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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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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. 

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My Dad in the 1940 Census, Aguirre, Puerto Rico

Dad’s name is different in every census record. In the 1910 census he appears as Oscar Rivera Santana, age 9, Where that surname of Santana came from, I don’t know. Listed as living in the household were his father, Florencio, step-mother, Otilia, and siblings Adela,10, Sinforiano (“Guar”), 7, Neri, 2, and Isidro, 8 months. María, Elena, and Anita were living elsewhere.

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Finally Found! Proof of the Maldonado Connection

In my October 2016 blog article, “The Proof is in the DNA,” and my subsequent December 2016 article, “The Maldonado Connection”, I talked about how the Hernández “cousins” from San Jose, California – the children of Auntie Rosita’s brother, Carmelo, and therefore first cousins to Carlos, Edward, Roberto and Orlando Rivera – showed up on my Ancestry DNA matches as 4th-6th cousins. I said that I suspected that our connection was through the Maldonado line, since the Hernández family and the Rivera families both have that surname in their trees.

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Oscalito

The last blog was about the Aguirre Sugar Refinery, and my father’s work there. The story of his Aguirre experience would not be complete without including some of what I know about his relationship with Paula Rivera, the mother of my half-brother, Oscalito.

In the transcription of the tape recording that I made of Dad back in the late 1980’s, Dad talks about how after President Roosevelt’s Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 caused him to go from earning 92 cents a day to 40 cents an hour. This was a huge increase in income for him, yet the prices of clothing and other merchandise did not go up. Suddenly, he could afford to be a well dressed young man, sporting white linen shirts and pants, “My Man” two-toned shoes, and a jaunty hat.

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