Friday, February 3, 2012

Back to PR

Hacienda Buena Vista
Barrio Maguyes,
Near Ponce Puerto Rico

For several months, I've been silent about the purpose of my trip to Puerto Rico. As most of you know, my mother passed away last July one day after her 90th birthday. My father decided he did not want to have the last few years of his life filled with loneliness. He set out on a mission to find a soulmate for the remainder of his life. Dad with the assistance of my mother's two favorite nieces succeeded in his quest.

Deliberately, I chose not to write while I was in Puerto Rico this past week. My oldest sister and I, had many things to do during our stay. Including taking care of some of Dad's personal business (details to follow in a separate blog), visiting both sides of our family, and taking some personal time for reflection as well as continuing my genealogy work.

Our trip was filled with adventure and seasoned with dangerous roads and curves in the cordilleras of western Puerto Rico. Each day was marked by the crowing of roosters and the evening serenades of coquis. The trade winds provided their medley during the day as coconut palm trees picked up the invisible syncopation which rocked our porch hammock. This is Puerto Rico mio, the place my ancestors still inhabit and where others rest.

Victrola in Salon de Sala
Hacienda Buena Vista
My father's wedding, without a doubt, became its own marking of family history and another story to add to my blog collection. Nonetheless another dramatic moment came when we visited the coffee plantation Hacienda Buena Vista. The front of half of this home was the type of home my mother lived in and frequently described to us when we were children. She was very proud of the wealth her father had enjoyed. 

The census of 1910 led me to believe that in fact my mother's account was definitely fact and not fiction. (An older cousin, Lydia, confirmed the type of home my mom lived in.) As I viewed the records early last year, I found out that Don Manuel del Rio y Roman was indeed a wealthy man. He had servants and cooks that tended to his coffee plantation, livestock, and to his home. What he lacked in his thirteen year marriage with his first wife, Amelia Lisboa y Roman was children.

His wife committed suicide shortly thereafter on November 12, 1910 at the age of 37. Ironically, he married Amelia's first cousin, Leonora Lisboa y Cardona. Her brother, Flor Lisboa, already worked at the farm as did her first cousin, Leopoldo Matos. My great grandfather Rafael Lisboa quickly took advantage of the situation along with tio Flor the arranged for the 16 year old Leonora to wed the widowed Don Manuel, who was 38 years old. My grandmother Leonora claimed on her marriage certificate that she was  20, an obvious fabrication.

My grandfather made up quickly for lost time. The couple had fourteen children of which thirteen survived. As for great grandfather Rafael Lisboa, he quickly came to live in the two story house with his daughter. He died in bed, a happy man, in that home after asking my grandmother to fetch him some chicken soup. Stay tuned for more stories.

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