• Family Love Stories

    Published Monday, February 10th, 2020

    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.

    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.  In 1939, we moved back to Juana Díaz.  In 1940, I lost my father. Then, in 1942, I lost my mother, becoming an orphan.  My sister Divina and my Aunt Casilda and Uncle Julio offered me shelter and guidance.  In July 1943, I was called to service in the U.S. Army.  After I came back from World War II, I was assigned to Rodriguez Army Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (more…)

  • My Dad in the 1940 Census, Aguirre, Puerto Rico

    Published Sunday, November 24th, 2019

    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. In the 1930 census, he appears as Oscar Rivera Cruz, 19, which is correct, although his parents weren’t married yet at the time of his birth, so he was officially registered as Oscar Cruz (with only his mother’s surname). This time, Elena and Anita are in the home, Adela and María are living elsewhere, and Angélica, 17 months old, has joined the family. (more…)

  • Finally Found! Proof of the Maldonado Connection

    Published Friday, June 14th, 2019

    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.

    The Maldonado name was well-established in the areas of Arecibo, Utuado, and Adjuntas in the 16th century, and soon spread out into the regions of Ponce, Peñuelas, and Guayanilla.  It has been said that all the Maldonados from any of the aforementioned towns can trace their roots back to Lope Maldonado Almodóvar of Arecibo (1650-1714).

    I have discovered the connection or, as it turns out, several connections!  Brace yourself – this can get a little confusing. (more…)

  • Puerto Rico’s Unique Lingo

    Published Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

    Tourists stroll on the paseo de la princesa promenade in old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Copyright: Dennis V. Dwater

    Puerto Rico’s vernacular is different than the Spanish spoken in other parts of Latin America or Spain. Here are a few words and phrases that are uniquely Puerto Rican:

    Jíbaro—a person from the mountains, representing the heart of Puerto Rican culture
    Jurutungo—somewhere far away
    Guares—twins. That explains the nickname “Guar” that my uncle (Auntie Helen’s twin) carried all his life.
    Limber—a frozen treat, similar to an Italian ice
    Enfogonarse—to get angry
    Achaques—aches and pains experienced by older persons
    Chévere—cool, groovy
    Echa pa’cá—Come over here/bring that over here.
    Empache—When you overeat or eat too much of something
    Guagua—a bus, SUV, or pick up truck
    Bruto—Dumb; idiot
    Fajao—working hard or hustling
    Por un tubo y siete llaves—an overabundance of something
    Ay bandito—used to show sympathy
    China—an orange
    Guineo—a banana
    Zafacón—a garbage can


  • Hurricanes in Puerto Rico

    Published Monday, December 18th, 2017

    Our Family in the Aftermath of Hurricanes

    As an island in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has historically been in the direct path of hurricanes. Out of the ones shown on this map, three that have had the most impact on our family are San Ciriaco, San Felipe II, and Georges.

    San Ciriaco was a category 4 hurricane that made landfall in Guayama on August 8, 1899, with winds of 140 mph. In the context of our family history, our patriarch, Florencio Rivera, was 27 years old and married to his first wife, Felícita Madera. She was six months pregnant with their son, Andrés.  With typical homes in those days made out of wood and having zinc roofs, the  damage done to structures was devastating. Although San Ciriaco killed about 3,000 people, I have no record of family members having lost their lives during this hurricane.

    San Felipe II, a category 5 hurricane, hit Puerto Rico on September 13, 1928, entering near Arroyo.  It resulted in over 300 deaths.  Angélica Rivera, daughter of Florencio Rivera and Otilia Pacheco, was born just two weeks later.  I can imagine the terror that the family endured with this powerful hurricane.  They were living in Ponce, which is west of where the hurricane made landfall. (more…)

  • Oscalito

    Published Sunday, April 16th, 2017

    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. (more…)

  • Visiting Central Aquirre

    Published Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

    Randy and I headed to Ponce one day last December, with plans to buy some items at El Coquí Souvenir shop across the street from the historic Parque de Bombas and then go visit my cousins René and Heriberto (“Papo”) Rivera Sevilla.  We like to take the scenic coastal route from our vacation home in Yabucoa; it makes the hour and a half journey so much more interesting.

    In front of the post office—sugar refinery in background.