Valerie Marquez

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1 – My Earliest Memory

“In 1954, American invaders took the last thing that joined my family, my parents’ home. This year marked the beginning of the American oppression on the island. Schools and jobs were affected. The wealthy were the primary target of our invaders. Living at Barranquitas used to mean pride for my family due to their good economic status. Things changed, food became scarce, and things got worse. When I was nine, my parents left me with my grandparents in Barranquitas. They thought that two could survive better than three. From the moment both left me, they proved to me that life was not fair to anyone.

I had to take care of the farm my grandparents recovered from the Americans. Grandpa seemed strong and wanted to be the man of the house, but I knew that turning eighty-two sometimes left him without breath.

‘Blanquita wake up…Blanquita…Blanquita!’ my name echoed through the farm from five o’clock a.m. on. Grandma called me every morning to remind me of my duties. My daily chores were to feed the animals, milk the cows, and get eggs for breakfast. After feeding my grandparents, I was ready for school. I always looked in the mirror to see what I was missing for the day: ‘White dress, white socks, beautiful sandals, brushed hair, clean nails, red ribbon…all done.’ Grandma always bid me farewell from the window of her room, singing the Puerto Rican songs she once sang to my mother when she was a baby:

‘Verde luz de monte y mar…

…isla virgen del coral…’

 School was my passion. I arrived early to help my teachers decorate the classroom with happy faces and encouraging thoughts such as ‘Good job!’ and ‘Well done!’ The daily five-mile walk at the age of ten was always worth it. Teachers always called me ‘Blanch’ because of my natural white-blonde hair. They were amazed at the color of my hair for such a young girl. As ‘Blanch,’ my work at school was tough because the others teased me, but I always acted as my grandma taught me, ‘like a grown up!’

I remember Grandma telling me: ‘Blanch, you need to learn valuable lessons in life in order to succeed. Please don’t hold any anger towards your parents; I know they want what’s best for you. One day you’ll grow up, have your own family, and you’ll understand their reasons.’ However, how can I have a family in the future if my own family abandoned me to my fate? Grandma’s words seemed to calm me, but inside, I didn’t believe her.

Sra. González was my favorite teacher. She pampered me with hugs and kisses during the day as if she were my mother. On day I asked her ‘Why?’

She answered me with a peaceful smile, ‘You are a lovely little angel. As long as you live, you will never be alone.’

I missed Mom a lot. She used to tell me I looked like her. She always loved my charm and I always admired her beauty. Her beautiful blond hair was as bright as the moon, and in her green eyes y I could see the horizon—eternal and endless. I missed her.

Months passed by and Grandma got older and sicker. Grandpa’s condition made him forget his name, his life, and Grandma. I really wanted her to be better, so the only decision I could make was to not attend school until grandma recuperated. Responsibilities grew heavier as I turned eleven. The household chores and the daily care of the farm rested on my shoulders. Early in the morning, I gathered fruits and vegetables. After the sunset, I cooked my grandparent’s favorite diner, rice and chicken with coffee. I tried not to ask for my parents, but the question of why they never came back for me was always crawling in my head. The last news grandma heard about them was that they went to the northeastern part of the island in search of wealth. However, the question was why would they want to make a new life without me?

In 1961, Grandpa died of his condition and two months later Grandma joined his soul in heaven. My life seemed over. My illusions of happiness turned into sorrows and my soul crashed finally with reality—the death of my family. The day of Grandma’s death, my uncles, who I had only seen twice in my life, traveled to Barranquitas to take me home with them.

2 -Traveling to the Capital

“San Juan was the place my uncles took me after my grandparent’s death. It was my new home but I really wanted to be where I belonged, at the farm where my only family gave me love and taught me forgiveness.

The neighborhood was small and warm. Many different kinds of people made it unique. Uncle David had a friend he called ‘Cuban.’ After five o’clock, uncle David and his friends went for some drinks at aunt Millie’s house and danced salsa in the middle of the street. After living at Aunt Millie’s home for a year, I finally found some entertainment in the neighborhood. One year had made me understand why my aunts hadn’t come for me before. Mom had told my aunt that I would be living for only a short period with my grandparents and that she was coming back for me as soon as they made some money working with the Americans. Three years that had passed made me doubt my mother’s words, but the last thing I could lose was hope.

Uncle David met a Puerto Rican man named Rafael, who came to live to the neighborhood after he divorced his wife with the same name as my Grandma, Sonia. Rafael seemed to be a nice and caring man. He was so caring; he had his six-year-old son with him. Rafael took much care of his boy. He was a strong and hard working man. After a time, I got to know Rafael and I asked him if I could take care of Rafaelito. Rafaelito was a mischievous and affectionate baby. He conquered my heart and fulfilled my life. Rafaelito was a joy and a bright star surrounding the neighborhood with peace and innocence.

In May 28, 1963, Rafaelito wasn’t home anymore. The house was open but the boy wasn’t lying on his bed. ‘What


happened to him? Who took him? Where was he?’ All these questions bombed my being and made me think the worst. As a young lady, I didn’t know what to do, and as a child, I knew I wanted to cry. The moment made me see myself, alone in the farm. I was a child like Rafaelito, a child taken away from his home. He did not choose his destiny. Someone chose it for him. Parents like mine, who do not care for anyone but themselves, commit the same mistake of abandonment.

At six o’clock, Rafael stared at my crying, no breath coming out of his mouth. The only words he whispered were, ‘Sonia kidnapped him.’

Tears came out of my eyes and since that time I haven’t seen Rafaelito…my Rafaelito Marquez.

After years of reflection, I came to the conclusion that I don’t have much in life except what I created myself without the help of family. I guess Sra. González was wrong about her prophecy because, on the inside, I still feel alone.”












  1. Wow, this was just great. I loved this story.


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