Carlos A. Rodríguez

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Family home in Hato Nuevo


Methuselah is somewhere in my family tree. My great-grandfather died at ninety-six and his mother at one-hundred and one.  His wife and sister died a few years ago at one-hundred two, and one-hundred and one, respectively. Although I had the opportunity to know them well when they were still alive, the forced visits to my great-grandparents’ home when I was younger never inspired the appreciation for my roots that my mother intended. I even have trouble remembering their real names, Marcelino Rosario,“Papitito” and Dolores Lizardi, “Mamitita.”

At the beginning of their seventy-year marriage, Marcelino and Dolores built the first concrete house in Hato Nuevo, which stood there for more than eighty years. The antique, uncomfortable living room set of a sofa and two chairs could have been worth several thousand dollars if it hadn’t been used to hold chicken cages after they moved.

I remember the kitchen had the oldest fridge I have ever seen, which was probably one of the first electric models. My mother always mentions the beautiful doors in the kitchen, which were eventually replaced by curtains with patterns I can’t even remember. Papitito’s store next to their house had to be demolished when it started to collapse, taking with it the only shelter for people who waited for the carro público. From its advantageous position on the main road, this house saw the transformation of Hato Nuevo. It was the first of its kind and outlived many of its contemporaries.

This photo was taken more than sixty years ago, but I see Papitito at the top of the stairs just as I remember him from over ten years ago. No doubt Mamitita is the fourth woman from the top. My mother tells me that Tití Lala and Tití Panchita are the two women smiling at the bottom of the stairs. I don’t think I’ll ever know the identity of the other seven.

What impresses me the most is how I know exactly where this picture was taken. I remember the house clearly, the green tiled floor, windows and curtains. The red concrete fence with diamond patterns. The panapén tree in the back.

These are the stairs that lead to the back of the house, which led easily to Tití Lala’s house. Her garden was still beautiful when both houses were expropriated by the city. From the garden, there was a view of the comfortable farm and the trees where the hammock hung. Being a little more private and hidden, these stairs provided for a more intimate picture, which contrasted with the front balcony of the house where if you sat there all day, you saw everyone from the barrio pass by.

Knowing my aunts, they didn’t even have to dress up and put makeup for the picture; they were always fixed. I only saw Tití Lala’s hair untied once.

Standing today on the spot in which this picture was taken tells a different story. Nothing is there. The trees were cut out, the garden eradicated, the house demolished. These are different times and just like me, the city did not take time to remember history. This house stood abandoned for seven years, awaiting the death of Mamitita, giving the final authorization for the city to demolish the house that same week.

1 Comment

  1. This essay just took me back to my great-grandmother’s house. It was in Camuy in the rural part. i was little back then but I’ll always gonna remember my “mamá” in her eighties still working the land, giving food to the chickens and the pigs. It’s been a long time I haven’t step a foot in that house since she died, but this story got me remembered those precious memories.

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