PR 3: Salinas

November 13, 2014

I took a little break from posting about our trip to Puerto Rico around the time Dad got sick, but I think it's high time to catch up. 

Especially since my grandmother Aida Luz Diaz Capo's oldest sister Sylvia recently died. 
She made it to 95, and the pictures her granddaughter posted of her on Facebook were georgous. 

The Diaz women were lookers in their younger years. 

I know y'all could care less about this particular adventure, but I'm writing it down mainly for myself. 

We new my grandmothew grew up in Salinas, however she was born in Ponce. 

She wasn't one to really share stories, she was a very guarded person in that way. We did manage to get a little out of her over the years. 

Like how she disliked the woman her father married after her mother died in childbirth. Just to be a brat she would throw her shoes in a ditch every day after school so her step-mother had to buy new ones. 

We also heard stories about how her father was wealthy, but after the Great Depression he was leary of banks and kept all his money in the house. We thought he was murdered for his money in the 1960's, but it turns out it was actually 1970. 

Her father (Juan Diaz) also kept a crab pond so he could have fresh crabs at dinner. 

We went to Salinas on our way from Ponce to San Juan with no real idea of where we were going once we got into town. We just happened to get really lucky and come upon a cemetary as soon as we got there, which happened to be the only one in Salinas. 

The man who ran the cemetary looked at us a little strange when I came in and said what plot I was looking for, it was a hoard of mostly white people with one actual Puerto Rican in the group. I myself being the only one who could even speak broken Spanish enough to get my point across. 

When I gave him the date of death he dug deep and pulled out an ancient looking records book, luckily after telling him about when we though Juan Diaz died and how he died he remember who it was and managed to find him. 

Funny thing though, he was listed as Juanquin Diaz. 

The two markers above are my great-grandfather Juan Diaz and my great uncle Nestor. Dad seems to think Nestor was living with his father when he was killed, I know for a fact that it was Granny's disabled brother was living with him though. So maybe it's the same person. 

I had to really edit the mess out of a few of the pictures just so I could read the grave markers better. 

Below is Manuela, my great grandmother. I love that there wasn't a birth date, just a birth year. 

She was from the Capo family, and it just so happens that my father's oncologist is from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Or at least went to college there, he did grow up in PR though. 

Once he found out Dad was Puerto Rican and we were all going just to see where our family was from he started telling us everything he knew. Diaz is a very common name, so we didn't learn anything about them. However, Dr. Rodriguez said that the Capo family was involved in politics in Ponce. 

When we were at the fire house in Ponce we found a photo of a Capo who was a fire chief, captian, who knows really my Spanish isn't that amazing. 

In case for some reason in a million years from now I can't read that photo, Manuela died on June 23, 1928.

If I recall correctly she died in childbirth with their sister Anna, but if a relitive knows better please correct me. I'm going off of bits and pieces I recall Granny saying.

I thought it was the neatest thing on Earth to see Family Diaz Capo on a something. It solidifed our little not so hispanic family, it wasn't just the one picture each of my father's grandparents I've seen, or the one picture of all the siblings together.

We actually got to be in the town our stubborn woman of a grandmother was from. She had a very interesting life for sure, she married my grandfather James Cater in the 1940's (I'm assuming based on the children's birthdays) and moved to Louisiana while pregnant with my Aunt Betty.

From what we were always told, her father didn't want her to marry a white man because she would lose her heritage. I'm assuming there must have been some turmoil when they lived in Puerto Rico, but her father cut her off when she came to Louisiana.

Which turned out to be very true.

My father was born two years after they moved to the States and when he was 6 months old his father James was killed in a car crash. At that time (as I've been told) the children didn't speak English at all, and I don't think she did that well either. At that time her now dead husband's family offered to send her back to Puerto Rico, but she would have to leave her four children behind.

She wouldn't do it.

I can't imagine being a widow in 1949 with 4 children in a racially charged area who treated hispanics not all that nicely.

I'd love to know what the transition was from them only speaking Spanish to the kids growing up and not knowing anything except English.

I will say this about her, I only heard her speak Spanish when she was on the phone with her sister Sylvia. Mom wanted her to teach me Spanish and she wouldn't.

Then again, other than on the phone with Aunt Sylvia, Granny only spoke Spanish if she wanted to say something bad and thought no one would understand her. I have a nice little story relating to that ha!

When Dad was around the age of five, Granny remarried. The man was apparently abusive and she came home to find him doing something she didn't approve of so she scooped up her now 6 children and went to Chatanooga, TN. She was also the Justice of the Peace in Vidalia at the time and something went down with the then corrupt sherrif involving gambling at Deer Park. She tried to stop it from what I understand and that was another needle in camels back to leave town. 

Dad says that she had a boyfriend in Tennessee that looked like a celebrity, but I can't remember who. 

My father ended up coming back to Vidalia his senior year of high school, but I'm not sure when Granny returned. I don't recall there being just anything too crazy after that, but I promise you when Granny Aida died she didn't leave behind an un-lived life. 

Before I completely leave this post, I have to add in that I always wondered just how Granny Aida met James Cater. He was in the U.S. Army and stationed in Puerto Rico when they met, but no one ever said where he was stationed.

I just assumed San Juan.

When we were headed out of Salinas we decided to appease the child and eat McDonald's. About time we were leaving a bunch of men in Army uniforms came in and sat down in booths to eat lunch.

I couldn't leave without asking them where the base was, and it turns out it is in Salinas.

So that's how they met, he was stationed in her hometown.

Oh and one thing I almost forgot, the man who runs the cemetery said he remembered my grandmother and her sister Sylvia. Something crazy about one of them being there when he had opened the mausoleum and taking out a rib and finger bone.

Who knows, but I really don't put anything past Granny.

I think I just entirely explained why we chose to go to Puerto Rico. I'm a family heritage junky, and this is the one side of the family tree that we don't know all that much about.

At least we got to experience it first hand, even if we are lacking a proper genealogy.