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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.