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.
Every other weekend I used to travel to Juana Díaz to see my family. To catch transportation back to San Juan, I had to go all the way to Ponce to catch a “público,” or public transportation. Christmas Eve 1948, I missed my transportation to go to San Juan and was told that I had to wait two hours for the next available vehicle. Also, I was told to wait walking around and watching the beautiful Ponceñas go by at Plaza las Delicias. Instead, I started walking down Calle Atocha, where all the big stores were. Suddenly, across the street, I saw this beautiful Ponceña watching an animated Santa Claus. I crossed the street, introduced myself, and told her that I wished Santa would bring me her beautiful eyes. My wish was granted.
A year later, we got married, and the rest is history. Till death do us part. A beautiful story.
The photo at left was taken of their anniversary after 65 years of marriage.
The following is a reprint from the Feb/Mar 1999 issue of “¿…y la familia?” and is the story of how Isidro Rivera met his wife, Rosita Hernández.
It was June of 1936. I had graduated from school and was home playing with a mandolin. I laid it down and heard the voice of a young girl coming from the house next door. I tell you, they moved there recently and there was an old lady, an old man, and some young fellows. I didn’t know their names yet. They came there first and Rosita came about a week later. That’s when I heard that sweet voice of a young country girl (exciting).
I stood and looked out to see if I could spot her (no dice). I waited…then she came out into the yard and I liked what I saw. A nice girl on the heavy side with a sweet, round face. She looked so clean and preened up that she didn’t belong there. She looked at me and smiled and went back inside. I liked her smile and something did click inside of me.
I waited and got to know them. I found out that she was engaged to a fellow (barber) in Jayuya and was getting ready for marriage. He used to visit them every week. Somehow, she broke off the engagement and went to work downtown.
When she was home again, I wrote a little letter and had it in my pocket, waiting for the right time to declare [my feelings]. She went to the backyard and I told [my sister] Tita to take the letter to her. She was reading the letter and crying. I got nervous and went inside the house, worried that she might reject me, but she didn’t.
We were friendly to each other and enjoyed the company, going to the movies. I used to go see her where she worked and go holding hands on walks…dancing together at Christmastime. We were really in love with each other. Four years until 1940 that I went to New York and joined the Army. Then five more years writing letters until we got married in California. She was working with a family that went to New York and I told her to move to San Francisco with [my sister] María until I got out of the service. I promised her I would marry her in three days. Well, the third day was a Tuesday, the 2nd of October, 1945, and we did it. Just about everybody marries on Saturday, and we did it on Tuesday.