Sunday, August 08, 2004


She was the first of las hermanas de Mayaguez to come to the United States. It was about 1947 when my great titi left Puerto Rico and like many other Boricua women worked in the garment industry. She worked to bring her sisters and their children to the United States and out of the poverty that Operation Bootstrap was plunging the Puerto Rican people further into.

Now she is a widow. She sold her house when her husband passed away (RIP Tio S.) and handed over the money to her only daughter so that she could pay off university and other debts. My great titi moved in with her sister down the street and her husband (who happens to be my great tio and not just by marriage). There she cared for her sister as she died from breast cancer (RIP Titi L.)

My widowed great tio just sold his home, a home as a child seemed like a mansion to me. He is moving to la patria, Puerto Rico, to a brand new home on the beach he and his wife had planned to build before she became so ill.

My great aunt, the one who was the first of the sisters to come, the one who ensured everyone's passage to the United States, now essentially finds herself homeless. She could go to Puerto Rico with her brother in law but she hasn't been there since she left over 50 years ago. To her that is no longer home. Her sight is failing (working in sweatshops will do that to you) and without the ability to drive, she would be reliant on a non-relative in Puerto Rico. She now struggles, with the help of my mother, my aunt who lives down the street, and me, to find an apartment she can afford with her social security.

Remember I mentioned she has one daughter? For reasons unbeknownst to me, that daughter, who is struggling herself to survive (as we all are) hasn't stepped up to take her 84 year old mother in, or to help find affordable housing for her.

She who ensured everyone else had a place to be now has nowhere to be.


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