From child to hero

Figure 1 Elementary school photo of Jose.

Figure 1 Elementary school photo of Jose.

On the streets of old San German there is a 14 years old child selling candy and offering to clean your house for a few coins and you wonder why that child is not in school. This was the life of Jose, who dropped out of school at the age of fourteen. “I studied until ninth grade, because I needed to work to help my mom, because a few months after my birth my father died and my mother was the only who took care of me and my brothers”, said Jose with a low tone of voice.

Jose comes from a poor family who lacked basic amenities like food, shoes and clothes. Because of that the boy left his wooden toy car to help his idol. “My idol was my mom because she raised five children and with her own income, dedicated to raising her children and staying single all her life since age 33,” he admitted with a face full of pride.

But the boy became a man when he began to work with a monthly salary and started to help his mom without worries that the next day he would not have another job: “I became an adult when I got my first paycheck of cleaning offices, at that time was two dollars a day. In that moment I felt as an adult because I paid back my mother for what she had done for me. Because of that I felt like an adult being just 15 years old.”

In his life he also had two great loves. Jose remember that he had his first great love when he was very young: “I had a girlfriend that I loved so much, but her mother despised me because of my color. I had to break my commitment of marriage and leave with my sister to the United States to forget her.”

But years later he came back to Puerto Rico and found another woman which he fell for her and asked her for marriage: “But God handed me another woman which has unquestionably been the love of my life. She gave me two children and has been with me about 47 years, which I give many thanks for to God because I started with her and will die with her.”

Even for Jose that was not enough. In 1969 he had one of his greatest achievements: an employment of trust in the City hall of San German, along with the mayor Alemañy he found a job which was consistent with his personality and his commitment to the community, helping the people in community, not letting anyone deprive people of any help in the city hall: “For the year 1969 I was recruited by the mayor to work. In these years I had a great experience because I had a large number of functions such as property manager, procurement officer, municipal treasurer, deputy mayor and ending three periods of 4 years in 1981.”

Jose not only managed to have a job of great recognition but from there he helped the poor people like him,  It did not matter if they were of low income or middle class people, they all came to Jose’s office to tell their problems and he with great effort helped them. He said “The most striking case was a man who came to my office because he had a prescription for his wife and was told at the pharmacy that it had a cost of $ 50 and the man had no money. I was so moved that I decided to call the pharmacy.”

Jose with eyes lost in thought narrated how he called the pharmacy and told the pharmacist that the drugs would be pay by him if the city hall did not respond:

“This man entered the office crying and left happy. Not only that, a month later he came back to the office and arrived with his wife and a bag of peas. I had forgotten the man because they were not the only ones I helped. There were similar cases daily, but that moved me more because if the lady hadn’t used the drugs she would have been  gravely ill, on that day they came back  and the lady asked me if I could get up from the desk to give me a hug and the lady gave me a long hug.”

Jose after his years in the city hall found better work so he quick his position at the city hall, without forgetting his commitment with his people. Jose bought a gas station where he created a business that had a restaurant, mechanics and gas station. In this new work he kept on helping, he gave free fuel to poor people and lowered the price of food to the students. In this another great achievement Jose began to help his family, closest friends and young children which he taught to study and love their job. Later he decided to find another job without the long hours of work:

“After I acquired the gas station which in walk together with my family I worked in,  I got a job in the Puerto Rico Telephone Company which required much less effort than the gas station and having the same income as the gas station.”

Years later Jose retired and returned in search of support for his community. The mayor of San German after seeing Jose`s efforts on helping his people, invited Jose to be Municipal Assemblyman, another position in the city hall that have the community leaders with the purpose of helping others.

Jose said: “The function of an assemblyman is to have an area of town where the citizens can ask you for help or needs, the downtown of San German is my area of the community to help but I’m at the disposal not only of that area but the entire town.”

Jose’s effort is in the streets on going to the places most frequented by citizens and listening to what he calls “people’s complaints.”

“…with the complaints I go to City Hall to resolve them two or three days pass and citizen come back to me to tell me that the city hall resolved the problem, without knowing it was me who put effort to resolve it.  I do not get the title to tell the citizens that I did.”

But for Jose is not only a hobby it is a commitment, during the interview  he had to pause because the  mayor called for problems with a telephone cable that prevented the passage of citizens on a busy highway.

For Jose supporting others is not his only hobby, he also has another hobby; basketball. In basketball he began as scorekeeper holding various roles he has worked in various tournaments such as the LAI, BSN, and minor leagues:

“I started working in basketball in 1963 with a cousin of mine, we did the statistic of the team. The team paid only two dollars to each of us.”

Not only did he work in the statistics during his youth, but he is still today one of the oldest scorekeeper of Puerto Rico along with other fellow officers of the. One of his greatest basketball achievement was to get his family to inherit his empire in basketball.

“I have one that followed my footsteps in basketball, I have been a scorekeeper for 47 years, carrying several positions on the table and I have a grandson who loves basketball sometimes he even has more knowledge than me because he knows a lot of the players statics and I still do not know them at the age that I have.”

Jose also is addicted to his family having two son and two grandchildren that to him are everything. Through his efforts of savings he built a home where his dream was for his family to live with him, a wide and clear house with several floors. Upon entering his home you can smell the odors of food, see pictures of all sorts of ages of the family and hear the sounds of conversations of all sources of themes.

“I told you about my grandson who follows my footsteps and now I speak of my granddaughter who is playful and very similar to me because of her jokes, and that I am also friendly and playfull.”

Jose is a person who does not feel like a hero instead as person who came from below and got to fulfill all his dreams, but he admits that he still has a lot of goals to achieve in these next years; see his grandchildren graduate from university and celebrate his 50th anniversary of marriage with his wife.

“I consider myself a person who had fight for the things that I have; my family and my city.”

This person considers himself as someone who does not deserve any awards, but in the walls of his home there are admired awards from the city hall of San German, dedications from basketball tournaments like; the BSN to whom he has dedicated a whole season and other accolades in his work as an employer in the Puerto Rico telephone company.

Figure 2 Jose working as scorekeeper at San German basketball court

Figure 2 Jose working as scorekeeper at San German basketball court

 

 

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