and usually they asked him to bring water from a common water source located in front of my grandmother’s parents’ house. There he saw her, the girl with the dress with the big bow as he called her.

As he told me he said: “I like that girl and I’m gonna marry her.”, but the problem was my grandmother thought my grandfather was annoying and a guy who easily fell in love. My grandfather didn’t surrender though. He kept trying to win her heart talking to her every chance he got and soon enough she started warming up to him. At that time he was faced with a tough decision because that’s the time when he left to New York to work, but he still didn’t give up. They sent each other letters back and forth until he finally had the courage to ask her if she wanted to marry him and she said yes.

He came back to Puerto Rico to ask her father for her hand in marriage and he, her father, allowed it. They married each other on April 25th, 1959 and had five children together, including my father. They had been married for 53 years and they still looked at each other full with love until she passed away in July 29, 2011.

I found this opportunity like a once in a lifetime deal to be able to hear and know the whole story of how my grandparents met each other and how they got married. I already knew bits and pieces of the story because my father and aunts had told me some of it, but it’s a completely different experience hearing the story from someone who actually lived it. Also, since my grandmother passed away some months ago, hearing the story from the perspective of my grandfather gave me a whole new outlook on how he truly felt for her.

This experience has been unique and has shown me how some love stories are truly movie-like. My overall feelings about the interview were gratefulness, happiness and a little bit of sadness. I was grateful and happy for the opportunity to do this work and to be able to interview my grandfather about a story I was very curious about. It was also saddening to me because I know the story has come to an end since my grandmother’s passing.




  1. First of all, my condolences on the loss of your grandmother. I know very well how it feels to lose someone close and I appreciate a kind word when anyone will spare it.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your grandfather’s courting of your grandmother. I find it funny the differences between then and now. If anyone were to be that insistent in their flirting nowadays, he would be considered a creep or a pest. I’m glad it worked out for him. Also, I’m familiar with having family members bouncing around between NYC and the island, often staying at one place for long periods at a time. It’s a testament to the Puerto Rican work ethic, or at least the one our grandparents had.

  2. Great story, I really enjoyed reading it. Not only that, but it also shows some of the sacrifices people had to endure during those times, like finding jobs that paid well. My grandfather has also told me stories on how he had to work long hours to be able to bring food to the house, sometimes even getting 2 jobs. But what I really liked about this story was the story on how your grandparents came to be together; how his determination at the end brought them together. Thank you for bringing such a good story to show that true love doesn’t know distance.

  3. Nice interview, once time I spoke with my grandmother about when she was younger, life back then is really different from this days. Some of the stories were even funny, she used to tell me the times my father got in trouble. I even got see her old house in the mountains and the place she usually went to gather water. Not many appreciate talking to their elders, I believe memories are revived and they get joyful narrating the story. Thanks for sharing your story to the world, I really liked.

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