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My “Cookie-Cutter” Childhood Home

In my last article, I wrote about the astonishing progress made in housing from one generation to the next in our family. Specifically, I mentioned that my father was born in the mountains of Peñuelas, in the rural mountainside community of Santo Domingo. During the 2009 family reunion hosted by cousin Annie Meléndez, a group of us took a guided trip up to the area where that cabin once stood. It is no longer there, and the pathway to the actual spot was eroded and unsafe to travel on, even on foot, but we got close. The views were incredible and the experience of walking on the land that our ancestors inhabited was almost spiritual.

My father’s family moved to Ponce, as described in the previous article, and after struggling financially for the next twenty years working in cane fields, fishing, and in the Aguirre Sugar Mill, dad joined the Merchant Marines. With solid work and regular paychecks, and following the lead of his sister, María, dad purchased a house in San Francisco’s Sunset District in 1945, at 1718-22nd Avenue. The following year, my mother Ana María López Maldonado travelled to San Francisco to marry dad. This was the home in which they raised their three children – Olga María (1947-2006), Ruben Juan (1949 -) and Norma Iris (1952 -).

Garcia house, San Francisco

The house, like many others in the Sunset District, was designed by Henry Doelger. Once criticized as “cookie cutter”, these now iconic houses actually were built in a variety of styles. Ours, shown on the left, was in the Mediterranean Revival style. It was built in 1931, and I think they bought it from the previous owner for something like $16,000. They sold the house in 1974 for $40,000. Today, that house is valued at over $1,100,000.

Here is a link to an interesting article on the Doelger homes of San Francisco:

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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.)

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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.

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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, 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.

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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.

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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.

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