Gloves and Handkerchiefs in the 1960s

By: Yelitza Seda Torres

Eva Divina Padilla Acosta was born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico in 1942. She married  Esmeraldo Santana Torres a contractor, and had two children:  William and Ana Rosa Torres Padilla. Today she also has five grandchildren’s: Emanuel, Dariana, Xavier, Andrés and Yelitza.  She is currently a housewife and a family person, nevertheless.

When she was 15 she earned wonderies a living and helped her family suering gloves and handkerchiefs by hand for a factory in Yauco, this was her first work experience.

Before she  married, Eva lived in Las Palmas, in Cabo Rojo, with her parents, Regino Padilla and Consuelo “Consi” Acosta and her seven siblings: four brothers (Leocadio, Fernando, Roberto and Angel) three sisters (Elsie, Angela, and Nancy).  They were a very close family and remained close into adulthood.

Today, Eva is 72  and she remembers as if it were yesterday her life before getting married.  Sitting in her dining she recalled: “My house lacked comforts, we had no  electricity, no water, just three rooms was divided by sheets.  One space was my parent’s room, another was for my four brothers and another one was for me and my three sisters.  We used to get water from the pit used it to wash clothes, cook and drink.”  The water was not the best so Eva remembers that her mother used to take a piece of cloth and put it in a cooking pot to filter the bugs in the water and then they proceeded to drink it.

Since childhood Eva’s parents taught her and her sisters to carry out the work of the house and helped her mother.  Meanwhile, her brothers Ángel, Roberto, Leocadio and Fernando helped their father fish in “La Pita Aya.”

When Eva was 15 years old shr started working together with her sisters for a factory in Yauco making gloves and handkerchiefs.  They traveled two or three days a week from Cabo Rojo to Yauco to seek 10 dozen of gloves and handkerchiefs.  Eva and her sisters toke 10 dozens of gloves and separated the merchandize to work it more fast because they had to deliver the goods in three days to the factory.

She recalls that to work for the factory during 1960s, the only requirement was to know how to sew because if you did a bad job they returned  the merchandise and you had to do it again to receive the payment. Gloves and handkerchiefs were sewn by hand: 240 gloves and 120 handkerchiefs, 360 pieces totally, peer week for only $6.00 per dozen. In total they received $120.00 for 240 gloves and $60.00 for 120 handkerchiefs.  The sisters divided the earnings almost themselves.  Eva remember that they used the money to help their parents to buy food since they were ten people that had to feed.  Nevertheless, with the money that was left, she and her sisters took turns to buy clothes and shoes and other things that they need.

Ángela, left Puerto Rico for 20 years and then returned. For her life in 1960 was not the best; nevertheless, it helped her to appreciate the things that they find with work.  With a big smile in her face and a lost glance, she remember all the experiences that she had when she made a dozens of gloves and handkerchiefs with her sisters, like when she fought with her sisters to do the seams properly and do a magnificent job because they just had three days to make the gloves and one week for the handkerchiefs.

Eva has memories of their working arrangement with the factory: “The factory provided us the glove molds, so we just had to put together the pieces and sew them, the pieces needed to be exact because then they return the merchandise to fix them. The handkerchiefs were more complicated because we had to do the edge first and then sew the inside.”

The difference that Eva sees with the past gloves and the present gloves is that in the past the gloves were white, up to the wrist and are made of cotton.  Now we can find different colors of gloves, different sizes and different materials, like silk.       Nevertheless, the old handkerchiefs were made it with cotton and was black in the middle and with flower print around them.

Eva worked for three years for the gloves and handkerchiefs factory in Yauco before being closed.  After that, she worked picking cotton for some years and then got married with the contractor Esmeraldo Santana Torres.

Eva in the middle with four of hergrandchildrens in a Friday night at Eva house in Lajas. From the left to right: Dariana, Emanuel, Yelitza and Ándres.

Eva in the middle with four of hergrandchildrens in a Friday night at Eva house in Lajas. From the left to right: Dariana, Emanuel, Yelitza and Ándres.

Eva Divina Padilla Acosta  and Ángela Zapata a Saturday night at Eva house in Lajas.

Eva Divina Padilla Acosta and Ángela Zapata a Saturday night at Eva house in Lajas.

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