The Hands That Helped Build Our Puerto Rico

By: Nicole Cordero



Esperanza Santiago, 73, enjoys the day at the Senior Center Luis Ufret Toro in San Germán with her friends. Santiago, worked 36 years as a  nurse at the Hospital La Concepción in San Germán, of which 30 years she worked in the operation room. “I loved my job and enjoyed going to work every day, my favorite part was working with children”


Alicia Gutiérrez, 74, waits patiently for lunch while reading a book in the library area. The now divorced housewife worked for 30 years as a factory seamstress in San Germán. “I worked sewing sleeves and collars […] I really liked the atmosphere and sharing with my peers.”


Carmen Lugo, 70, arrives to the center fatigued by the hot sun on the Tuesday afternoon. Lugo was born in Dominican Republic, from a Puerto Rican father and Dominican mother, she worked for 25 years in the sales area of the former Digital factory in San Germán. When speaking about her family she said: “I love the festivities because I always have a full house with my 4 children, 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren”


Sitting in the center of the room, Marta Noboa, 68, is quiet but alert to everything that happens around her table. Noboa of Spanish mother and Ecuadorian father worked as a supervisor of office cleaning in New York. “I lived in New York for 10 years but I was born in Madrid, Spain where I lived for 7 years and then we moved to Ecuador where I lived for over 30 years, and 8 years ago I moved to Puerto Rico.”


Santiago Toro, 74, was “very happy” after winning a game of domino while expecting the lunch. Toro retired after 40 years working in road construction in the municipalities of San Germán, Lajas, Guánica, Ponce and Vieques. “I also worked on and off in harvesting fruits and vegetables in New Jersey, what I liked the most was picking Asparagus”


Florentina Feliciano, 75, very cheerful and with everyone start sharing chocolates that she had in her purse after lunch. Feliciano who comes from a family of 12 siblings spent many years being a housewife and caring for her children and after they grow she decided to enter the world of work. “I had several jobs, even get to have my own business, but my favorite job was as a secretary at the Health Center where I worked for a nutritionist”


On a table at the back of the room José Olivera, 76, is reading the newspaper and talking to his wife. Olivera who is a veteran of the Vietnam War is a music lover and speaks very proudly of his collection of 1,500 vinyl albums and films of the Second World War. “I worked as an art teacher but needed a better job to support my family and I  changed my job and start working as an insurance salesman, knowing I was helping someone and giving a family security for their future was something very satisfying”


Palmira Sánchez, 81, a music lover, after lunch, goes to the music room to sing and play guitar for fun. Sánchez, who has 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren enjoy activities such as weaving, embroidery or “simply appreciate nature.” “I worked for 30 years in the Office of Public Welfare and Social Services, my favorite part of the job was working for the children ‘program and the adoption section”


After lunch Mary Seda, 88, plays bingo with her ​friends to have fun. Seda who has been married for 67 years with the father of her 3 daughters, with whom she affirms never had an argument, was always devoted to raising her daughters and working as a seamstress from home. “I enjoy the visits of my daughters and my granddaughters and grandchildren, I have 5 granddaughters and 3 grandchildren, I also enjoy working in the yard or doing word search books”


Miguel Martínez, 96, waits in a gazebo in the parking lot of the senior center for his son to comes to pick him up after lunch and afternoon snacks. Martínez was widowed after 25 years of marriage and has 9 children, 29 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren and assures to have great great-grandchildren too. “I worked 40 years in a gas station and that’s all I know to do, is not much I can do today but I thank God I’m alive.”


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