Hope is not lost

By: José Gabriel Lebrón Zapata

The United States has been seen as the land of opportunity and where dreams come true.

According to El Nuevo Dia. this movement or migration has gone to such lengths that the United States has an estimated 4.97 million residents of Puerto Rican origin, compared to 3.67 million in the Puerto Rico.

Marieglorie Zapata has become part of that movement; she relocated to New York City in search of work. With her plump face and smile she cruises the streets of New York in search of a better future for her.

Moving to the US was always an option but she was forced to make a decision in 2011 when her unemployment situation became critical. She moved to New York, specifically the Bronx in 2012.

Many aspects of her life have changed, she describes the Bronx as “a culture clash”. A huge melting pot of many people, places and experiences. “It is a very different place to where I grew up.”

She was born in Mayagüez in December 1967, lived in Cabo Rojo until she was 3 years old then briefly lived in Ponce until she was 4, Cabo Rojo for six months, Rio Piedras and Cabo Rojo again each one for less then a year, finally ending up in San Juan at the age of 7.

“I was the second of seven brothers and sisters,” she reminisced “first girl niece, granddaughter and great granddaughter in the family.” “My mom was the one who imparted discipline in the house, she was the one who imparted the discipline, she called it hard hand to crime” she remembers.

A product of public school she studied from 3rd grade to 12th grade in the elementary and middle school of Trujillo Alto and High School in Rio Piedras, other than education she found love in the school. This is where she met her now deceased ex-husband José Negrón.

“I was in high school one day and was wearing a stripped red and white shirt and he just started calling me his mint candy, ” says Marieglorie, “later he conquered my heart and we married in July 12, 1986”.

She formed a family with Jose when they brought their only daughter Sharon to the world in 1988. They settled into a small house in Cupey which is currently live by Sharon’s family as Marieglorie wanted it to be.

She was married until 2000 with José when they divorced because of multiple problems and she embarked on a new adventure, university studies. She finished her bachelors degree in 2000 business administration from Universidad Metropolitana, graduating the same year her daughter Sharon graduated from 6th grade, and in 2002 her masters degree in business administration from Universidad Metropolitana.

Studying opens doors, hers led to only one place: The United States. She had been contemplating the idea of moving since 2006 but her newly born granddaughter Aleishka put on hold that plan.

Whenever she speaks about her granddaughters her eyes twinkle in a very interesting way, “they are the thing that I most miss,” she says. Aleishka and Alondra are the names of the granddaughters and the main reason Marieglorie did not want to leave the island of Puerto Rico.

One of her main struggles is not being able to see them every day like she used to do. She says that being alone, with no close family near is one of the hardest experience she has had while living in the main land.

“I have survived because of the family I have over here, like my cousin and uncle” she says. “The loneliness gets to you but having faith that everything is going to better tomorrow is what keeps me going day to day.” Her face saddened, her hands started to shake, the usual suspects of despair and hurt for not being present.

“We miss her” said Sharon , her daughter, “not having my mom close to me as it was usually between us.” Her tone was hurt, her voice broke a little when she talked about her mom.

New York City has an estimate of 8 million people, according to the 2010 US Census,  spread along 304.8 square miles and they are traveled by feet. Marieglorie finds that contrary to Puerto Rico where everything is accessed easily by car in NYC everything is long walking distance and owning a car is considered a luxury and unnecessary.

She lives with her cousin Rafael  in a small apartment, “Being with family has been what has kept me sane.”  She walks everyday 10 minutes to the nearest train station to go from the Bronx to Manhattan to the government job recruit center where she goes daily to search for jobs.

Now that winter is coming she is preparing for the cold, “there are days where the cold is bone-piercing, unlike the continuous and comfortable temperatures in the island.” She says that it is incredible living in New York but at the same time not easy.

“The job market here is difficult, specially for people with college degrees” she comments “even having a masters degree does not secure you a good job.” Day after day, week after week she keeps her hopes up for finding a job “If I don’t do it who will do it for me?, nobody, that is the answer.”

“My motivation is the hope that one day I will be an example for my granddaughters and that they believe that if you set your mind to it you can do anything”, she concluded.

She keeps walking in her quick pace every day back and forth looking, not losing hope. “My motivation is the hope that one day I will be an example for my granddaughters and that they believe that if you set your mind to it you can do anything” she concluded.

Advertisements

Forget Me Not

By: Ashley Vincenty

Antonia Cappas, 68, is a healthy looking elderly that loves to dance, sing, make jokes, but most of all: live life. Judith, as everyone who knows her calls her, started showing symptoms of Alzheimer in 2009. She, however, does not know because she does not remember being diagnosed; but when she recognizes something is off she says “Oh my God, I’m forgetting things!”

Antonia Cappas, 68, is a healthy looking elderly that loves to dance, sing, make jokes, but most of all: live life. Judith, as everyone who knows her calls her, started showing symptoms of Alzheimer in 2009. She, however, does not know because she does not remember being diagnosed; but when she recognizes something is off she says “Oh my God, I’m forgetting things!”

Elsie “Elsita” Cabrera, Judith’s niece, is the person in charge of taking care of her. Her mother, Judith’s sister, was also diagnosed with Alzheimer. “I know how to handle Judith because my mother is going through the same thing, and I don’t mind the responsibility.”

Elsie “Elsita” Cabrera, Judith’s niece, is the person in charge of taking care of her. Her mother, Judith’s sister, was also diagnosed with Alzheimer. “I know how to handle Judith because my mother is going through the same thing, and I don’t mind the responsibility.”

Elsita tends to Judith’s every need, no matter how basic. When her aunt would go and take a shower, she wouldn’t be more than three minutes; sometimes she wouldn’t even bathe. “I have to tell her to get in the shower and supervise, because if I don’t, she won’t clean herself correctly.”

Elsita tends to Judith’s every need, no matter how basic. When her aunt would go and take a shower, she wouldn’t be more than three minutes; sometimes she wouldn’t even bathe. “I have to tell her to get in the shower and supervise, because if I don’t, she won’t clean herself correctly.”

Judith even forgets things like shaving, for example. When Elsita noticed this, she began to look for razors, and did not mind doing it for her. “Everything I do is because I want to do it, and everything I do, I do with love.”

Judith even forgets things like shaving, for example. When Elsita noticed this, she began to look for razors, and did not mind doing it for her. “Everything I do is because I want to do it, and everything I do, I do with love.”

Elsita also does her aunt’s hair and makeup to make her look beautiful everyday. Before Judith had Alzheimer, she would dress up elegantly and to her best. “I always leave with her looking great so that she feels good about herself.”

Elsita also does her aunt’s hair and makeup to make her look beautiful everyday. Before Judith had Alzheimer, she would dress up elegantly and to her best. “I always leave with her looking great so that she feels good about herself.”

Elsie Cabrera makes sure that her aunt stays healthy by cooking for her and managing her diet. Judith used to be excellent in the kitchen, but pitifully she lost her cooking skills as well. “This woman right here, she would do quite a plate, and now I give back by cooking for her.”

Elsie Cabrera makes sure that her aunt stays healthy by cooking for her and managing her diet. Judith used to be excellent in the kitchen, but pitifully she lost her cooking skills as well. “This woman right here, she would do quite a plate, and now I give back by cooking for her.”

There are pharmaceuticals that treat Alzheimer by slowing down its progress. Elsita began to give Judith these drugs with faith that it would somehow better her aunt’s condition. “I know that there is no cure for this disease, but its always good to maintain a little hope for those who we cherish, no matter how difficult the situation.”

There are pharmaceuticals that treat Alzheimer by slowing down its progress. Elsita began to give Judith these drugs with faith that it would somehow better her aunt’s condition. “I know that there is no cure for this disease, but its always good to maintain a little hope for those who we cherish, no matter how difficult the situation.”

Alzheimer not only makes its victims forget things, it also develops a sense of paranoia. Judith began to put her outdoor chairs inside her house because she said people would steal them if she didn’t do this. Sometimes she would even place them in the form of a barrier for protection.

Alzheimer not only makes its victims forget things, it also develops a sense of paranoia. Judith began to put her outdoor chairs inside her house because she said people would steal them if she didn’t do this. Sometimes she would even place them in the form of a barrier for protection.

Judith often goes to her balcony to reflect on life. She didn’t use to do this very much before she had Alzheimer. This disease warps the mind in ways that end up changing the personality of a person completely, and sadly someday Judith may not be the Judith we have come to know.

Judith often goes to her balcony to reflect on life. She didn’t use to do this very much before she had Alzheimer. This disease warps the mind in ways that end up changing the personality of a person completely, and sadly someday Judith may not be the Judith we have come to know.

Antonia “Judith” Cappas is my grandmother. It was not easy finding out that she had Alzheimer because this meant that one day she will not recognize me. Nevertheless, with these patients it is better to focus on the now and not on tomorrow so that one can cherish every moment with the patient, and even though he or she will not remember, you will.

Antonia “Judith” Cappas is my grandmother. It was not easy finding out that she had Alzheimer because this meant that one day she will not recognize me. Nevertheless, with these patients it is better to focus on the now and not on tomorrow so that one can cherish every moment with the patient, and even though he or she will not remember, you will.

Cuchy and the “American Dream”

By: Keysalis J. Fermín Pacheco

            Slanted eyes, pale skin, black wavy hair, only 13 years old and suddenly all alone. Rosalba Ruíz Ruíz, also known as “Cuchy,” had no option but to attempt to pursue the “American dream.” Headed for Manhattan, New York, little Cuchy had a stomach full of butterflies and a suitcase full of memories and sadness.

“I never met my mother; she died from cancer when I was one year old. My dad was out of the picture so my grandmother and my great-grandmother took me in as their child.” says Cuchy, 71, while looking at the ceiling and swinging back and forth in her rocking chair.

“I couldn’t ask for a better childhood back in the ‘40s. They gave me everything. Growing up I was always riding a bicycle and playing baseball with the neighborhood boys.” She chuckles, “I guess you could say I was a tomboy back then.”

Cuchy’s grandmother and great-grandmother were both strong women but taking care of a teenager while dealing with old age started to get tough.

“I was thirteen when my grandma and great-grandma died. They died one week apart from each other. I could not believe they were gone. Suddenly I felt alone.” Cuchy has a sad look on her face and tears start running down the wrinkles on her eyes.

Having lost her two care takers, Juana Flores (great-grandmother) and Dominga Ortiz (grandmother) she felt great pain and sadness. She had to leave her barrio Candelaria in Lajas, Puerto Rico and head out to the Big Apple to live with her Aunt Juanita Ruíz and Uncle Samuel Ruíz.

Getting to the plane was very nerve racking for Cuchy. Luckily she wasn’t alone. Bienvenido Ruíz, a.k.a “Johnny,” a foster brother who grew up with Cuchy in Lajas, was also going on the trip with her.

“After my grandmothers died, Uncle Samuel bought me and my brother Johnny the plane tickets to go live with him and my aunt because I refused to get on a plane alone.” She wipes the tears off her face.

Cuchy and Johnny landed in New York on March 11, 1958. She says that as soon as she got off the plane she thought to herself: “his is definitely not Puerto Rico anymore.” The difference was unbelievable. The streets were all paved and she had never seen buildings that tall before. She will never forget that first day in New York.

Cuchy at 13 years old in Lajas, Puerto Rico

Cuchy at 13 years old in Lajas, Puerto Rico

“Uncle Samuel and Aunt Juanita took Johnny and me on a car ride to visit the city. We went to Central Park, we saw the Empire State Building and we got a ride on the Statue of Liberty’s ferry to Staten Island.” A big smile appeared on Cuchy’s face and her eyes filled with joy as she relived her adolescent memories.

When at great first, Cuchy and Johnny were separated. He went to live with other relatives while she stayed with Samuel and Juanita. Although Johnny and Cuchy didn’t live together, they had to see each other every day; they were inseparable.

“I had to see my brother every day. If not I would feel uneasy and lonely. He was the only thing left from my childhood in Puerto Rico aside from some cachibaches (random things) I brought in my suitcase,” she keeps rocking back and forth in her chair.

Cuchy had no trouble settling in New York. She learned English while she was in school back in Puerto Rico because all her classes were mainly taught in English back then. She never felt like she was an outsider because there were a lot of Puerto Ricans where she was living on 164th Manhattan Ave. She started working when she was 17 in a textiles factory. All her relatives that were living in New York at that time worked at the same factory on 34th Street and 8th Avenue.

“Johnny and I started working together in the factory as floor assistants to help the seamstresses clean up around their stations but after that I started doing a little bit of everything.” recalled Cuchy.

“I taught myself how to sew,” she smiled. “I used to practice with my own dresses. I would rip them apart and sew them back together.”

After a number of tries she got hired as a seamstress and then she got promoted to floor manager. Since then she’s considered herself a professional seamstress and that’s how she still makes a living today. Cuchy worked at the textiles factory for 12 years and in that time she made great friends.

“I always loved her happy attitude when we were working at the factory. She would always come on time and ready to work,” said Norma Castro, a seamstress that worked with Cuchy during the 12 years she was there. “We were always together and laughing about everything. I went to her wedding and she went to mine.”

“We always had the same schedule: 9:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. One time after work we decided to take a train together to explore the city a little bit,” Norma recalled. “We got off the train, we walked through the streets looking at everything and laughing about things that happened at the factory that day.” Norma looks at Cuchy and winks at her as if they were hiding some exciting adventure at work. Cuchy smiles and winks back.  “After a while, we realized that neither of us knew where we were at so we took a taxi. It turns out we were only two blocks away from Cuchy’s house,” said Norma laughing loudly along with Cuchy.

Cuchy got married when she was 23 years old. She met her husband while on vacation in Puerto Rico in 1966. They got married that same year at the Riverside Plaza Hotel in New York City. After the wedding, they decided to come back to Puerto Rico and establish themselves in Mayagüez where her husband lived.

Abuela Cuchy sits in her living room next to her rocking chair.

Abuela Cuchy sits in her living room next to her rocking chair.

“I’ve always lived in the same place since I came back from New York. Mayagüez is my home now. I’ve made family here. My two kids were born here and my grandkids too.”

Cuchy says she always dream of being a teacher and although she only made it to high school she has fulfilled that dreamed because she’s had the opportunity to teach all her neighbors in some way. All the little kids call her “Abuela Cuchy” and she has become a mother figure around the Ramírez de Arellano neighborhood. Now widowed and 71 years old “Abuela Cuchy” still does some sewing here and there.

“It’s what I’ve always done…I don’t think I’ll ever stop because I love doing it, and I’m good at it. Well… maybe when I’m dead I can stop,” she stops rocking her chair and laughs loudly.

Cuchy lives alone but she always has the company of the children and all the other people that come to her house in need of some sewing. Ripped blouses, long pants that don’t fit them right, even broken shoes, she can fix it all. No matter what she will always welcome you with: “Come here sugar, I’ll fix it.”

Our Representative: Natalia Román

By Ashley Vincenty

"I don't feel like a college student. I feel like a professional," says Natalia Román.

“I don’t feel like a college student. I feel like a professional,” says Natalia Román.

“Opportunities just knock on your door when you’re a Latina,” says a brave student who left Puerto Rico in search of new chances.

Natalia Román is a sophisticated, determined, but also friendly second year student at Kent University of Ohio. She was born in Puerto Rico, but moved to the United States to pursue a politician career. “The opportunities here are limitless and in Puerto Rico I felt a little bit more restrained in that matter” said Natalia.

Yet, circumstances have led her to change career paths and she is now majoring in communications. She said that she took an American politics class that she loved, thinking she was in the right path, but after two classes, she realized she “wasn’t really into it because I was looking at the political science career as more as an international relations.” After this, she quickly made the arrangements to change her concentration.

“A communications study major can basically lead you to anything,” said Ms. Román. She said that inter-personal communication skills are required everywhere. Thanks to this major, Ms. Román has had opportunities, like being called to speak out for the Latino community in her university.

Being so far from home can take a toll on you; Natalia Román was not an exception to this. “Oh yeah,” said the student when she remembered the difficulties of settling in a new atmosphere. Thoughtfully she added “I was alone…my family was in Puerto Rico…I pretty much had to battle it out on my own.”

Ms. Román explained that she would lock herself in her room and not socialize. Then she was introduced to the Spanish and Latino Student Association at Kent and that was when her student involvement and adaptation to her surroundings began.

SALSA is a student association at Kent with many goals. Natalia Román, who is currently its vice-president of the association, explained that the organization “tries to establish a safe environment for Latinos who feel lonely and need a home away from home.” SALSA also establishes networking ties with professionals in the Latino community.

Her achievements as vice-president include establishing more connections with different Latinos, and helping improve the association in general.

Second one from right to left is Natalia Román, accompanied by the rest of the SALSA board.

Second one from right to left is Natalia Román, accompanied by the rest of the SALSA board.

“SALSA has done a complete 360 turn,” said Tim Thomas, a colleague of Natalia Román and former member of SALSA. “SALSA has grown simply because Natalia is the outer person. She can interact with multiple kinds of people, she knows how to motivate people,” he added.

Natalia admits that, before she met SALSA and acquired some of her many achievements, she faced struggles. She paused, caught some air, and then began to smile when she said, “at the beginning, keeping up with the classes was kind of hard. It’s very overwhelming, especially when it’s not your first language.”

When one lives in Puerto Rico, all you hear is the pessimism that overshadows the island. “I became tired of all the negativity and being scared of going out late,” said Natalia concerned. “I didn’t see a lot of future in Puerto Rico.” Yet her being outside the island has made her grateful of where she comes from.

Many leave the country goes in search of the “American dream”. Ms. Román, on the other hand, said that “as a Puerto Rican in the United States, I can tell you, I have my own dreams, and they don’t involve me becoming American.” She hopes  to become a Puerto Rican representative that people could be proud of.

Her moving to the US has also entailed a shift in her identity. Ms. Román is not only a Puerto Rican, she has become part of something bigger than PR: the Latino community.

“I didn’t like it at first because I was very proud of being Puerto Rican and not a Latina in general,” said Ms. Román twisting her lips. Though, afterwards she grew into liking the term because it made her feel special in a way and part of a population that she could relate to.

However, when she introduces herself, she says that she was born and raised in PR “to specify that I am legit” she said laughing. She wants people to recognize what has made her the outgoing and charismatic person she is and to let people know where she got her unique spicy personality.

The Latino community is a growing population “small but powerful and strong” says Ms. Román. “People look at me different here,” she said. “People look at me trying to figure out what I am,” she added, shaking her wild curls and mimicking comically how people would stare at her.

Still, that does not bother her. Ms. Román said that if she felt people were looking for trouble, she would approach them “nice but tough.” However, she admits, “sometimes that Latina rage comes out.”

Natalia, at a point, became frustrated and thought about giving up her studies in the US. “I was very depressed. I was just buried in books and A’s.”

When she considered leaving Kent, her advisor Marion Styles convinced her not to. Since then, she hasn’t thought about leaving again. “I have grown in every simple way. Living alone in the United States is not for everyone, but you’ll never know until you try it,” said Natalia smiling.

“Once a Bulldog, Always a Bulldog”

By: Andrea I Concepción Ortiz

From left to right, “Maldo”, Luis Vega and Miguel Ferrer who painted their faces to support their team. They had a pre calculus test the next day and like always they decided to go to the game. "The tension that feels from everyone is amazing. Whatever happens I will go to my team”.

From left to right, “Maldo”, Luis Vega and Miguel Ferrer who painted their faces to support their team. They had a pre calculus test the next day and like always they decided to go to the game. “The tension that feels from everyone is amazing. Whatever happens I will go to my team”.

“Colegio” Volleyball team making their ritual and singing their song before start the game. The team reach their 17th championship in this year. They sing “Como dice Colegio y quienes somos tarzanes  quien nadie quien nadie quien quien nadie quien nadie quien quien nadie quien nadie ”.

“Colegio” Volleyball team making their ritual and singing their song before start the game. The team reach their 17th championship in this year. They sing “Como dice Colegio y quienes somos tarzanes quien nadie quien nadie quien quien nadie quien nadie quien quien nadie quien nadie ”.

Erika Gonzalez, 20 years old, screaming at the team. Erika has gone to every game since the season began. "The thought of today's game gives me the creeps, I could not stop screaming, it was amazing!

Erika Gonzalez, 20 years old, screaming at the team. Erika has gone to every game since the season began. “The thought of today’s game gives me the creeps, I could not stop screaming, it was amazing!

Robby Mercado animating the public, Nelson Ramos, Gabriel Moraza, Edwin Gonzalez and Luis Vega making him choir, Luis Perez eating a hotdog. This Volleyball game make history with all the crowd that was in there supporting UPRM. "This semi-final was the classic of classics, best game in the world"

Robby Mercado animating the public, Nelson Ramos, Gabriel Moraza, Edwin Gonzalez and Luis Vega making him choir, Luis Perez eating a hotdog. This Volleyball game make history with all the crowd that was in there supporting UPRM. “This semi-final was the classic of classics, best game in the world”

Carlos Ruben, 20 years, celebrating the point made by the team of the UPRM. Carlos Ruben has been characterized by playing volleyball since childhood ”There is no better feeling than seeing your team win and bring up everything that represents your university. Green blood until the end of time”.

Carlos Ruben, 20 years, celebrating the point made by the team of the UPRM. Carlos Ruben has been characterized by playing volleyball since childhood ”There is no better feeling than seeing your team win and bring up everything that represents your university. Green blood until the end of time”.

The Cheerleading Squad of UPRM making a double twist and animating the public. This Cheerleading Squad got second place last year in the interuniversity athletic league. “Lets go Bulldogs”

The Cheerleading Squad of UPRM making a double twist and animating the public. This Cheerleading Squad got second place last year in the interuniversity athletic league. “Lets go Bulldogs”

From left to right  Juan Ortiz and Brian Sanabria wearing the costume of UPRM mascot, Tarzan and Jane, dancing and doing things to animate the public. Juan Ortiz and Brian Sanabria are part of the baseball team of UPRM who lost the opportunity to won the championship.  “This was the first time and last time that I will use this costume, it is very hot in here”

From left to right Juan Ortiz and Brian Sanabria wearing the costume of UPRM mascot, Tarzan and Jane, dancing and doing things to animate the public. Juan Ortiz and Brian Sanabria are part of the baseball team of UPRM who lost the opportunity to won the championship.
“This was the first time and last time that I will use this costume, it is very hot in here”

There it is Tarzan the official mascot of the University of Puerto Rico of Mayaguez, eating the rival mascot mask a rooster. The rivalry between UPRM and UPRRP it has been for years and it is very famous between students of UPR. ”Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog”.

There it is Tarzan the official mascot of the University of Puerto Rico of Mayaguez, eating the rival mascot mask a rooster. The rivalry between UPRM and UPRRP it has been for years and it is very famous between students of UPR. ”Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog”.

A volleyball team member Lewis Rodriguez and his girlfriend Paola Prosper giving the celebrating kiss after winning the game. Like the movies Paola Prosper met Lewis when she was the cheer captain. “Words can’t express how happy I am to share with Lewis each of his accomplishments”

A volleyball team member Lewis Rodriguez and his girlfriend Paola Prosper giving the celebrating kiss after winning the game. Like the movies Paola Prosper met Lewis when she was the cheer captain. “Words can’t express how happy I am to share with Lewis each of his accomplishments”

Part of the crowd of UPRM celebrating on the court that they win to the most famous rivals the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus. The UPRM team won with 3 straight sets with  25-16, 25-17 and 25-15 scores. After winning to Rio Piedras, Mayagüez team played against the University of East who defeated them in three games and won their 17th championship.

Part of the crowd of UPRM celebrating on the court that they win to the most famous rivals the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus. The UPRM team won with 3 straight sets with 25-16, 25-17 and 25-15 scores. After winning to Rio Piedras, Mayagüez team played against the University of East who defeated them in three games and won their 17th championship.

Persistence Over Judgment

By: Paola B. Rodríguez Borrés

Engineering over music, that was Francis life choice. Unfortunately, not one he took, but taken for him. Francis Quiles Ojeda, 28, is an Industrial Engineer, but he wanted to be a musician.

Even though every day we hear the cliché stories about how parents force their kids to study what they thinks its right, this is a story very hard to believe for most people according to him. Even though Francis lived in Jayuya, his parents drove him for many years to Ponce and San Juan where he studied in music specialized schools throughout middle school and high school . His parent was also a musician, although it wasn’t his principal job but musicians always surrounded him.

As a child he was competing is “trova” contests and became the local infant champion, which was a family tradition. Regardless of the evident musical offspring in the family, his parents always emphasized how “musicians starve to death” in order to pressure him to study industrial or mechanical engineering.

“Plena music is very emotional, its brave, it's the voice of the boricua and it should never die.” said Francis.

“Plena music is very emotional, its brave, it’s the voice of the boricua and it should never die,” said Francis.

Francis confirms that all the decisions in the course of his life has influenced by his parents “the religious point of view, my conviction in politics, my desire to be a car racer, my music knowledge, my volunteer work for the community and all other kinds of expressions of myself are strongly influenced by them.” Even the choice of started studying in a music school he was the precision leader in the marching and concert band.

When he was kid he wanted to become a fireman, “who doesn’t?” he exclaims smiling. As a child he never dreamed he could be a famous singer, he said proudly, “seeing my dad from the backstage made me think that I could also become a musician, not the one front signing autographs and posters, but a humble one like my father.” He always knew engineering was not for him, “I like the designs ad working with plains, but I knew from the start that the only way I could make engineering as a living was canalizing it in the automotive side,” he clarified firmly.

Francis decided to study Industrial Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón, when he mentioned his music aspiration to his parents they reacted with sarcastic and negative comments.

After he finished he went to study music at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico at San Germán. “Why do you insist so much with the same?” was his parents’ response to his decision. Despite their disagreement, they attended his recitals and concerts to support him. He downsized his excitement sitting back on the chair to explain how after a while he had no scholarship left to pay the tuition to finish, his only options were to make a student loan or to save enough money to pay for the remaining classes, so he quit studying and started working.

Raised by music but driven to engineering Francis still feels accomplished because he has done everything he has planned. “By now, I am the singer and second guitarist in Sonora Rustica which is a rock band, the other project is, Pleneros del Paseo, which is a plena group. I sing, play the pandero, and I also am the director of the nine musicians” he gracefully explained with  joyful eyes.

“Go-kart leaded me to dream about making my own race car, so, then I thought maybe it was a nice idea to study engineering.”

“Go-karts led me to dream about making my own race car, so then I thought maybe it was a nice idea to study engineering.” Francis said.

Francis, with animated hand gestures explained how he see himself growing in the automotive business and how it was the only reason to study engineering. He eagerly expressed how he wants to continue working in his shop, doing mechanics but still he plans to keep his music projects. He now feels that he has all the things that he has dreamed about, “I am preparing my own race car, and it’s ready to roll, it will be running the championship next season.” With a self-satisfied smirk and showing the racer pictures he expressed how he wants to study auto mechanics and that his inspiration for that decision was his race car.

Francis wants to be able to open a speed shop specialized in automotive setups he needs to be certified the College of Mechanics of Puerto Rico.“I can’t say that I like more than music, it’s another kind of passion, it’s another dream.” If he had to choose again he would’ve choose music, “no doubt about it,” he said with determination.

His parents changed his life but on the other hand it could have been worse like for example a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies “lists three elements that must be present in people’s lives for them to be happy: feeling autonomous, competent and connected to other people”. That did not happen to Francis, which is why he is an admirable young man who refused to give up. At the age of 28 Francis Quiles Ojeda owns the Saioku Motorsport Workshop and works in sales and marketing for IFCC Consultant Group.

His struggle and aspiration right now are to keep his projects running, but his parents support him and give him indirect support, adviseand push he needs in order to continue.

“Eres Diferente”

By Ana M. Vázquez Catoni

   At 8:30 a .m. in Camuy’s countryside, “Eres Diferente” by Los Cinco Latinos is heard throughout the whole empty house, a song that reminds Letty of the days of her youth in her hometown of Santa Clara, Cuba. Sitting in her small computer room, filled with mementos, she sings gracefully, clenching her fists, with radiating passion, remembering elements of what once was her childhood. Carmen Cabrera, fondly known as Letty, reminisces her past with great joy and satisfaction, no matter how harsh her experiences.

   Letty is a 68-year-old mother of five children. Of small stature and a warm complexion, she describes her life as an open book. She was born on 1946 in Santa Clara, Cuba, and brought up in a family with Spanish customs. Her grandmother, mother, father and sister lived together.

“My grandmother was the most important person in my life; she influenced me on how to be a decent and caring person,” she says with a proud grin, “she did a lot of charity work and always took me with her to teach me the needs of others.”

“My childhood was joyful. I was the center of attention,” she recalls. During her teenage years, political tensions started rising; the rebels occupied the mountains. According to a PBS source about the history of Cuba during the late 1950’s, the repressions started, the government started killing citizens, and people, who where opposed to the government, started planting bombs.

On December of 1959, Letty remembers waking up to war zone-like surroundings. Her street was taken by the rebels, cars across the street set as barriers and machine guns poking from every corner. They went to another street, and stayed at a relative’s house.

“Silvio Fleites, our neighborhood doctor, went to cross the street to talk with his neighbor and, suddenly, un fogonazo (an explosion),” Letty says, still astonished, “I saw Silvio fall on the sidewalk, shot in the head. The other man was shot in the abdomen and died in the act.”

Letty met the reputable revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “It was not uncommon to see Che, swaying on a swinging chair, having his famous asthma attacks, in the middle of the street, shirtless.” She talked with him various times, “he always said people had to educate themselves because educated people will not be deceived”.

Due to the political tensions, on January 18, 1961, Letty left from Havana, Cuba to Puerto Rico, a decision she was not happy about. Her parents said they were going to Puerto Rico on vacation for three months. Trusting them, she didn’t take any memorabilia from home. “It was a very beautiful trip because you could always see the coastline. My mother had the saddest gaze; she left everything and she knew she was never going to return,” Letty says with a sorrowful expression, “Our uncles had a house prepared for us, my father had a job the next day after we arrived, my sister and I were enrolled in new schools and began our new life.”

Letty’s adolescence was marked by misery. Her mother struggled with depression, a pregnancy and suicidal tendencies. Eventually, her mother commited suicide. “I was the person who found her. This event destroyed my life, my happiness ended.” Letty explained faintly, while her blue eyes turned watery with such a tragic memory.

She had a 10-year-old sister to take care of. Her life changed overnight.

She studied at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. In 1963, her father drowned in Caracoles, a beach in Arecibo and his body was never found.

Letty married Gualberto Catoni Cano on December 21, 1968. It was during the Vietnam War, so he started working as a teacher to avoid being drafted. Letty also worked as a teacher and in 1969 her first daughter was born.

Letty and Gualberto had five children, three boys and two girls. After 25 years of marriage, he left her for another woman and subsequently came the divorce.

After her divorce in 1995, Letty reunited her children and said: “From now on, there is no father in this house. But, there will be a mother and nobody here will grow up damaged.” Letty explained how it was very difficult but she never had any preference over any of her children: “If there wasn’t anything, there wasn’t anything for anyone. I stopped being a woman and I became a mother.”

She laughs and a warm smile reappears as she remembers when she had a small car that fitted only three in the front and the rest in the back all together. “We laugh now but they were very difficult times.”

Letty’s proudest accomplishment in her 68 years of life is her children’s success after everything they’ve been through. “They are loved, respected and all successful professionals. Including my granddaughter who also grew up with all of them,” Letty expresses joyfully.

Today, Letty lives in Camuy with vast plains and her harvests surrounding the house. She is knowledgable about diverse subjects like classical music, history and literature. Also, she dedicates her free time to communicating with her friends. Also, she enjoys fishing and agriculture, the perfect combination of land and sea:  “I find that being in contact with the sea, purifies the soul and you become a new person. Working with the land makes you very human and sensitive.”

She does not regret anything good or bad because she learned from everything and grew. “Everything in life happens for a reason. Be happy with what you have. What counts is what’s left of the family together,” Letty conveys with the satisfaction of a life well lived.

Untitled

Carmen in 2014, enjoying herself traveling in Queretaro, Mexico . (Photo courtesy of Carmen Cabrera)

Untitnled

(Left to right) In 1949, Carmen’s mother, father, grandmother. Carmen is in the middle. (Photo courtesy of Carmen Cabrera)

Bottom to the top

From the bottom to the top, because nothing is impossible. That is Ángel David Concepción motto. He is a 51 years old talented man who always is looking forward because life is too short to be only one thing.
Ángel David Concepción born on January 27, 1963; he grew up in a humble place with no many resources in Cidra Puerto Rico. Ángel David had a hard childhood, he wasn’t rich in money but was rich in talent.
The first talent that he discover was running. He began running when he was in middle school at the traditional competition in November, the turkey race. When he ran out there with his big skinny legs he got first place. Many people were impressed that the skinny, humble kid run that fast. That’s where all his life began, he continue training running all mornings and afternoons. Eventually become the National Youth Champion of Puerto Rico for the 3,000 and 1,500 meters in the category of 16 to 17 years old in 1980.
Thanks to his big talent of running and to be the National Youth Champion of Puerto Rico, many important university looked out for him but one day a coach of the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus, appeared in his house to offer him the opportunity to study in Mayaguez and also represent them as an athlete in the famous competition of the Interuniversity Athletic League. The majority of the colleges in Puerto Rico do a track match among them, and demonstrate who’s the best university at this sport and others.
Ángel accepted the offer and decided to do his bachelor in industrial management. The humble kid of Cidra, started in 1981 a new different life. He entered very nervous, because he never thought he could get to study at a university like Mayagüez because his economic situation. Since he was in high school he had been a big fan of a UPRM athlete Gabriel Giraldo, who is an important Colombian athlete of long distance and for him Angel always dreamed of wear the colors of this University green and white, and better to run for them.
His first competitions not were so good. In 1983 when his turn to run arrived, he was so nervous that he began to vomit. Also, in the middle, of the race he stopped due to two large blood blisters that he had under his feet. Nevertheless he arrived fourth in the 1500 meters race. In that competition he adopted the nickname “Turbo” when in the relay his turn was the last stretch he closed the competition so explosive that people compared him with a turbo car. Thanks to that, most of the people that know him called him “Turbo” .
In his second year running, Turbo arrived second in the important race called “Campo Traviesa”. His team won the race; it was the last time that UPRM male team become champions in this league. In that year in the LAI race, wasn’t his best when his coach put him to run a different track of 800 meters and he arrived seventh place and in his track of 1500 meters arrived fourth place.
In addition to his life as an athlete Ángel David in 1984 met the love of his life Ivette Ortiz his current wife, at the UPRM in a dance class. She became his girlfriend, not so easy. In time he made her fall in love and he won her heart.

Ángel David Concepción “Turbo” running a relay in LAI, he is the third one right to left.

Ángel David Concepción “Turbo” running a relay in LAI, he is the third one right to left.

In 1985, the year of glory, in the Interuniversity Athletic League race he established a record in 1500 meters with a time of 3:50 that lasted for 14 years. That was the last year of glory for the UPRM team; it was the last championship that the university got in the LAI. Also that was the last year that he run with this university.
When he graduated in 1985, many other important university looked for him again, so he represented them in LAI for the year that remained him. In that moment the UPRM do not have the program of master’s degree in business administration so he accepted the offer with the rival the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.
In addition to his important achievements as an athlete at UPRM, Turbo also represent Puerto Rico in the World Indoor Olympics in Paris, France in 1986 and also he ran in Venezuela and in the United States.
Angel David Concepcion has worked as a manager of the newspaper “El Vocero”, also work in the area of human resources and accounting in Braxton School and as a professor in Huertas Junior College. Also he was owner of a barbershop and a pizza restaurant. He is completing a Ph.D. and expectes to graduate in 2015.
Also he is licensed as an artisan by the Institute of Culture of Puerto Rico and he is a cabinetmaker of rustic doors and windows. Likewise, in October 2010, he was exalted in the hall of the immortals of the sport of running in the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez. He is a proud father of two kids who also studied like he said in his “alma mater” UPRM.
This man has demonstrated that life is too short to only do one thing and that no matter where you came from or the conditions that you have lived in,there is no excused to do not make your dreams come true.

Ángel being recognized in the hall of the Immortals of the Sport in UPRM in  October 30,2010

Ángel being recognized in the hall of the Immortals of the Sport in UPRM in
October 30,2010

Fruit and Vegetable Trees in Puerto Rican Backyards

By: Gerardo Torres Madera

This is an avocado tree, approximately 10 years old, the last of  four trees planted in the right side of my house. It almost died because strong winds from a storm brought all its branches down. The avocado tree is native to Mexico and Central America and they are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates around the world.

This is an avocado tree, approximately 10 years old, the last of four trees planted in the right side of my house. It almost died because strong winds from a storm brought all its branches down. The avocado tree is native to Mexico and Central America and they are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates around the world.

This is a small mango tree, planted in the right side of my house, just before the avocado tree. It used to be a bit bigger but some of its branches were cut down and it has not grown back since. Mango trees can grow up to 131 feet tall and can reach a radius of 33 feet.

This is a small mango tree, planted in the right side of my house, just before the avocado tree. It used to be a bit bigger but some of its branches were cut down and it has not grown back since. Mango trees can grow up to 131 feet tall and can reach a radius of 33 feet.

Here is a huge “quenepa” tree, which is planted in my neighbor’s backyard. Last year, my neighbor sold it’s harvest because he was offered a good amount of money for it. These trees grow very slow but they can reach a height of 85 feet.

Here is a huge “quenepa” tree, which is planted in my neighbor’s backyard. Last year, my neighbor sold it’s harvest because he was offered a good amount of money for it. These trees grow very slow but they can reach a height of 85 feet.

Here is one of many clumps of banana located in the steep part of my house’s backyard. The last time we planted a clump of banana there was about two years ago, and they have been reproducing since. Clumps of banana grow and harvest in less than a year and unlike other trees, they can harvest in any season.

Here is one of many clumps of banana located in the steep part of my house’s backyard. The last time we planted a clump of banana there was about two years ago, and they have been reproducing since. Clumps of banana grow and harvest in less than a year and unlike other trees, they can harvest in any season.

This is a juvenile orange tree, which is also located in the right side of my house, just before the mango tree. My father planted it there about six months ago because the tree that used to be in that spot died. Orange trees are grown in tropical and subtropical climates, and as of 2012, sweet oranges accounted for 70% of citrus production.

This is a juvenile orange tree, which is also located in the right side of my house, just before the mango tree. My father planted it there about six months ago because the tree that used to be in that spot died. Orange trees are grown in tropical and subtropical climates, and as of 2012, sweet oranges accounted for 70% of citrus production.

If you look carefully, you can see this is a widespread lemon tree that grew around a palm. Last year something went wrong with its harvest and it barely gave us lemons. Lemon trees are native to Asia.

If you look carefully, you can see this is a widespread lemon tree that grew around a palm. Last year something went wrong with its harvest and it barely gave us lemons. Lemon trees are native to Asia.

Here we can see a medium-sized soursop tree which is located near the back fence of my house. It had grown too big and a couple of years ago my father cut most of its branches for it to begin to grow again. Soursop is native to Mexico, Cuba, Central America, the Caribbean and Northern South America.

Here we can see a medium-sized soursop tree which is located near the back fence of my house. It had grown too big and a couple of years ago my father cut most of its branches for it to begin to grow again. Soursop is native to Mexico, Cuba, Central America, the Caribbean and Northern South America.

This is one of many coconut palms situated in the back part of my house. These palms were planted here mostly because their roots are well known to hold large amounts of terrain in place. Coconut palms require full sunlight and drained soils, but they can resist most soils and strong winds.

This is one of many coconut palms situated in the back part of my house. These palms were planted here mostly because their roots are well known to hold large amounts of terrain in place. Coconut palms require full sunlight and drained soils, but they can resist most soils and strong winds.

This is the first and only milky tree planted in my house and it is located between the coconut palms. It has only given us one harvest. Its fruits are also known as “papayas, ”and its origin is from Central America.

This is the first and only milky tree planted in my house and it is located between the coconut palms. It has only given us one harvest. Its fruits are also known as “papayas, ”and its origin is from Central America.

Here we see a tamarind tree full of tamarinds, located in my neighbors backyard. That tree was not planted there by my neighbor, it grew by itself. Tamarind trees are indigenous to tropical Africa and unlike other trees, this one is used for its fruits and for its wood.

Here we see a tamarind tree full of tamarinds, located in my neighbors backyard. That tree was not planted there by my neighbor, it grew by itself. Tamarind trees are indigenous to tropical Africa and unlike other trees, this one is used for its fruits and for its wood.

Colegio Curls

This project, features a series of pictures of women who embrace their curly hair around Colegio.

By: Keysalis J. Fermín Pacheco

“My curls define me”

“My curls define me”

Mileidy Crespo, 19, poses for the camera with a proud smile while showing her amazing curls in the Metropolitan cafeteria. As a little girl, her mom used to braid her hair for school all the time, in middle school she always wore a pony tail or just completely tucked in a bun and it wasn’t until her second year of college that she started letting her curls loose and taking good care of them with different products to enhance volume and moisture. “Wherever I go, people know me for my curls, they look wild like my personality, they are distinctive characteristic of me and I wear them proudly because they represent my genes, my family and my culture.”

“Curls with volume”

Jeysika , 21, smiles for the camera while sitting at La Cueva de Tarzán wearing her natural curls. Jeysika shared that the key to having great curls was always having a lot of moisture. “Don't you ever comb your hair while dry if you don’t want to end up looking like The Lion King, and to the people who say women with curly hair have simple lives because they don’t need to brush their hair… YOU’RE WRONG!”

Jeysika Zayas, 21, smiles for the camera while sitting at La Cueva de Tarzán wearing her natural curls. Jeysika shared that the key to having great curls was always having a lot of moisture. “Don’t you ever comb your hair while dry if you don’t want to end up looking like The Lion King, and to the people who say women with curly hair have simple lives because they don’t need to brush their hair… YOU’RE WRONG!”

“Naturally crazy and beautiful”

Kathiria Escalera, 18, happily displays her highlighted mane near the Barcelona entrance in Colegio. If  women with curly hair ever wanted straight hair, they could get it but if a woman with straight hair wanted curls like hers she could never get them . “People tell me I have beautiful hair and others just like to say I don’t brush my hair at all and they’re both correct; why brush it if it’s already beautiful natural?

Kathiria Escalera, 18, happily displays her highlighted mane near the Barcelona entrance in Colegio. If women with curly hair ever wanted straight hair, they could get it but if a woman with straight hair wanted curls like hers she could never get them . “People tell me I have beautiful hair and others just like to say I don’t brush my hair at all and they’re both correct; why brush it if it’s already beautiful natural?

“It’s my best accessory”

Kritzalis Fermín, 18, proudly faces the camera to show her golden mane in the Chardón building. She used to wear her hair in pony tails and buns until she started high school. “This employee at a water park in Florida came up to me just to tell me that I had beautiful hair and that she could not believe it just grew like that and stayed curly even when it was soaking wet, she also told me she was jealous of me because the only way she could get hair like mine was by buying a wig or getting a weave sewn in her head.”

Kritzalis Fermín, 18, proudly faces the camera to show her golden mane in the Chardón building. She used to wear her hair in pony tails and buns until she started high school. “This employee at a water park in Florida came up to me just to tell me that I had beautiful hair and that she could not believe it just grew like that and stayed curly even when it was soaking wet, she also told me she was jealous of me because the only way she could get hair like mine was by buying a wig or getting a weave sewn in her head.”

“A big nmane of unruly curls”

Jeyra Rivera, 18, photographed in front of The Student Center wearing her slightly purple big curly mane. Jeyra has been wearing her natural curls for approximately 5 years now and when interviewed, she confessed that the thing she loves most about her hair is that in case she ever needs to take a nap, she literally doesn’t need a pillow to do it. “The funniest question anyone has ever asked me about my hair came from a 6 year old and he asked me if I had stick my tongue in an electricity plug.”

Jeyra Rivera, 18, photographed in front of The Student Center wearing her slightly purple big curly mane. Jeyra has been wearing her natural curls for approximately 5 years now and when interviewed, she confessed that the thing she loves most about her hair is that in case she ever needs to take a nap, she literally doesn’t need a pillow to do it. “The funniest question anyone has ever asked me about my hair came from a 6 year old and he asked me if I had stick my tongue in an electricity plug.”

“Fresh and free”

Margarita Caraballo, 22, photographed on a sunny day in one of the many Chardón hallways. Known as “La pelúa” around her circle of friends, Margarita has been wearing her natural curls since she was born and described her curls as fresh, free and creative. “I wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner twice a week and after I’m done I apply a cream specially made for curly hair that lasts for days and I only have to dab some water on it to activate it day after day.”

Margarita Caraballo, 22, photographed on a sunny day in one of the many Chardón hallways. Known as “La pelúa” around her circle of friends, Margarita has been wearing her natural curls since she was born and described her curls as fresh, free and creative. “I wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner twice a week and after I’m done I apply a cream specially made for curly hair that lasts for days and I only have to dab some water on it to activate it day after day.”

“Spectacular”

Paola Colón, 18, also photographed near the Barcelona entrance of Colegio, describes her hair as easy to manage, full of life and with a lot of volume. Paola confessed being called Mufasa, Burbu, Pelúa and all other names you can imagine that could describe a head with big curls. “I love my curls, I’ve had them for as long as I can remember… they are a part of me and they give me a unique “chic” style, I’ve tried straight hair but its just not for me.”

Paola Colón, 18, also photographed near the Barcelona entrance of Colegio, describes her hair as easy to manage, full of life and with a lot of volume. Paola confessed being called Mufasa, Burbu, Pelúa and all other names you can imagine that could describe a head with big curls. “I love my curls, I’ve had them for as long as I can remember… they are a part of me and they give me a unique “chic” style, I’ve tried straight hair but its just not for me.”

“An ongoing surprise”

Raquel Pantojas, 20, also photographed in Chardón gives the camera a shy smile while displaying her beautiful curls. As a little girl, Raquel always wore her hair straight which caused her a lot of insecurities. “I never knew how pretty my hair could be until the day I stopped straighten it, when I finally did, it changed me forever because all of a sudden I started getting compliments on my hair which helped me gain confidence in myself, now I never know what to expect of my hair and I love that.”

Raquel Pantojas, 20, also photographed in Chardón gives the camera a shy smile while displaying her beautiful curls. As a little girl, Raquel always wore her hair straight which caused her a lot of insecurities. “I never knew how pretty my hair could be until the day I stopped straighten it, when I finally did, it changed me forever because all of a sudden I started getting compliments on my hair which helped me gain confidence in myself, now I never know what to expect of my hair and I love that.”

“Easy to tangle”

Perla Valencia, 23, from Arecibo, Puerto Rico shows her striking curls with a smile while sitting at La Cueva de Tarzán. Perla said that when she was in elementary school they used to call her “mapo” because of her curly hair. Today she takes time in making it look good by washing her curls every two days and using different hair masks to keep the same texture, “I love my hair when it’s curly because it just looks great.”

Perla Valencia, 23, from Arecibo, Puerto Rico shows her striking curls with a smile while sitting at La Cueva de Tarzán. Perla said that when she was in elementary school they used to call her “mapo” because of her curly hair. Today she takes time in making it look good by washing her curls every two days and using different hair masks to keep the same texture, “I love my hair when it’s curly because it just looks great.”

It has a mind of it’s own”

Naomi García, 19, happily shakes her curls for the camera in the Department of Banda y Orquesta. When she first started working as a tutor for 3 kids who all had straight hair, Naomi was asked by one of the kids if her hair was like that all the time to which she replied “yes!,” she says she had never been so proud to answer that question before because she could see a genuine interest from the kids to understand why she looked so different. “My hair reminds me of where I come from, it’s hopeless and uncontrollable but it reminds me that I'm free.”

Naomi García, 19, happily shakes her curls for the camera in the Department of Banda y Orquesta. When she first started working as a tutor for 3 kids who all had straight hair, Naomi was asked by one of the kids if her hair was like that all the time to which she replied “yes!,” she says she had never been so proud to answer that question before because she could see a genuine interest from the kids to understand why she looked so different. “My hair reminds me of where I come from, it’s hopeless and uncontrollable but it reminds me that I’m free.”

« Older entries