Keishla Cotto Maisonet

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Carmen Jiménez – Quebradillas, 1944



When I first saw the picture, I thought the woman in it was Abuela Carmen. Then I noticed little details and features in the facial structure.  The small eyes and thin lips reminded me of someone. Could this be my bisabuela?

I remembered Abuela Carmen usually wrote something about a picture on the back, so, because of its poor condition, I slowly and delicately turned it over.  I couldn’t read or understand the entire message.  It was blurry and the blue ink was a little washed out in some parts.  It had been folded, as if to fit into a wallet.  In navy blue ink it read. “This was my mother when she had me.” It was signed “Hilda Rodríguez.” Hilda was Abuela Carmen’s given name so it was her handwriting and indeed this was Abuela Carmen’s mother and my bisabuela, also named, Carmen Jiménez. The fuchsia handwriting revealed her age as twenty-seven.

But the most interesting message was written in the light blue ink in Bisabuela’s hand.   My mother and I spent quite some time trying to decipher it as best we could.  It went something like this,  “To my husband, my love, I send you this picture so you carry it with you, keep it like… from your wife who still loves you and doesn’t forget you, Carmen Jiménez.”  The date etched on the picture was October 9 or 19, 1944, Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.

When I later asked Abuela Carmen about the picture, teary eyed she said, “This picture was taken by my mother’s mother,

Back of Carmen Jimenez’ photograph

Grandmother Trinidad. I was about three or so when my mother and I posed for this picture.  I remember my mother wanted this picture to be made into an eight by ten so she could put it in her living room.  She gave a copy to my sister, Isabel, to do it. As far as I know she kept it in her own album and never made the bigger copy. If she would have given it to me…? Well, anyways, this is my mother’s favorite picture of herself. She was indeed on her own at the time. But I’m not quite sure if my dad was at war or was away studying.”

My memories of Bisabuela go back to 1996, when I was fourteen-years-old, and in the eighth grade. Bisabuela was visiting some of her other children in Florida.  She died quietly while resting in a cozy living room chair and watching a soap opera with her youngest daughter. She had had a stroke.

I will never forget the empty pit feeling in my stomach during the next few weeks. It lasted all through the burial and the nine days of rosaries.  I just couldn’t come to terms with what had happened.  What I remember the most was a day at school when I had a math test.  I took that piece of white paper which looked like it was full of nothing but mathematical scribbles, placed it on my desk, sat down, put my forehead on it, and began to sob.  When the fifty minutes were up I went up to the teacher and handed him the blank test.  My tears had soaked a shape of a heart in the middle of the paper.

It makes me sad to think that I will never know the whole story behind this picture and the message printed on its back.  That I will never be able to talk to Bisabuela about this, hear her life stories, or know how she really felt.  But one thing’s for sure, I wish her the best where ever she is and I just want her to forgive me for being so naïve, and never telling her how much I really appreciated and loved her.  I wish I could hug her, just one more time…

1 Comment

  1. Your story was very moving. That part were you describe your great-grandmother’s was very sad. The photo is beautiful. I’ve always thought that people had more style decades ago…. the dresses, the moral values, the way of saying things… I know fashion changes but I think the times were women used to wear beautiful dresses and the men used to wear what they used to wear were real fashion…or style …sophistication. I’ve always thought that I am an old soul.

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