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The Vilá Branch of Our Family Tree

Pedro Vilá was born in Cataluña, Spain, around 1781.  At some point he sailed to Puerto Rico, where he met and married María del Pilar González, the daughter of Lázaro González and Eduarda Medina. They had six children: Juan de la Paz (1813-1872), José María (1815-1845), María de la Cruz (1817-1858), María Inés (1820-1878), Amalia Lucinda or María Amalia (1823-1868), and María del Pilar (1926-1829).

In a census taken in Peñuelas in 1822, Pedro Vilá was said to own twenty-two acres of land, one house, 500 coffee plants, one cow, one horse, one mare, and one turkey.  In the same census, Pedro’s father-in-law, Lázaro González, was reported to own six acres of pasture, one house, 2,000 coffee plants, two coconut trees, two cows, two oxen, two mares, twenty-two hens, eighteen chicks, six turkeys and four pigs.   

Pedro’s daughter, María Inés, married Marcelino de la Cruz, son of Félix de la Cruz (1766-1866) and María Damiana Sánchez (b. 1770) on April 13, 1839. Marcelino was born about 1808 and died on October 25, 1868. They had six children, all born in Peñuelas: María de Jesús Cruz (1840-1918), Tomás José (1841-1910), Manuel (1852-1909), Máximo (1853-1918), Cirilo (b. 1856), and María de los Santos (b. 1859).

Máximo married María Engracia García (1855-1891), daughter of José de la Cruz García (b. 1821) and María Engracia Feliciano (182-1859). They had five children together, one of which was Ana Cruz García, who grew up to be the mother of Adela, Oscar (my father), María, Elena, Sinforiano (“Guar”) and Anita.  After María Engracia’s death, Máximo married Genara Maldonado, and he went on to father another six children. Máximo’s story along with physical descriptions of several in his family is told in the blog titled “Reflections on Our Family History” which was posted on this website on April 13, 2021.

On one of my trips to Puerto Rico to visit my father in the late 1980s, I found a phone listing for a man named Oscar Cruz Vilá who lived in Peñuelas.  Later, from California, I called the number and talked to Oscar’s sister, Aida. She told me her brother had already passed away, but she was very excited to know that I was a distant cousin.  We shared family information and together traced her line upwards to find that she was a great-great granddaughter of Pedro Vilá. While I descend from Pedro’s daughter, María Inés, Aida and Oscar Cruz Vilá (along with their other nine siblings) descended from Pedro’s son, Juan de la Paz.

During our stay in Puerto Rico for the 2009 reunion that was held in Peñuelas, Auntie Marie and I (along with my two youngest children), plus Uncle Dave and Aunt Delia, all took a side excursion to visit Julia Aida. There is a video clip of Auntie Marie enjoying a mango from the tree in our newfound cousin’s yard. Cousin Annie Meléndez, as a pharmacist in Peñuelas, also knew Julia Aida, although she hadn’t realized that there was a family connection. It was cousin Annie who informed me that Julia Aida had passed away in March of 2015.

There are probably more Vilá cousins still living in Peñuelas. I hope to meet them someday. But in the meantime, I discovered some other Vilá cousins through that live in Florida. One gal that I have been communicating with definitely descends from Pedro Vilá. He is her 4th great grandfather and like Julia Aida, she is a descendent of Pedro’s son, Juan de la Paz. This woman told me that she doesn’t know much about her Vilá family because her grandparents divorced soon after they married and her dad (pictured above on his wedding day) never met his father, Alfonso Vilá Lugo. Her grandmother, Ángela Verges Maldonado, remarried and had many children. I need to research Ángela because she is my second cousin twice removed. We connect through the Maldonado line, which means that she is also related to all of my Rivera cousins.

I hope to learn more about the Vilá family from Florida while at the same time helping this “new” cousin extend her family tree a couple of generations farther back. Stay tuned!