By: Claralys Hernández Santiago
For any person it is a dream to reach the so-called third age.
For Cruz Morales this is now a reality that is not real.
“I am 90 years old and I have not yet been born. I do not exist,” she said laughing.
On December 3, 1923 Ángela Ramos heard for the first time the cry of Cruz, her youngest daughter. Like her other seven previous births, she gave birth to the creature in the middle of her room in her humble home. Thus, the family of three girls, five boys, her husband Arturo and her was completed.
Now at 90, Cruz recounted her life with great nostalgia. With her white hair that still leaves signs of having been dark in youth and the countless wrinkles that cover her skin she feels proud to have reached this age without many health conditions and with her mind still lucid.
“I was born here, I grew up here all my life,” Crusín, as she is commonly known by her relatives, said while having a lunch of little rice with chicken in her dining room.
“Life before was lovely. There was no malice,” she described her childhood.
Although described as the “good old days” of childhood, Crusín does not deny that due to economic constraints she could only complete the fifth grade of school. “At that time almost no one finished school,” said.
At the young age of 16, Cruz married Eliseo Medina. Five years later they had the first of their seven children.
Their marriage was not rose-colored. After several years her husband left her for another family.
“I spent many difficult moments. I suffered a lot because he had another woman and I had to raise the children alone,” recalled Cruz with a sadness countenance.
In 1983, her husband died and as his legal wife Cruz obtained the benefits offered by Social Security. “I never worked, all I received was from him,” she said.
This story might read like a common and normal life of an elderly, but the reality is that Cruz has just given notice that she does not exist.
A few months ago the youngest daughter of Cruz decided to go and ask for a parking permit for disabled persons in the name of her mother and found the terrible surprise that in order to do so, she needed to a birth certificate, which her mother did not have. So she went to the Demographic Register to apply for it and it turns out that there is no record of any birth registration that corresponds to Cruz. “I went to the municipal hospital, because there was that they had the records before and I am not,” Cruz said while shrugging in confusion.
That document is requested for all-important procedural, why did she never request it?
Cruz Morales said, “I never need it, or I felt the need to go to check. Social Security, which is what I hold, I received it from my ex husband.”
The old woman, who today lives alone, said that now that she found out that is not registered is when all the agencies denied services for not having her birth certificate.
Several weeks ago, the eldest granddaughter of Cruz, Claribel Santiago, accompanied her to an appointment to check again if it is true that her grandmother is not registered. There the only answer is ‘no’, and that have been revised in the books of that year and does not appear. The only hope that they have given is that they are going to check again and in a range of several years before and after 1923 to see if it was lost in some other book, but even so Cruz and her family do not see they are doing something to find her certificate.
This is worrying for Cruz because it means she does not exist for the records of the country’s population.
The only document that Cruz has that record her birth is the Catholic Church baptismal act, which says she was born on December 3, 1923.
On the other hand, there appears by the name of Crucita, not Cruz as her father said that he had registered her at that time. She is sure she is not the only one that has or is going through this situation.
Puerto Rico began registering births, marriages and deaths from 1885 by Spanish decree. Prior to this imposition the only records of these events were the documents that kept the Catholic Church. In 1870, it issued the Provisional Law for Civil Registration and in 1931, by the deployment of another law created what is known today as the Demographic Registry.
The director of the Demographic Registry, Nancy Vega Ramos has been calling for various media since she took office in 2013. She mentioned in several interviews that the condition of the books that keep these vital records is extremely precarious.
Cruz is aware of this fact, since when was recently to the Office of the Demographic Registry of her town they told her that a few years ago there was a fire at the office where it was burned down several old books by what some of them could be where she was registered.