Juan Ian Nunez Orta – Enslaved in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico

Sometimes digging through records for many days and weeks may seem to be fruitless as you seek to find your ancestors. It is even harder as you have to dig through books and see pages upon pages of people who are enslaved with minimal information and that are held against their will to increase the fortune of another. The hardest part to read are the infants and children born into slavery when the only reason for it is that their mother was enslaved, and it is a hard pill to swallow that just won’t go down.

For many years Europeans have used the excuse that those that were enslaved were due to prisoners of war, however, documentation we are all coming across provides the real truth, greed.

I hate starting a post in such a negative manner but what is more negative is the excuses we hear til today. Some I hear are ” this is how it was then”, “they were treated like family”, and “people were ignorant then”. If people actually believe this then I have a bridge to sell them. So what people are saying is that those prior to us were incapable of loving another human and they were smart enough to get rich but dumb not to know right from wrong? That is my take away.

So moving this post along, I want to talk about a man, Juan Nuñez, a man who was taken from homeland in Africa and forced into enslavement. While I do not directly descend from him that I am aware of, I do know that Juan is directly connected to my family as he is my cousin’s, Harry Bayala, third great grandfather. In addition, my direct Nuñez were owned by the same slave owner. Lastly, Juan’s descendants do marry into the family multiple times and I am far from done in researching the African descendants that carried the last name Nuñez. I research each line as thoroughly as possible as I wind up discovering that they are actually my ancestors. This is part of my success.

“Juan” was supposedly taken from the western coastal region of Africa sometime in 1835 or prior. This is based on what is recorded in his baptismal record on June 7, 1835 in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. Juan was held against his will and purchased by Maria Nuñez. It is not surprising to discover a woman owning slaves after finding many records as you go through books. Based on the historical records for Trujillo Alto, it looks like the slaveholder, Maria Nuñez was no other than Maria Isabel Nuñez. She is well documented.

In the baptismal record, Juan is listed as being 35 years of age and being from the coast of Africa and that his parents are ignored. Juan’s age aligns with the many records as I have come across him, his wife, and his children on the 1860 Census of Trujillo Alto. In addition, I came across baptism records for some of his children as well as civil birth and death records from his descendants. Unfortunately, due to the lack of digitized church death records for Trujillo Alto, I do not know when Juan died.

In my research, I also discovered that Juan took on additional names. His full name is Juan Ian Nuñez Orta. Prior to knowing that he was born in Africa, I though I had come across his mother’s last name, Orta, and that Ian was another name he was baptized with.

So in locating Juan’s baptism record, I was surprised to find that all he had was the name Juan. I decided to look at Juan beyond him just being a slave as I realized that he took on these names himself and it made me ponder about these additional names.

As many are aware about African history, the Muslim faith existed there prior to European enslavement commencing in the 1400s. When we look at people taken from Africa, I tend to think about what their lives may have been like before being forced into slavery.

I started researching more about the region in Puerto Rico, the behavior of those of African descent and the constant name changes. What I realized is that Juan potentially followed the Muslim faith. The reason I came to this conclusion is because of Ian and Orta. I discovered that Ian being uniquely used by those of African descent in Trujillo Alto area.

So starting off with Ian, in the Muslim faith, it is a Quranic name given to both male and female children. Its meaning is time, era, and epoch. It has many different forms of spelling but the most common spelling is Iyan. Could this have been Juan’s real name prior to his enslavement? It is something to ponder and I wonder if his actual name is captured in documents of his purchase. This piece of discovery will require a trip to Puerto Rico to see what the archives have. It is one of my many items to address on my “To Do” List.

When it comes to the name Orta, which I found in the 1860 Census when Juan and his family were listed, I knew there was more to it after discovering he was born in Africa as identified on his son’s, Julio Pio, baptism record in 1843. Unfortunately, if Juan married his wife, Juliana Nuñez, as listed in many of the records, I will not have access to it due to the damage to Book 1 of Marriages for Trujillo Alto currently available. Potentially, those that were enslaved were kept in a separate book as the baptism records were kept and if that is the case, the book is permanently lost.

In my research, I found that Orta is another name used for today’s Central African Republic, previously known as Central African Empire, and today known in Arabic being pronounced as Orta, Afrika. Could this be where Juan Ian came from? Was this Ian’s way of putting down that that is where his roots are from?

Juan Ian and his wife Juliana would proceed to have fourteen children that I have located. Juliana was born in Puerto Rico and eventually she would change her last name from Nuñez to Hernandez Nuñez. While I am still researching the family, below is the list of family members for those who may descend from them. My research continues with the Nuñez.

Juan Ian Nuñez Orta & Juliana Hernandez Nuñez children

References

Quranic Names. (2019, Jun 15). Iyan. Retrieved from Quranic Names: http://quranicnames.com/iyan

Viera Diaz, J. F. (1962). Historia Documental de Trujillo Alto. Barcelona: Ediciones Rvmbos.

Finding My Nuñez Enslaved

As I continue to research my African roots, it has become more complex with trying to understand why someone would change their last name arbitrarily and then going back to the original last name. Yes, my third great grandfather, Angel Nuñez Valcarcel aka Angel Diaz Valcarcel, actually did this. This is a line that is definitely of African descent as I uncovered that they were enslaved in Trujillo Alto.

I also know that my 3rd great grandmother, Maria Engracia Nuñez was alive in 1860 as she is listed right below him and the record indicates that they are married. There were 10 years between Maria Engracia and Angel as he is 30 and Maria is 20 years of age. What is quite telling is what I have typically seen when it comes to those of African descent, black women being married off as children and giving birth at a young age. Notice that her eldest, Gavino, is 10 years of age.

Angel Nuñez Diaz, Age 30 & Maria Engracia Nuñez, Age 20 with children indicating enslaved (esclavo) on 1860 Trujillo Alto Census

While this is shocking to many, to an experienced researcher, it is not. Potentially she may have been 25 years of age versus the 20 years of age she is showing. Her granddaughter, Manuela Diaz, who is my great grandmother, was married off at age 11 to a 19 year old Juan Bayala. So there seems to be a pattern; men marrying what to us equates to children. I must say that visiting the Dominican Republic as a child helped me understand how this can happen as I recall meeting children my age and most girls talking about getting married and were able to run the house as if they had been doing this since they came out of their mother’s womb. While I am not making an excuse, both the time period and what they faced were potentially the reasons why daughters were married off extremely young. One thing comes to mind, poverty and trying to feed the family.

Continuing on with the 1860 Census, note that Angel’s children are listed as Nuñez. I have come across that even after Angel switched his last name to Diaz, many of his children continued with the Nuñez last name, while others like my second great grandfather, Felipe Diaz Nuñez, decided to stick with the Diaz last name. It has led me on a zigzag path of trying to understand this line. The infant on the record, Felipe Nuñez, is the father of my paternal great grandmother, Manuela Nuñez Navarro, which she changes her name to Manuela Diaz Navarro. You can read more about her in a prior post here on this website.

The children listed for clarification purposes are:

  • Gavino, male, 10 years of age
  • Nieves, male, 9 years of age
  • Demeterio, male, 8 years of age
  • Silveria, female, 7 years of age
  • Telesforo, male, 6 years of age
  • Felipe, male, infant

Part of my discovery included that Angel Nuñez aka Diaz was free from enslavement. However, it turns out that his wife, Maria Engracia, along with all of their children were all still enslaved. So many questions come to my mind. At first I thought he was the slaveholder but then I recalled that there were many who were able to married someone that were enslaved and yet be free themselves.

There are even situations where you purchase your own freedom but are not able to purchase freedom for your entire family. To see your actual ancestors being held is both angering and overwhelming. I had been meaning to write this post but needed some time to actually process the information and think it through to fully understand what I was looking at. This discovery is going to require a trip to Puerto Rico to see what the Archivo General de Puerto Rico has as far as manumission records.

What truly stood out was when I found Felipe Diaz in 1868 working in another home for another family. Or should I say forced to work as their slave? By now his mother is deceased but he has a younger sister, Inez, who was born around 1865. It seems that his mother passed away sometime between 1865 and 1868. The heartbreak of dying and knowing that your children are still enslaved is definitely something no one should have to face. It makes me realize how amazingly strong my great grandparents were and thank them for making it possible for me to be here.

So the last name Nuñez or Nuñes for the region of Trujillo Alto is heavily tied to enslavement. Those that were enslaved are known to have belonged to a hacienda owner by the name of Isabel Nuñez. This is where I advise people to never assume that someone with the same last name is related to you until you can research it and actually prove it. In fact it can be quite the opposite. If you have DNA tested, you may discover a huge number of different last names. Not everyone wants to keep their slaveholder’s last name, while other did not know what else to use for a last name.

A perfect example is Julian Juan Nuñez Orta and his wife, Juliana Hernandez Nuñez, where same last name does not equate to related. I researched them both and their descendants as they are also of African descent. The only connection to my Nuñez so far is via marriage and potentially being enslaved by the same slaveholders but this can change based on if there were other locations that they came from and their last name is coincidental.

Additional Nuñez families listed on the Trujillo Alto 1860 Census

The same thing goes for the last name Diaz. I can only speculate as to why our family has taken this last name as I have not found a record that states otherwise other than Felipe keeping the last name. Angel’s death was reported by his second son, Nieves, whose full name is Jose Nieves, indicates Nuñez just like himself. Nieves reports his grandparents as being Rafael Nuñez and Ana Nuñez. However, I believe he made an error as his grandmother’s name was Maria. In the 1872 Census, Angel also takes on another last name for his mother Valcarcel. I suspect that that is his maternal grandfather’s last name.

I also suspect that his father, Rafael, is actually the Diaz that is missing and do not believe his grandparents were married as his father was enslaved at some point and the fact that he was initially using Nuñez. The hint Nieves left behind is that both his grandparents were from San Juan. My next stop is researching Rafael Nuñez and Maria “Ana” Nuñez in San Juan but with the many twists, I have to keep an open mind. Felipe’s brothers and sisters kept the Nuñez last name. In addition, Felipe initially did not take on the last name until after his children were born.

Angel Diaz Nunez Trujillo Alto Civil Registry, Libro 1 Def, Folio 144, Num 99

A Little History

Now turning to the history book for the municipality that was written by a distant cousin, I want to point out some things that were happening during this era. I’ve always said that you have to turn to books and records to find the truth so this is important.

In 1855 and 1856, Puerto Rico got hit hard with cholera epidemic. In Trujillo Alto alone, 468 people would die. Per documentation, the epidemic started on November 1st, 1855 in Naguabo. The epidemic, as can be seen from the data pointed out, lasted a little more than a year, and attacked mainly Africans and mulatto people, and this is easily understood by the lack of hygienic conditions in which they always lived.

The Gaceta del Gobierno from February 3rd, 1857 posted that 26,820 people had died on the island and the breakdown was as follows:

  • Whites males: 3,394
  • White females: 2,347
  • Free black males: 8,695
  • Free black females: 6,915
  • Enslaved black males: 3,549
  • Enslaved black women: 1,920

The slaveholders of Trujillo Alto were the following individuals:

  • Manuel de Rivera
  • Isabel Nuñez
  • Jose Balbino Torres Torres
  • Federico Couvertier
  • Avelino Hernandez
  • Jose Balbino Torres Vallejo
  • Benito Diaz (Isabel Panel’s husband)
  • Gonzalo Diaz
  • Juan Jose Balio (Viera Diaz,1962)

Based on knowing this, I believe that I am going to have to turn to the death records during this era to find my ancestors.

Isabel Nuñez was obviously financially well off and it was easy for me to locate her in the history book for Trujillo Alto as she owned my ancestors. I recall seeing a hacienda in the 1838 census records for Puerto Rico where there were many Nuñez living on a land and I didn’t look deep enough. I now realize that I was potentially looking at enslaved ancestors. At the time, I did not know my tie to the Nuñez line but now armed with this information, I can dig deeper and give my ancestors a voice and recognition. Amazing how it has been at least 6 years since I saw those records but yet it remained stuck in memory as if my ancestors were telling me to remember them. I plan to continue researching this line. I’m hoping that I can locate that ancestor that made it through Middle Passage.

Works Cited

Viera Diaz, J. F. (1962). Historia Documental de Trujillo Alto. Barcelona: Ediciones Rvmbos.

Teresa Prieto Algarin

Sometimes digging through records trying to find one thing, you discover something else. I made a copy of the 1860 Trujillo Alto Puerto Rico Census many years ago and have been able to build many lines. I decided to take another look to understand my Nuñez line, which is of African descent. While researching my Nuñez line, I discovered that there was a plantation in Trujillo Alto with a well-known slaveholder by the name of Isabel Nuñez. The source for this is a history book I purchased that was done by a cousin back in 1962. The book is called Historia Documental de Trujillo Alto by Jose Francisco Diaz Viera. I already knew that my Nuñez were enslaved as there were just too many in the area and all were of African descent. This book assisted me in knowing where to look.

One of the telling signs of enslavement from what I have found is the constant changing of last names. I have documented this numerous times in prior posts. So with this information in hand, I have been able to find family members much easier but it still poses a challenge when researching information.

So while digging through the records, I came across my Juan de la Cruz, my 3rd great grandfather with my 3rd great grandmother, Teresa Prieto Algarin…WAIT! SAY WHAT?!!! HOLD UP!!

So far all records referring to her as Teresa Prieto Arroyo. In addition, my Juan de la Cruz Arroyo was listed as Juan Arroyo Cruz on row 1249. I can understand Juan doing this because his parents were not married and those that were previously enslaved or descended from enslavement ten to place their father’s last name at the end of their name. Below is the page of where he provides the census taker his information. He also indicates that he is 49 years of age; bottom of image.

As I continue to the next page and see Teresa on row 1250 with her children following, I decided to start doing the math. She is 36 according to this record but her son Juan is 25. This means that she gave birth at the age of 11. Am I shocked by this? No, not anymore. Recall that I found out that my great grandmother, Manuela Diaz Navarro (Morales) was married off at the age of 11. I was able to prove this by finding her birth and marriage record. She then gave birth to my grandfather at the age of 15. At the age of 11, you were considered a woman and married off. While this is truly disgusting and most during modern era finding it revolting, it is how things were and still are in many of these places.

So now when I look at my DNA results and see so many 4th cousins with trees listing out Algarin from the Trujillo Alto, Gurabo, and Carolina regions, it makes a lot of sense how they are cousins and places me closer to building out this line. I can now take a look at those cousins trees and start validating and adding information as I know more about connections. Of course, that means I’ll have to upload the updated tree on my sister website; Genealogia Nuestra. However, this is seriously a major breakthrough in moving further back on my African ancestors.

So for now, I am updating Teresa Prieto Arroyo to read as Teresa Prieto Algarin. Juan will remain on my tree as Juan de la Cruz Arroyo. Note that their children, especially my 2nd great grandmother, Francisca, names have truly updated and now I know how to look for them, under the Arroyo or Prieto last names in the church books. More to come! Hope this sleuthing has helped in searching for your ancestors. Back to researching my Nuñez family in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.

Fallacies of the Dominican Republic

Well, the title makes you wonder what fallacies are there about the Dominican Republic. I will say this, if you’re sensitive, then I don’t recommend this post to you. I am one to not mince words and I’m sure someone will not agree, which I’m okay with as we are all entitled to our own opinions.  As we research our ancestors, we come across the inevitable, stories about how society may view an island and it’s people. We will come across ignorance, bigotry, assumptions, and yes, racism. None of these items are just unique to the Dominican Republic but it is something we see across this planet we all call home.

I’ll start off with something light but it will lead to more complex issues that impact many of us. However, only we can change things for the better. I’ll start with one that most of us from the Caribbean are quite familiar with, no matter which island or country we are from.  The biggest fallacy that exists that leads many to take serious chances to come to the USA; land of gold.

Fallacy #1

The belief of how rich you’ll become by just arriving in the USA. How many stories have been passed down and even asked of us when we go back to our islands about how money grows on trees in our backyards? How many times have many of us been asked if there is money laying that we can pick up off the streets in the USA?

money 2

Yes, we have all heard these stories and these stories have been going on for decades. I can say that it goes back at least 50 years based on discussions we have had over the many years.  No matter how many times we attempt to correct this belief, it seems to take hold and those on the island refuse to let it go.  So here is one fallacy that we all must help in eradicating because it is usually the poor who fall victim to it. Those of African descent are the most susceptible.

Unfortunately, even when I clarified for many that it was not true, they gave me the skeptic look as if I was trying to keep the money to myself. So I proposed the question to many, “What makes this island so special that I would want to leave the USA and skip on collecting money if that were the case?”. Another question, “If we had so much money, why visit a poor island when there are so many other places in the world I could possibly visit?”.  This kept many thinking and I hope that they realize that they will be faced with hardship and even the potential of struggling even further since the US government is cracking down on illegal immigration.

Becoming rich is a complex issue and as the saying goes, it takes money to make money.  So yes, working 2 or 3 jobs just to keep a roof over your head is very realistic for many families from the Caribbean, especially when you start off with nothing.

Fallacy #2

 

Dominican Republic: Fidelia Lorenzo

My trip to the Dominican Republic uncovered so many topics I want to cover that involved family, family history, and the country as I went there to research and see family. However, I was not expecting to add topics to what I was going to write about. Yet here I find myself glaring at things I never thought I would write about.  I will eventually get to them but for now, my first topic is on a woman I descend from, Fidelia Lorenzo; my great-grandmother.

Fidelia Lorenzo.jpg
Fidelia Lorenzo: Only known image

One of my tasks of visiting the Dominican Republic, figuring out who was my great-grandmother, Fidelia Lorenzo’s parents. I thought of searching the archives, but in walking into it, I am so glad I was able to seek information from family members that still live in the town of San Antonio de Guerra.  Their stories helped fill the gaps and provide answers to questions I had for years. Unfortunately, no one had any photos of her so I am lucky to have the above image of her due to my uncle’s last visit with her. In this image, she was preparing Dominican coffee…YUM!!  We came close to losing this image due to Hurricane Andrew, but we are lucky that this portion of the image was salvaged.

Day 1 trip, was to visit Guerra and upon arriving in Guerra, I was saddened to see so many in the town living in poverty, nothing had changed from when I was a kid. Time seems to have frozen the island in some areas.  However, one thing that hasn’t changed, people are extremely friendly and will always greet with a smile. No matter the level of austerity, people are usually willing to share a cup of coffee and laughter. It proves that a simpler life is at times way better than the stressful lives we live in the USA.

Families make do with what they have and it makes you realize that they do not have the resources that many Americans have such as public assistance or even bathroom tissue. What is available is used. Many still have outhouses outside of the capital and many live off the land. I found partially finished homes that reminded me of my childhood visit, cinderblock walls crying for a roof, windows, and door. Many had metal roofs with the bathroom being an outhouse somewhere near the back of the home.

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A ghost home lost in time in Guerra

Many are happy to share what they have and will welcome you into their homes. Seeing how they live makes you realize how spoiled America truly is.

I did take some pictures with my phone of Guerra and like any other Caribbean island, umbrellas come out to deter the tropical sun.  The homes, as usual, are painted in beautiful tropical colors.  And seeing activity at businesses is usually in the evening hours due to the hot weather.

 

 

 

Going back to my family in Guerra, I can say that my family is amazing. I was greeted by Miki, who is my second cousin, Carlos’ wife. He’s a medical docto, who takes care of those without, and has an impressive control of the English language. Miki was truly amazing and she welcomed us while we waited for Carlos to arrive as he was out and about. Carlos and I are Fidelia’s great-grandchildren. His mother is Carmen “Carmita” Marun Lorenzo’s daughter, who is the oldest of the Marun children.

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Carmen “Carmita” Marun Lorenzo

Once Carlos arrived, we talked for a bit about many things, including natural medicines which he attests that work better than conventional medicines and provided proof of an individual that doctors had written off as “nothing more can be done”.  This person is still around after 15 years and walking about; an amazing result.  After Carlos took a DNA test for genealogical purposes, we headed over to visit cousins in the area that descends from the youngest of the Marun 1st generation children; my mother’s first cousins.

Since I was a kid that last time I was there, I never knew they all existed until I started researching our family. Thanks to social media, it made it possible to connect with many family members that have never traveled to the USA.

In typical Dominican fashion, upon walking into cousins’ homes, it was as if I just saw them yesterday and the hugs, kisses, jokes, laughter, and stories came out about the distant past. There were even tears from the eldest cousin, Nureya, who has the nickname of Yiyin, currently 80 years of age. Our cousin Bienbenido is a character for sure and had us laughing the entire time. He also produced an old photo of himself, and upon seeing his photo, it was like looking at one of my uncles.

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Bienbenido Marun

Bienbenido also took a DNA test and his results have come in and were as follows. Carlos’ results were not in at the time I wrote this post. I wasn’t sure what breakdown we would get but Bienbenido’s are aligned with that of my uncle’s but with slight differences.

Bienbenido Marun DNA Results
Bienbenido Marun’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity

Of course, Bienbenido was ready with the stories and drinks and had the machete ready to cut coconuts for that refreshing water for us. He also had a very iced large Presidente before me. One thing I was looking forward to drinking; fresh coconut water, refrigeration not needed but nice and cool.

 

 

 

Yiyin, who is the eldest of Consuelo children,  is an amazing storyteller and has a very good memory of the past. She discussed how she played as a child with my mother and oldest uncle, Mike, and referred to uncle Jorge as Jorgito.

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Nureya “Yiyin” Marun

So upon Yiyin telling me these stories, I asked her if she remembers who her great-grandparents, Fidelia Lorenzo’s parents were. And what was so amazing was that she mentioned their names without thinking twice about it. It was amusing to watch her brother, Bienbenido, tell her she didn’t remember anything in a teasing manner to then watch her get indignant and insist that these were their names and how Fidelia was a double Castillo; typical sibling bantering.

In addition, Fidelia had also married a Jose Castillo, after Emilio Marun, which may turn out to be a distant cousin.  Together they had four children during their marriage. I didn’t get to see any of the Castillo cousins but was told that many in Guerra descend from the Marun line as there were plenty of illegitimate children.  What was sad was that a son that everyone refers to as Yuci (Jose Castillo),  had come back to the island to retire and passed but no one knew that either had occurred as they asked me how was he doing in the USA.  I was saddened to be the one to break the news to them that their uncle had passed.

Yiyin revealed that Fidelia’s parents are Pedro Lorenzo and Altagracia Rosario Castillo.  She also stated that Pedro Lorenzo’s second last name was also Castillo.  This is something I will keep documented to research the line further to confirm. They all also stated that Fidelia was from Cambita Garabitos in the province of San Cristobal. This permits me to pinpoint where to look for family information.

The baby of Consuelo’s first three children is Rosita. I truly enjoyed speaking to her as well. Between the three of them, it was as if I had just seen them yesterday and they were ecstatic to having family visiting.

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Rosa Marun

I must say that visiting this family branch was humbling. It turns out that they are the Consuelo Marun’s oldest three of eleven children.  Hearing them tell me of the death of their siblings was sad. Yiyin actually cried that the prospect that this would be the last time she’d see me as she would be dead upon my return or even seeing other family members. Her wish was that she’d like to see many more of us that were born in the USA that they have never gotten to see.

After leaving them, Carlos then took us to visit his aunt, Gladys, his mother’s sister as she laid in bed, extremely ill. It was nice visiting her and my sister immediately noticed her resemblance to our mother. Of all of them, she could pass as a sister to my mother. As she laid in bed, she recounted how many children her mother, Carmita had; 14 children! The total included a set of twins, Erasmo and Emilio; both are still living.  I am hoping that Gladys is back up and walking soon but she had a stroke and wasn’t doing too well but was happy to have family visiting her.

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Gladys Marun

Before leaving town, Carlos also took us by other cousins homes and we got to meet some of Consuelo’s younger children. Here’s a picture of Miguel “Pachito” Marun. He also had us laughing.

 

 

 

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Once we left here, we headed back to Carlos’ home. We spent an entire day in Guerra and no matter where we visited, it felt like coming home. I must say that I was so happy to visit with all of them and couldn’t be more thankful for the hospitality that everyone had shown us. But most of all, Carlos who also wound up taking us back to Santo Domingo.

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Carlos and Miki Duran

 

In Search of Fidelia Lorenzo de Castillo

I knew before heading down to Dominican Republic that I had planned on writing about my trip. There are so many topics I want to cover that involved family, family history, and the country as I went there to research. However, I was not expecting to add topics to what I wanted to post about. Yet here I find myself glaring at things I never thought I would write about.  So I will start with one topic at a time.

My main mission was to figure out who was my great-grandmother, Fidelia Lorenzo’s parents. I thought of searching the archives, seeking information but was glad that instead many of the family members that still live in the town of San Antonio de Guerra could fill the gaps. In addition, visiting the archives is chaotic as many are visiting there for many other reasons.

Upon arriving, I was sadden to see so many in the town living in poverty but the people are so happy there. It proves that a simpler life is at many times way better than the stressful lives we live in the States. Families make ends meet and realize that they do not have the resources that many Americans have such as public assistance. Many live off the land and make do with what they have. They are also happy to share what they have with anyone they welcome into their homes.

So going back to my family in Guerra, I can say that my family is amazing. I was greeted by my cousin Carlos is who is a medical doctor and was impressed with how well he spoke English. His wife was truly amazing and welcomed us while we waited for Carlos to arrive as he was out and about.

He then took me to see my mother’s first cousins who for years I never knew existed but met them via social media since none have been to the USA and I do not recall if I met them at the age of 11. However, upon walking into their home, it was as if I just saw them yesterday and the laughter, jokes, and stories came out about the past. There were even tears from the eldest cousin, Nureya, who has the nickname of Yiyin, who is currently 80 years of age.

She was so amazing and has a good memory and recalled how she played as a child with my mother and Uncle Mike.  So upon her telling me these stories, I asked her if she remembers who were her great-grandparents, Fidelia Lorenzo’s parents. And what was so amazing, she did! So Fidelia’s parents are Pedro Lorenzo and Altagracia Rosario Castillo.

8th Annual State of Young Black New York at Fordham University

I was a panelist at the Annual State of Young Black New York. This year it was held at Fordham University and was happy and excited to share many of the resources and explaining why we should do this overall. It is easier than people may think and very rewarding overall to many.

Below is the presentation I used for the event There is a 15 second delay between each slide. The functionality is there where you can move backwards or forwards on the slides.

If you ever have a family member question the safety of DNA testing or don’t want someone to get access to their DNA, just gently remind them that they already gave up their DNA many times to the lab over the years when they gave blood and urine. It is too late to wonder and this DNA test is simply to help in researching family history and connections.

SOYBNY18