Our Mystery Man: Florencio Rivera – Part V

Published Saturday, July 2nd, 2016
by family historian Norma (Garcia) Pettit

Life with Otilia Pacheco Arroyo

Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far about my grandfather, Florencio, in the previous four segments.

Part I: He was the son of Manuel Alejo Rivera and María Dominga Maldonado. He had six siblings, although at least three of them died while Florencio was still a boy. His mother died when he was only ten years old, but Florencio was 27 and already married to his first wife, Felícita, when his father died.

Part II: Florencio Rivera and Felícita Madera Medina were married on March 10, 1897 when she was 17 and he was 24. Their first son, Nicolás, died on Nov. 19, 1900. Their second son, Andrés, was born on Nov. 20, 1899. Felícita died on March 20, 1901 at the young age of 23, and the fate of Andrés is unknown but it is presumed that he died as a child.

Part III: Florencio met my grandmother, Ana Cruz García, and she gave birth to a child, Matilde on January 27, 1907, but sadly, the little girl died on Sept. 23, 1908. Their second child, Adela, was by then two months old. They went on to have Óscar (my father), María, Sinforiano, Elena, and Anita. A week after Anita’s birth, Ana Cruz García passed away.

Part IV: By his 30th birthday, Florencio had suffered the loss of up to eight people in his family, including a young wife and toddler son. Part IV tells about Ana and her life with Florencio, plus how she died from a fever in August of 1916. Now Florencio was once again a widower, left with six children. Shortly afterwards, Otilia Pacheco Arroyo came to live with him. He was 44 and she was not yet 19. It should be clarified that Otilia was not the woman that the gossiping neighbor told Ana that Flor had been flirting with.

Otilia was well known to Flor’s children, having often been at the home helping out as a nanny of sorts, and undoubtedly had affection for the motherless crew. In those days, poverty played a big part in life decisions, but over the years up until Florencio’s death, Otilia was a loving and devoted partner for him. She soon began adding children to the family, starting with Vicente Neri (Sept. 11, 1917—Dec. 27, 1972) and Isidro (May 13, 1919—Dec. 28, 2014).

carmen-lydia-death-recordMy father’s memories, transcribed from a recording I made of him telling the story of his youth, are this: Florencio worked as a caretaker of a farm in Peñuelas for many years and was replaced in that job by his daughter Elena’s godfather. He then went to live on a half-acre owned by Juan José Pacheco (Otilia’s father). He made a house there, but bad times came, and he sold the house together with the land for $100. It was around 1919 or 1920. Somehow, during the move, the $100 got lost and they never found out what happened to it. They moved to Tibes, to a house which cost $35, and he worked in the sugar cane fields. From there they moved to Loma Bonita in Ponce. Two more children were born—Angélica (Sept. 27, 1928—Feb. 29, 2016) and Delia (b. May 19, 1934), but in between there were stillborn twins, a boy and a girl. Two other little girls were born and died young: Carmen Lydia (Sept. 10, 1936—Dec. 5, 1937) and Aurea Esther (Mar. 1, 1939—Aug. 20, 1941). I recently located the death record for Carmen Lydia, shown at right.

Florencio died on June 22, 1941, just two months before Otilia lost her last baby.