Scroll To Top

Yo Tengo Ya la Casita

Last spring we built a storage shed on our property in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. At my request, Randy designed it to look like a typical Puerto Rican home of yesteryear. When it was completed, we saw people driving by, slowing down, and even stopping to admire La Casita, as we named it. We received many compliments on it, and some people said that it reminded them of their grandparents’ house in the mountains. It brings to my mind that Rafael Hernández song, “Ahora Seremos Felices,” in which the opening line says, “Yo tengo ya la casita que tanto te prometí.” (I already have the house that I kept promising you.)

Owning your own home is most people’s dream. I was blessed to grow up in a nice house in the Sunset district of San Francisco. My parents were responsible homeowners and took pride in keeping the house and yard tidy, maintained and attractive. My father, Oscar, was a Merchant Marine and my mother, Ana, was a seamstress at Lilli Ann’s clothing factory. While not wealthy, we kids had everything that we needed, including a roof that didn’t leak and comfortable beds to sleep in. As a lifelong genealogist who soaked in family stories even as a young girl, I have heard about the hardships of their childhood years, though.

My father, especially, grew up in poverty. His early years were spent in the mountain barrio of Santo Domingo in the town of Peñuelas. When his mother was alive she raised animals and their large family never lacked for food, but after she died when Dad was five years old, life became more difficult. Several years later, Florencio decided to move his family (which by then included Otilia Pacheco and two more babies) to Tibes, near Ponce. He sold the house and land in Peñuelas for $100, but somehow during the move, the money was lost. In Tibes, Florencio bought a house for $35 and went to work in the sugar cane fields.

My father’s younger brother, Isidro Rivera Pacheco, once described the living conditions in this childhood home. He wrote: “Our home (sweet home) was a cabin with one small room for the parents. The rest of the floor space was used as a kitchen, living room, dining room and bedroom combination. Our furniture consisted of a cot where Father slept, wire spring double bed for Otilia and a trunk (baúl) for her clothing, two benches and a table. At nighttime, grab a burlap sack (your bed) and pick your spot on the floor. You went to sleep with your clothes on inside the sack and while you sleep you push around until you wind up at somebody else’s spot. That shack was like heaven, like music to your ears. Some snored, others laughed, talked, sang and groaned in their sleep, and rain was like music on the tin roof.

Our kitchen consisted of a wooden crate with four legs and full of soil. Three large stones for a burner and three medium stones for small pots. Under the crate was a shelf for storage of pots and plates. The stones were strategically placed so as to consume the fire within. Our fuel was anything that would burn. We would go to the mountain to get wood for cooking. Charcoal was used in a hibachi for ironing. A kerosene lamp or “quinqué” was our light.”

After suffering an accident while working at Hacienda Burenes (a coffee plantation in Tibes) and subsequently winning a lawsuit against them, Florencio walked away with about $500. This was a lot of money! He bought a house with a balcony and a shed for $129.00 and bought furniture and clothing. He later sold that house for a profit and bought a two-bedroom bungalow in Callejón Cerezo in Ponce. They lived there for about a year. He sold that one and bought a beautiful home in Loma Bonita. This is the house in Loma Bonita that Aunt Delia drew from memory decades later.

All this is to point out the incredible progress made in the quality of life within one generation. Uncle Isidro went from sleeping in a burlap sack on the floor to owning beautiful homes in Belmont, CA, Guaynabo, PR, and Carrollton, GA. He accomplished this on his own, through education, military service, and hard work. Uncle Isidro, my father, and their other siblings not only pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, but also ensured that their children did not suffer the hardships that they did as children. The Bible says we are to honor our fathers and mothers. How can we not, seeing where they came from and what they accomplished?

Luisa

I am known as the family historian. It has been a passion of mine for decades, but my lifelong dream was to write a book. I combined my passion and my dream, recently publishing a novel based on the life of my maternal great-grandmother, Luisa Torres Torres.

Continue reading “Luisa”

Your Stories Wanted

It has been our goal to connect with family members worldwide and to provide a platform for sharing family news and our history. Most of the information shared has come from our family historian and genealogist, Norma Pettit. However, we are sure there are many other stories with interesting points of view, particularly those that might help fill gaps in our family’s history. With that in mind, we want to encourage family members to share their stories and photos on this website.

If you have something you would like to share, please send your story to Norma at mamanony@sbcglobal.net, attach photos if you have any, and we will review your submission and get in touch with you if we have any questions. Thank you in advance for your contribution.

Reflections on Our Family History

Learning about our family history has been something that has intrigued me all my life. I remember as a young child asking my parents, Oscar and Anita Garcia, what it was like when they were children growing up in Puerto Rico. They would share their memories with me and, recently, I discovered an old composition book with my name written on the front where I had taken notes from their stories. I would like to share with you some excerpts from that notebook.

Continue reading “Reflections on Our Family History”

The Mameyes Landslide

In my last article, which was about the Ponce Aqueduct and our family members that lived in that area, I related how my mother’s family had moved to the nearby barrio of Mameyes. My father’s brother, Sinforiano (known to all as “Guar”, short for guareto, meaning twin, since he and Auntie Helen were twins), also moved to Mameyes with his wife, Elena Sevilla. That little house was the first home of René Rivera Sevilla.

Continue reading “The Mameyes Landslide”

The Ponce Aqueduct

Designed by Timoteo Luberza and funded in part by Valentín Tricoche, the Ponce aqueduct, formally known as Acueducto Alfonso XII, was the first modern water distribution system built in Puerto Rico.  Construction began in 1776, and when it was finalized in 1880 at a then cost of $220,000 (equivalent to 5.28 million in 2019 dollars) the aqueduct was 2-1/2 miles long and rose 50 feet at its highest point. The gravity-based water supply system was in operation for 48 years, until 1928, at which time it was retired, with the advent of more advanced water supply systems.

Continue reading “The Ponce Aqueduct”

Family Love Stories

Angélica Rivera

Cousin Carol Medina Wright found a handwritten story written by her father, José Lino Medina, telling of his early life and how he met Carol’s mother, Angélica Rivera.

Angélica Rivera

I was born August 15, 1924, in Barrio Boquerón, west of the city of Juana Díaz. After a big hurricane named San Felipe back in 1927, we moved to Ponce.  I attended Federico Dejetau School where I played the trombone in the school band. 

Continue reading “Family Love Stories”