By: Ariam L. Torres
May 18, 2013
“The Unknown Super Hero”
By: Ariam L. Torres
An old small wood house in a pastureland is what’s left. Cats prowl around it like if it were theirs. A lonely atmosphere surrounds the place where few things are left. The living room looks dull and the reduced amount of light that enters threw the borders of the zinc roof barely lets you see what once was a very illuminated place.
“The place has changed… a lot. Everything looked perfect. People used to frequently visit, they felt an obligation. He made them have to visit.”
These were the words of Pastor David Muñoz making his entrance to the old small wood house he used to visit more than once a week. “It wasn’t just me and members of our church nor family and friends. When I say people came to visit I mean people came to visit.”
The owner of the house that Pastor Muñoz slowly toured was Gregorio Torres Castillo, better known as “Don Chacho.” He was a member of the Theopolis Alliance Church in Mayaguez were Pastor Muñoz preached.
“Everyone loved him” continued Pastor Muñoz with a smile on his face. “He had a strong character but his hospitality and kindness made everyone attracted to him. I always tried to make him share his power with me but he would just laugh.”
Don Chacho was a big black man of 74 years. He exercised for almost his entire life so he was still strong before he got sick. He wasn’t more than 5 feet, 6 inches tall but everyone saw him as someone big.
Don Chacho lived alone in his house but his widow, Providencia Velazquez and 2 of their 4 sons lived less than 50 feet away.
“We lived together for a while, when the kids were little” explained Velazquez with softly shaky hands, lost eyes and kind voice.
Don Chacho and Velazquez decided to tear down the house they both lived in with their children and decided to build two separate houses.
“He couldn’t live without me and I had no where else to go so we thought that was the best thing to do” Velazquez continued.
Velazquez house has been for almost 40 years the closest edification to what once was Don Chacho’s home. The people that came to visit Don Chacho usually also visited her. He also made everyone visit her.
“People still come to see the house where he used to talk and listen to everyone.” Her voice trailed off, then exhaled. “He got good at conversation.”
Don Chacho wasn’t a doctor or a lawyer. He wasn’t a psychologist and definitely not a preacher. Don Chacho was a simple cab driver who had only studied from first to sixth grade and whose previous job experience was working with his father in the sugar cane industry.
Pastor Muñoz mentioned that, despite Don Chacho’s level of education, he had friends of all economic and social levels. Seeing doctors, politicians and even judges visiting him was normal.
People visited Don Chacho because he gave people things. Some of those things were cookies, corn cake and malt beverages but what they were really after was enjoying good quality time and good conversations.
“Chacho always had cookies and stuff just for visitors” remembered Pastor Muñoz. “But people didn’t visit him just to eat.”
Velazquez also narrated how Don Chacho listened to what people had to say and people listened to his advises. “He never thought he was smart, he was just kind” she said.
“People these days live in a rush. People always worry. Someone needs to help them remember what’s really important. That’s what I do.”
These were some of the last words that Don Chacho said before he passed away in November of 2012 after almost two years fighting against cancer. What started as a prostate infection became a prostate cancer which then transferred to his lungs and then practically everywhere.
Many people still visit Don Chacho’s old wood house. Most locals know what happened but some people, mostly travelers, still come looking for him. Now it is Velazquez and her two sons’ responsibility to break down the bad news to those travelers.
“Some people cry, other just go in suspense. Some start narrating stories of him. Most of them good stories” she smiled.
During Don Chacho’s funeral, everybody remembered everything about him. His rough days working in the sugar cane industry, his cab driver experiences, his long and interesting anecdotes, his involvement in politics, his family and relatives and even his birthday parties.
“Something I will never forget is about Chacho is that even thou he was born in January he always celebrated his birthday in December” said Velazquez. “And he celebrated twice.”
Don Chacho liked to have fun. He was a great musician. He played the conga drum, the tambourine and other instruments. He also sang mostly improvised Christian and Christmas carols and he danced really well.
Don Chacho had a great charisma and he knew it. He used his personality to reach people who needed help; any kind of help.
“Don Chacho had an exceptional and unique personality” expressed Pastor Muñoz with a lump in his throat. “He made people better. That made him special.”
Every detail of this Feature Story is obtained by the visiting Gregorio Torres Castillo old house and its surroundings which is all now property of his four sons. The interviews conducted and the documents revised happened in that location which is in Sector La Loma, Mayaguez, P.R.
A. This section lists the people interviewed and mentioned in this story.
1. Pastor David Muñoz- Pastor in Theopolis Alliance Church, Sector la Loma, Mayaguez P.R.
2. Providencia Velazquez Martinez- 110 Sector La Loma, Mayaguez P.R. 00680
3. Luis A. Torres Velazquez- Cel: (787) 560-7210
4. Edwin Torres Velazquez- 110 Sector La Loma, Mayaguez P.R.
B. This section lists people that were interviewed or that collaborated in the information gathering but weren’t mentioned in the story.
1. Jorge Mendez – Owner of “Joyeria Mendez” in Sultana, Mayaguez.
2. Tomas Castillo (additional information upon request)
For this Feature Story, I also consulted several personal documents like Gregorio Torres’s will and family contact notebooks. Also, the observation of photo albums and Don Chacho’s old personal belongings was very helpful.