Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where Does It Come From?

Looking Across  San Juan Bay
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tio Segundo's Act of Defiance
He was twenty-five years old when he made his declaration to the draft board in 1917;  Segundo Hernandez y Soto (my great uncle), publicly renounced his US citizenship like an unwanted wet coat.  Nearly nineteen years since Puerto Rico was annexed by the US as a result of the spoils of the Spanish American War, Segundo defiantly protested that he would not serve the country whose citizenship he did not choose.    This was a stark contrast to his brother younger brother Pablo Hernandez y Soto (21), my grandfather, who was proud of his citizenship, but was alleged to have a contusion in his leg that impeded his ability to walk and therefor serve.

Near El Morro
Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico
It seems that my questioning defiant attitude, while dormant most of the time,  has been in my genes all along.  My self reliance and self assurance stems from these independent land owners and their ancestors.  I don't have it in my genes to accept blindly what others demand from me.  My family led others for many generations.  We were not followers.  We shaped our own destinies.

Fortress:  San Geronimo
As part of my self-discovery, over the years, I've gone back to Puerto Rico not to visit its beaches but to visit the walls of the old city of San Juan.  The weathered walls have withstood the elements, occupation, and time.  I think of the men who made the walls and I am reminded of my own heritage.  We were also hewn out of some pretty solid stuff too and stood the test of time.

Although I wasn't born in Puerto Rico, I have always sensed that there was something different about me.  It turns out that it was simply that my family was hewn out of material that was somewhat impermeable, just like tio Segundo.  Whatever that material was I am grateful and I recognize it as a part of my heritage and an ever present part of my journey.  These independent people stood firm in the face of political, economic, and even meteorological adversity.  Today, I choose to draw from their well as an act of respect and as a source of strength.

1 comment:

  1. This is great Al. We all have some connection to our past. Sometimes for good and sometimes not. You describe this period of your genealogy well.

    I'm writing something surprisingly similar about my father, who survived WW2 after being in a POW camp, Luckenwalde, during the end of that war.

    Hope you are well my friend.


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