La última parada (The last stop): A photo from 1929

Coffin for the father of Balbino Gonzalez, Moca, September 1929

While in Puerto Rico over a decade ago, I bought copies of old photographs at Tienda Cesto in Aguadilla. Part of the store was given over to tables with sets of binders, each containing photographs from different municipalities. There were a small number of images of Moca that I bought.  Looking for items for the next Black ProGen Live (Ep.72 – join us!),  I pulled my small binder of photographs as I remembered an image with a coffin. As I’d soon learn, my connections were closer than I could’ve imagined. 

 Near the end of September 1929, a group of men and children stood in the midday sun before a coffin for a photographer, in Moca. According to the notation on the photograph, it was Balbino Gonzalez’ father and the location was in Barrio Plata, a rural location some 5 miles away from the center of town.. Recently finished, the shiny coffin, painted a dark enamel color and embellished with stamped metal decorations sat on a frame that was to shortly transport Gonzalez to his final resting place in the Viejo Cementerio Municipal de Moca in what was popularly known as Calle Salsipuedes . Given that the son’s name appeared with a date, I used that as a guideline to find Balbino Gonzalez’s father in the Registro Civil. The death actually occurred ten days later. 

Acta de defuncion: 29 September 1929

Balbino Gonzalez Jimenez was one of five children of Jose Manuel Gonzalez Perez (1863-1929) and Juana Bautista Jimenez Soto (1868-1926). He is the young man in the suit at the center of the photograph.  He was single at the time of his father’s death on 27 September 1929. He came from Santurce where he was a teacher, to report his father’s death to the Registro Demográfico. His suit, tie and hair speak to fashion in the metropolis of the San Juan metropolitan area, a self awareness already honed by his profession. The other men in the photo  wear looser fitting shirts, and the straw boatera hat is a respectful nod to artesanos and locals that decades later became part of the dress of Los Enchaquetaos, a fraternal group founded by Pedro Mendez Valentin. Here the stiff hat functions much like the formal top hats used by funeral staff. 

Jose Manuel Gonzalez Perez, Acta de Defuncion, 29 Sept 1929, FS. Screenshot: EFS

Jose Manuel Gonzalez Perez, was an 82 year old widower, who worked as a professor. He lived on Calle Nemesio Gonzalez, and died the morning of 27 September 1929 of cardiac insufficiency. It’s likely that as his condition worsened, family was contacted as his time neared.  His son Balbino Gonzalez Jimenez was summoned home, and he was the informant for his father’s death record above. While he was unable to report the names of his father’s paternal and maternal grandparents, he gave the names of Jose Manuel’s parents: Jose M. Gonzalez (ca 1814-bef 1899)  and Juana Perez Guevara (1819-1899)  [1]  Jose Manuel was one of three siblings from Barrio Plata, a long narrow municipality that borders San Sebastián on its eastern border.[2] 

La ultima parada: from workshop to cemetery

A  1947 map of Moca shows the former location of the cemetery at the end of the street that leads from the Plaza in front of the church to the Cementerio Municipal.  

Among the group standing in the photograph on the right, is a tall pale man, who may in fact be Alicides Babilonia Talavera, my great grandfather.  Later, his son, Alcides Babilonia López also made coffins in a nearby workshop. 

1947 Map of Moca, Puerto Rico. Juan Manuel Gonzalez Perez lived on Calle Nemesio Gonzalez; Alcides Babilonia Talavera lived on Calle Juan B Huyke. The procession to the Cementerio Municipal may have passed the former home of the deceased.  

Calle Nemesio González in Moca ran through Barrio Pueblo, and this is the street that Jose Manuel Gonzalez Perez lived on;  my great-grandfather Alcides Babilonia Talavera and grandfather Alcides ‘Alcidito’ Babilonia Lopez lived in homes next door to each other on Calle Juan B. Huyke. This is the backdrop of the 1929 photograph.  As this was before the establishment of a funeral home, many people had a wake at home, and the Gonzalez family probably did the same. Given the heat, it lasted a day, with ice piled beneath the coffin and a plate piled  with salt placed on the chest of the deceased. The lid may or may not have a glass window, so that the case can stay closed and the deceased could still be seen.

The man on the far right

Among the group standing in the photograph there on the right, is a tall pale man, who may in fact be Alicides Babilonia Talavera, my great grandfather.  Later, his son, Alcides Babilonia López also made coffins in a nearby workshop. 

Antonio Gonzalez Perez, Lorenzo Caban’s son & Alcides Babilonia Talavera, Barrio Pueblo, Moca, 1929. Screenshot: EFS

According to my cousin Diany, Alcides was known for his coffins. When he was younger, he had a room with samples where people could choose fabrics for the inside of their coffins. There were always stories with a touch of the supernatural about them. He had an order from a man who needed a coffin, and worked on making it with a hammer. after midnight, he couldn’t find the coffin. Another coffin was tossed through the window, so he picked it up and finished the job. 

Finish & detail: 1929

‘Descanse en Paz’ , metal stars and cherubs decorate the enameled surface of the coffin. Screenshot: EFS

The details in the photo give an idea of decorative funerary practices in rural areas, which ran from the simplest unadorned box to a highly finished coffin with stamped metal cherubs holding a garland inscribed with ‘Que en paz descanse’. Clearly then, this was top of the line and the maker stands at the head, arms folded behind him, separating him from the family next to him. 

Center Left: identifying Lorenzo Caban Lopez, Sepulturero de Moca

L- R, Felicano ‘Chano’ Caban Alonso, Lorenzo Caban Lopez & Balbino Gonzalez Perez
Screenshot: EFS

 

The identity of the man in the flat top hat is Lorenzo Caban Lopez, who was married to Lucia Alonso Font (1874-1956). [3]  In 1901 he was appointed by the municipal government as a Sepulturero y conservador (Gravedigger and caretaker) and as a Celador (Maker of grave markers and crypts) for the old Cementerio Municipal, which he did for 23 years until August 1936.[4] after his death, his son Feliciano ‘Chano’ Caban, who stands to the left, became Sepulturero. [5]  He and his family lived on the edge of Barrio Pueblo, on Calle de la habana.  As it happens, I share many connections with this Caban line.

Lorenzo was the father of Domitila Caban Lopez (1902-1982), my grandfather’s last partner before his death in 1948. She was a tejedora, a lacemaker and I exhibited some of her lace work at UPR Mayaguez along with that by other tejedoras, some who are no longer with us. Like lace, weaving these details together give us a recognizable pattern as we work through the questions.

By the 1940s

In the 1940 census, Alcides Babilonia Talavera was a divorced widower, and it is not until then that his occupation is listed as a maker of coffins. in the 1910-1930 census his occupation is  Agricultor- finca de cafe (Farmer- coffee farm). By 1920, his ex-wife, Concepcion Lopez Ramirez (1863-1925) lived next door to him and had a business as a ‘modista’ a dressmaker, living with several of her children while Alicides lived next door with children as well. In January 1925, Concepcion died suddenly.  His reaction was to call a photographer for one last image, altered to evoke the life of a portrait. It merely succeeded at lending an uncanny gaze emanating from her painted in eyes. I am not sure how much this experience shaped his funeral avocation, but he was likely well acquainted with the steps of caring for the dead, as people still arrived and departed from their homes. 

My grandfather, also named Alcides, made coffins, and in 1940 appears as a “ carpintero – propio taller” a carpenter with his own workshop. It was the year he married my grandmother Felicita, who later died that year of tuberculosis, which took many family members. By 1948, knowing he was going to die, he made a simple pine box for himself, but that’s another story.  He worked making coffins with his friend Rito Vargas, husband of Maria Lassalle, the lacemaker of Moca. Out of death comes a refashioning of self,  family and the ways we decide (and are able to) to honor their lives.

Unexpectedly, a photograph brings me closer to the past and to even more relatives, as I learn more about the work of Lorenzo Caban Lopez and Alcides Babilonia Talavera.  QEPD.

References

[1]Acta Defunción,  “Puerto Rico, Registro Civil, 1805-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJD-J3PV : 17 July 2017), Jose Manuel Gonzalez Y Pérez, 26 Sep 1929; citing Moca, Puerto Rico, oficinas del ciudad, Puerto Rico (city offices, Puerto Rico).

[2] Acta Defunción, “Puerto Rico, Registro Civil, 1805-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJD-FTL3 : 17 July 2017), Juana Perez Guebara, 17 Oct 1899; citing Moca, Puerto Rico, oficinas del ciudad, Puerto Rico (city offices, Puerto Rico).

[3] Lorenzo Caban Lopez’ death certificate lists his occupation: Celador- cementerio, Gob Municipal hasta Ago 1936, 23 anos; Acta Defunción “Puerto Rico, Registro Civil, 1805-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJD-NJMT : 17 July 2017), Lorenzo Caban Lopez, 14 Nov 1936; citing Moca, Puerto Rico, oficinas del ciudad, Puerto Rico (city offices, Puerto Rico).

[4] Antonio Nieves Mendez, Historia de un pueblo: Moca . Lulu.com 2008, 49.

[5] Victor Gonzalez, “Los Cuentos de Chano Caban” Mi niñez Mocana y algo más…. Segundo edición, Impresos Ideales, 1990, 19-21.

Gaining Freedom: gleaning narratives from Caja 1444, Moca, Puerto Rico, 1848-1854

Map of Moca, Puerto Rico, Google.com

Cartas de emancipación: Letters of Freedom

As three historians of Cuban slavery recently wrote,”Los notarios eran parte de este sistema de “escribir la esclavitud.” — Notaries were part of this system of “writing enslavement”, literally creating the legal structures through documents that recorded and controlled the lives and movements of over 51,000 enslaved POC by 1846. In this way, the documents further defined citizenship within a slave holding society.[1] What I thread together here is the history of several people held in bondage, the predicament of pursuing freedom, its purchase and my own project of transcribing parts of a missing volume these certificates were entered into. At the end of this article is a translated list of names of those enslaved ancestors who gained freedom from one transcribed box of notarial documents.

The run of notarial documents in Caja 1444 show that between January 1848 and the end of January 1852, the elites of Moca freed, sold and bought enslaved people.[2] Some distinctions made between those who were servants versus those who were laborers, but when a Carta de emancipación (Letter of Freedom) was issued, the bearer had proof of freedom that hopefully, led to self determination.

Several things become clear in this particular collection of notary documents, only 19 slaveholders liberated their human property, while 61 slave holding inhabitants continued to participate in selling them.  Despite any bonds of blood or call to family that might exist, the exchange of money was paramount. The odds of gaining freedom in mid-nineteenth century Puerto Rico were indeed challenging.

Plaza, Barrio Pueblo, Moca, 1914. Photo by Benito Rosa Quinones, 1914. From Historia de Moca, (1972). Image sepia toned by EFS.

The plaza at the center of Barrio Pueblo was used for drying coffee, and this 1914 image is telling of Moca’s deeply agricultural context.  This town center was the neighborhood where many who gained their freedom moved to in search of employment. At this time, just 41 years after the end of slavery in Puerto Rico in 1871, a significant number of people from elders to adults had some experience with enslavement.  I met their descendants in 2000s, and if we speak of context, there is not a single family member untouched by slavery.

Those Who Were Freed

Eight of those freed were male and eleven were female, the youngest being Ramona, 7 months old, and the oldest, Marcos, 70, born in Santo Domingo about 1781. He may have witnessed the events of the Haitian Revolution prior to reaching Puerto Rico; Ramona, if she survived, may have witnessed the string of uprisings that went across Northwest Puerto Rico with the Grito de Lares in 1868,  and perhaps actively participated in the struggle for equality that continued for decades.

Some may still carry their memories, so there may be oral histories that tell of their lives. At the very least, their traces in the historical record speak to the constraints they had to live under, and hope for a better life after emancipation despite a spectrum of challenges.

The Emancipation of Mauricio and Ramona

Among those who gained their freedom were children, among them Mauricio 1 1/2 whose mother Monserrate paid for his letter of emancipation; 7 month old Ramona was purchased by Maria Encarnacion from d. Alberto Soto. In 1848, Maria Candelaria paid her slaveowner d. Cristobal Benejan for her own freedom, and in 1850, was able to buy that of her two-year-old daughter Maria, who was born on Benejan’s property and was raised by Paula, another enslaved woman who worked there. As of 1849, “…colonial authorities permitted interested parties to purchase the freedom of infant slaves at the time of baptism, for the sum of twenty-five pesos. The infant however, remained with the master who owned his/her mother until he/she reached adulthood.” [3]  So far, there is no indication that freedom was Benejan’s intention.

One wonders what might have transpired within those two years, and how these free women worked to support their families. They became part of the free community that moved away from the rural agricultural areas to Barrio Pueblo. Here they worked providing services such as cooking, laundering, childcare, dressmaking and lacemaking among others, that continues into the present. Benejan descendants still live near the Plaza in Barrio Pueblo, Moca today.

In a transcription project on the 1870 Registro de Esclavos I’m working on, Cristobal Benejan y Suria was among the largest slave holders in Moca, with 54 persons. At this point in 1870, another three years of labor was required prior to emancipation.

Note this was 36 months of uncompensated labor, caught up in expectations of gratitude toward former owners on the part of the freed. Historian lleana Rodriguez-Silva wrote that “Political practices such as gratitude highlight the liberal features of benevolence and paternalism and undermine efforts to critique the structures of power, especially through critiques of racialized domination.” [4]  So, the histories of abolition in the Caribbean were revised and rewritten to celebrate rather than expose how power functioned in the lives of POC.

3556 Paula, hija de Juana, 29, “propiedad de Cristobal Benejans y Suria” 1 Mar 1870. Moca, Aguadilla District, AGPR Gobernadores Espanoles. Caja 4, FHC Film 1511797.

Among the certificates of those owned by Benejan in the Registro, Paula’s name appears as the mother of Loreto, 11 (b.1859), and Calista, 1 (b.1869). There is a certificate for Paula, 29 (b. 1849) daughter of Juana, born the same year Maria Candelaria gained her freedom. What happened to the Paula that cared for Maria Candelaria’s daughter Maria? Was Paula freed in the two decades after she was entrusted with the care of Maria? Did she pass away before 1870? I’m left with more questions than I can answer.

Looking at my own tree, I have distant connections to the Benejam via marriage to another slaveholding family, the Lorenzo de Acevedo. Even one of my recent atDNA matches points to this connection on FTDNA, and there are likely more 4-5th cousins out there, like myself, with genetic ties to both slaveowner and those they enslaved.

The Benejam originate in Menorca, among the smaller of the Baleáricos Islands. They arrived in Puerto Rico during the 18th century, and became an important family in Moca, owning land and people that they freed after 1870.  Cristobal Benejam purchased Juan from the parish priest Pbo.Jose Balbino David, who functioned as a local small slave dealer during the 1850s, buying and selling people to various individuals.[5]

Living Transactions: currency & human devaluation

Silver macuquinas. Image: Monedas macuquinas de plata. By NachoNumis – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3052173

 

During the nineteenth century, the  Puerto Rican economy struggled with a mistrust of paper currency, rudimentary banking practices and a lack of coinage. What was used were pesos macuquinos (‘Cob coin’), a silver coinage removed from circulation in Venezuela, and instead, was in circulation on the island for nearly a half century, without a real banking system. This meant real money was scarce. [6] Within this plantation economy, enslaved people were sold and the income from their sale was used by slaveholders to pay their own taxes and bills. The scant availability of cash on the island suggests the enormous difficulty of the situation that the enslaved faced in raising funds to purchase their own freedom, and the deep anxiety over maintaining family with the threat of sale and displacement constantly looming. Regardless, many continued their attempts and strategies to push for freedom.

Among the slave owners were Gonzalez, Perez del Rio, Benejan, Soto, Lopez, Vasquez, Salas, Suarez Otero, and de la Cruz; some entries give information on previous owners, and together with other notarial entries, one can glean details on the places those held in slavery by them lived and worked. The location of origin for most of the persons listed below was Puerto Rico, although some came from Costa Firme, Venezuela, the Dutch Caribbean islands, and Santo Domingo. The official inscribing the documents into the books was the mayor or Alcalde ordinario d.Casimiro Gutierrez de Canedo, as there was no official royal notary in Moca to record these acts between 1848 and 1852.

Gaining Freedom

Almost all the persons listed paid for their freedom, with five cases granting unconditional freedom with no money involved. Aside from these cases, 32 pesos was the lowest price and 300 pesos the highest. The total amount spent by the enslaved for their freedom was 1,947 pesos macuquinos. Depending on the calculation, this may be equivalent to just over $10,600 US according to the Consumer Price index or $10,900 US in relative wages in today’s money. [7]

Given the scarcity of cash at the time, it is an astounding figure that illustrates the extractive nature of slavery that POC were forced to navigate in mid-nineenth century NW Puerto Rico.

Letters of Freedom, Moca, Puerto Rico, 1848-1852

20 Jan 1848: Pedro Gonzalez, 28, criollo (born in Puerto Rico), single, bought his freedom for 32 pesos from d. Faustino Perez del Rio. F1

24 Jan 1848: Eugenio, 26, criollo (born in Puerto Rico), single, bought his freedom for 250 pesos silver from d. Maximo Gonzalez. F2

8 Feb 1848: Mauricio, 1 1/2, freedom bought by his mother Monserrate for 25 pesos from d. Juan Jimenez. F5v

8 Jun 1848: Candelaria, bought her freedom for 68 pesos from d. Cristobal Benejans. F17v-18

24 Jul 1848: Ramona, 7 mo., mother Maria Encarnacion bought her freedom for 37 pesos from d. Alberto de Soto. F48v

24 Jul 1848: Tomasa, 35, criolla (born in Puerto Rico), mulata, servant her freedom purchased for 300 pesos  from d. Felix Lopez and his wife Petrona Vega. Tomasa was “born in the home of another of their slaves named Paula.” F23-23v

24 Jan 1850: Maria Ylaria o Isidora 2, born on his property, mother Maria Candelaria bought freedom for 70 pesos from d. Cristobal Benejam. F25v-26.

8 May 1850: Felix, 60,  ‘natural de la isla’ (born in Puerto Rico) light mulato, for good services, granted freedom from d. Manuel Salas’ (-1850) will.  F48v

8 Aug 1850: Lorenzo, who resides in Moca bought freedom for 300 silver pesos from Jose de la Cruz of Lares, who bought him from Juan, Antonio y Francisco de la Cruz. F100-100v

15 Oct 1850: Maria de los Angeles, 26, servant, bought her freedom for 300 pesos from d. Maximo Gonzalez. F128-129

22 Nov 1850: Maria de la Encarnacion, servant, bought her freedom for 100 pesos maququinos from d. Alberto de Soto. F151

9 Apr 1851: Marcos, 70, born Santo Domingo, dark skinned, bought his freedom for 60 pesos from d. Francisco Roman. F52v-53

16 Aug 1851: Matias, 60, Dutch, tall, chocolate color, graying hair, regular front with honey colored eyes, thick nose, large mouth, bushy eyebrows, to be granted freedom for his service, obedience, respect and honor upon the death of da. Rosalia Perez. F170v-171

16 Aug 1851: Prudencio, 8, reddish color, passing hair, regular appearance, honey colored eyes, wide nose, small mouth to be granted freedom upon of da. Rosalia Perez. F171-171v

16 Aug 1851: Catalina, 40, single, reddish black color, passing hair, sad eyes, thick, wide nose wide mouth and bushy eyebrows, for good conduct from the first day, with honesty   and activity proper to a slave to her masters to be freed upon the death of da. Rosalia Perez. F171v-172

29 Aug 1851: Teresa, 56, single, mulato, to compensate for her distinguished services with real love and constancy to be granted her freedom by d. Manuel Morales. His son d. Enrique Morales signed as his father did not know how to write. F176v-177

27 Oct 1851: Pedro Pablo, 30, born in Puerto Rico, single, mulato, reddish hair, regular appearance, regular nose, brown eyes, regular mouth and scant beard, purchases his freedom for 200 pesos maququinos from from d. Pedro Vargas. F227-227v

23 Dec 1851: Encarnacion, 40, born Costa Firme, Venezuela, given freedom for her good service via the will of d. Vasquez, via son d. Leonardo Vasquez. F304v

24 Jan 1852: Maria de la Cruz, 14 criolla (born in Puerto Rico), single, light mulato, household servant, straight hair, small round face , black eyes, properly placed nose, regular mouth, freedom purchased by her father Pedro Cordero for 205 pesos maququinos from d. Jose Suarez Otero, deceased, via da. Teresa Cordero, his widow. F20-20v

References

[1] Michael Zeuske with Orlando García Martínez & Rebecca J. Scott. “Estado, notarios y esclavos en Cuba. Aspectos de una genealogía legal de la ciudadania en sociedades esclavistas.”  Cuba. De esclavos, ex-esclavas, cimarrones, mambises y negreros. 102-165; Table 7.2 Population Increases by Race, in Olga Wagenheim’s Puerto Rico: An Interpretive History, p. 151 for 1846 lists a total population of 443,139; 216,083 White; 175,791 Free People of Color, and Slave at 51,265. By 1869, this number drops by -12,196 to 39,069 persons. Olga Jimenez de Wagenheim, Puerto Rico: An Interpretive History, from Pre-Columbian Times to 1900. NY: Marcus Weiner Publishers, 1998.

[2] Cartas de emancipación de esclavos compiled from Carlos Encarnacion Navarro, Transcription, Caja 1444, Serie Aguadilla, Pueblo Moca, 20 Jan 1848-31 Jan 1852, Fondo de Protocolos Notariales, Archivo General de Puerto Rico.  Translations and extracts are my own.

[3] Antonio Nieves Mendez,  Historia de un pueblo Moca, 1772-2000. Lulu.com 2008, p.146. Ref. Caja 1444, f4.

[4] “The politics of gratitude refers to the dynamics through which many came to see abolition as an effort to modernize the island, an endeavor for which everyone should be morally indebted to abolitionists and their successors. The politics of gratitude thus provided the structures through which liberal reformists could preserve a racialized and patriarchal social order in the absence of slavery. In the process, liberals also constituted themselves as the only inter- mediaries between popular subjects and the imperial state.”  lleana M. Rodriguez-Silva, “Abolition, Race, and the Politics of Gratitude in Late Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico.”  Hispanic American Historical Review 93:4  621-657. doi 10.1215/00182168-2351656

[5] “3556. Paula, 29, hija de Juana.” 1 Mar 1870. Registro de Esclavos,  Moca, Dist. Aguadilla, Caja 4, FHC Film 1511797.

[6] Pedro Damian Cano Borrego, “La moneda macuquina Venezolana y su circulación en Puerto Rico.” Numismatico Digital, Marzo 2017, Edition 114, 27 agosto 2017,  http://www.numismaticodigital.com/imprimir-noticia.asp?noti=6383 . Accessed 27 Aug 2017.

[7] It seems the varying prices listed estimate both value as property and potential labor value, will be looking into this further. Values from two sites, Measuring Worth, https://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/spaincompare/relativevalue.ph and Currency converter Euro to US Dollarhttps://coinmill.com/EUR_USD.html#EUR=8991

Tree Climbing With DNA Cousins: Family Across Several Continents

My cousin distribution map on 23&Me, screenshot, 2015.  Can I see you on here?

If your Puerto Rican ancestor is on this list, then we’re related!

Since the mid-2000s, my digital family is expanding, and I’m enjoying some new connections. I tested my autosomal DNA on 23&Me, Ancestry and FamilyTree DNA, uploaded to MyHeritage, DNA.Land and am faced with hundreds, well, since the original blogpost, it’s now thousands of matches. I’m finding that some of the people i’ve known via social media are also distant relatives. I think back on when I lived in NYC as a child and how many times family have told me, wow, I used to live up there (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan) too, and I wonder how many of those folks who passed me on the street were tied by blood. 

Thanks to my prima Teresa Vega, who has the Radiant Roots, Boricua Branches blog, I’ve been introduced to DNA, FB groups and i’ve been getting to know a lot of family and potential family. Our connection is through Rosa Maria Caban Mendez (2C4R), great granddaughter of my 5th GGP, Juan Cabal and Margarita Ruiz born sometime in the 1730s- 1740s in Aguada, Puerto Rico. Through Sociedad Ancestros Mocanos, we’ve found that quite a few people in our group have discovered DNA connections beyond the documents.  And let me tell you, the level of endogamy on some of these lines ‘te da mareo’! (just makes you dizzy)

TL Dixon, of the FB group Native American Ancestry Explorer and Roots & Recombinant DNA blog graciously reviewed my atDNA GEDmatch results and noted the distribution across several different populations from several continents.  There weren’t really surprises in there, as a lot matched what I was able to track via documents, contextual history and etymology of the Babilonia surname. 

More recently, I’ve had the good fortune to have Fonte Felipe who has the wonderful blog, Tracing African Roots: Exploring the Ethnic Origins of the Afro-Diaspora  look at my African results on  Ancestry.com and see what matches come up.  I’ll write more about discovering these ancestral roots in future posts, as I slowly learn to bring together local history, documents, trees and now, chromosome mapping and triangulation. However, knowing surnames can help point you in the right direction as to where that 3rd or 4th cousin might link up to you.

23&Me Ethnicity Map Screen Shot, 2017, pretty colorful, eh?

The Gift of Knowledge

Look, i’m related to two people on the panel on Black ProGen LIve, connections that we discovered much later. Perhaps some of you wonder why i’m on Black ProGen? It’s because one needs a space to speak to the realities of being POC and how one identifies, knowing what techniques and readings are helpful when nobody in your immediate family really has roots in New England, England or Ireland. There is definitely some up there in the mix, but it’s negligible, and my DNA looks like it went through a fan- ethnicities tossed in with no immediate connections to Europe outside of my dad’s grandfather. This is the face of the slave trade & mass migrations in your genes.

And this process never, ever stops.  It doesn’t necessarily include the life sustaining ties of kin, people who are the family you make.  Remember that there are ties that go beyond blood, or close ties, that make it possible for you to be here.  This floating community of family changes over the course of our lives, and I am proud to say that despite the challenges of time and space I have relationships that sustain and heal– yet my tree may not show it. This too is in part, a legacy of slavery.

Map of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its reach from Slave Voyages.org

So, if your Puerto Rican ancestor is on this list, then we’re related!

Family Lines:  Those starred on the list below are tied to Haplogroup C1b2 on the maternal line, and C1b4 on the paternal line, which is the Taino DNA that is on both my X chromosomes. More than half of the people here are on my maternal line in the NW, Aguada-Moca-Aguadilla.  On the paternal line in the NE, San Juan-Santurce-Rio Grande, there is Haplogroup C1b4 via my paternal grandmother, Angelina Calo Vazquez. Y Haplogroup is European, R-L51, via my paternal grandfather, Ramon Fernandez Matos.  On my maternal line, my grandmother, Felicita Rodriguez Vale is the source of my C1b2, which I could fortunately trace back to Tomasa Mendez, born about 1740.

Angelina Calo Vazquez de Fernandez, NYC ca early 1950s.  She is the source of my father’s C1b4 mtDNA haplogroup. The tear down the center of the photograph tells a story I will never know.  Sadly, I have no photographs of my maternal grandparents, only the faces of their children,  my mother and her siblings.

These results fit with the resulting map of 1st to 3rd cousins on Puerto Rico as generated by 23&Me. While locations are self-reported, the results are consistent with family on both sides of my tree, and later generations may have moved south, as I don’t necessarily have specific ancestors in Yauco or Ponce areas.  Eventually some arrived in New York City among the thousands who came in the early decades of the 20th Century, many escaping conditions that stemmed from the hurricanes of 1899 and 1928 that mangled Puerto Rico.

There’s always so much more to learn!

The List of my known Great Grandparents:

ps. those born outside of Puerto Rico are noted.

GG Grandfathers –

maternal
BABILONIA ACEVEDO, Manuel Miguel Narciso (ca 1804- >1868) Moca
LOPEZ DE SEGURA Y DE SOSA, Buonaventura (ca1825 – <1895)
RODRIGUEZ SOTO, Jose Maria (1826 – <1906) Moca
VALE CORDERO, Miguel (ca1819 – <1885) Moca
paternal
CALO MEDERO, Sotero (1844 – 1902)  Carolina
FERNANDEZ, Joaquin (ca1842 – <1915) Galicia, Spain  R-L51
MATOS RAMOS, Telesforo (1835 – 1920) Rio Grande, Santurce

GG Grandmothers –

maternal
*CABAN HERNANDEZ de Vale, Juana (ca 1823 – <1885) Moca – C1b2
MORALES LOPEZ, Maria Santos (ca1829 -bef 1906) Moca
RAMIREZ JIMENEZ de Lopez, Olivia Antonia (ca 1830 – <1895)
TALAVERA Y HERNANDEZ, Rosa Carlina (1831 – 1880)
paternal
BIRRIEL FERNANDEZ de Calo, Ramona (1850 – &lt;1920) Carolina
*MALDONADO HERNANDEZ, Andrea (1846 – 1917) Rio Grande
QUINTA [FUENTES?], Maria (ca1847 – <1915)Galicia, Spain
VAZQUEZ RIVERA, Saturnina o Petronila (ca 1872 – 1911) Gurabo, Carolina – C1b4

Step GG Grandmothers –

maternal
DE ACEVEDO, Juana Teresa (ca 1809 – <1853) Aguada
MUNIZ, Juana Evangelista Francisca (ca 1835 – >1885) Moca

GGG Grandfathers –

maternal
BABILONIA POLANCO, Miguel (1743 – 1813) Mallorca, Spain
Tomas RODRIGUEZ (1794-1830) Moca, Aguadilla
Ramon MORALES (ca 1815)
*CABAN HERNANDEZ, Manuel (ca 1795 – ) Moca
LOPEZ DE SEGURA Y VIVES, Juan Jose Antonio (1791 – )
RAMIREZ TORRES, Manuel (1791 – ) Aguadilla
TALAVERA PONCE, Tomas Francisco (1798 – ) Aguadilla
VALES OTERO, Juan Jose (1777 – 1847)Galicia, Spain
paternal
BIRRIEL RODRIGUEZ, Dionisio (1827 – 1872) Carolina
CALO, Juan Bautista (ca1824 – 1887) Carolina
MALDONADO, Lucas (ca 1821 – ) Carolina
MATOS, Jose (ca1814 – <1919) Rio Grande

GGG Grandmothers –

maternal
DE SOTO, Tomasa (ca 1806-aft 1930) Moca
LOPEZ, Josefa (ca 1819) Moca
CORDERO ACEVEDO, Maria de la Paz (1783 – 1848) Moca
*HERNANDEZ AVILES de Caban, Maria Matias (1795 – <1843) Moca – C1b2
HERNANDEZ PORTALATIN de Talavera, Teresa de Jesus Domitila (ca 1803 – <1854)
LORENZO DE ACEVEDO Y GONZALEZ de Babilonia, Benita (1781 – 1861) Aguada
SOSA DE LAS CAJIGAS, Maria Ygnacia (ca 1796 – ) Aguada
XIMENEZ PEREZ DE ARCE de Ramirez, Maria Victoria (ca1786 – ) Aguadilla
paternal
CARRILLO RAMOS de Matos, Maria (ca 1819 – &lt;1919) Rio Grande
FERNANDEZ RODRIGUEZ, Estebania (ca 1832 – ) Carolina
HERNANDEZ de Maldonado, Maria (ca 1826 – ) Carolina
MEDERO MUQICA, Maria Andrea (1829 – 1904) Carolina

GGGG Grandfathers –

BABILONIA, Juan Amador (ca 1718 – <1797) Mallorca, Islas Balearicos
CABAL RUIZ, Francisco (ca1766 – ) Aguada
CORDERO GONZALEZ, Juan Francisco (ca1755 – ) Rincon
HERNANDEZ DE SOTO, Jose or Joseph (ca1760 – ) Aguada
LOPEZ DE SEGURA Y DE SOSA, Juan Antonio (1765 – <1822) Aguada
LORENZO DE ACEVEDO Y HERNANDEZ DEL RIO, Martin (1749 – 1828) Aguada
RAMIREZ, Manuel (ca 1760 – >1802) Aguada
DE SOSA Y OLAVARRIA, Manuel (1776 – 1847) Aguada
TALAVERA RODRIGUEZ, Sebastian Jose (1772 – 1819) Aguada
VALES, Juan (ca 1752 – )
XIMENEZ LORENZO DE ACEVEDO, Pablo Paulo (ca1761 – <1814) Aguada
paternal
BIRRIEL GILL, Domingo (1804 – 1854) Canary Islands
FERNANDEZ, Francisco (ca 1807 – ) Carolina
MEDERO, Francisco (ca1804 – ) Canary Islands

Spouse of GGGG Grandfather –

PEREZ DE MEDINA Y VELEZ GUEVARA, Agueda Francisca (ca 1774 – 1796) Venezuela
—-

Step GGGG Grandfather –

MIRALLES PASCUAL, Miguel (ca 1775)

5G Grandfathers –

DE AVILES, Jeronimo (ca 1736 ) Aguada
CABAL, Juan (ca 1737 – <1781) Aguada
DE LAS CAXIGAS CORUMEL, Francisco (ca 1740 – ) Leon, Spain
CORDERO, Juan (ca 1730 – ) Rincon
GONZALEZ Y VIVES, Andres (ca1710 – ) Aguada
HERNANDEZ, Domingo (ca1743 – <1848) Aguada (possibly Hernandez del Rio?)
LOPEZ DE SEGURA APARICIO, Juan Antonio (1735 – ) Aguada
LORENZO DE ACEVEDO, Antonio (1691 – 1795) Aguada
LORENZO DE ACEVEDO, Capt. d. Juan (ca 1735 – <1829) Aguada
PEREZ, Juan (ca 1706 – ) Aguada
PONCE MOLANO, Pedro (1743 – 1822) Mahon, Islas Balearicas
PORTALATIN CALDERON, Domingo (1747 – 1799) Aguada
DE SOSA Y DE LA ROSA, Francisco Antonio (1753 – 1835) Aguada
DE TALAVERA Y TALAVERA, Juan Lorenzo (ca 1747 – )  Islas Canarias
VIVES, Francisco Xavier (1739 – 1799) Palma, Mallorca
XIMENEZ, Capt. d. Pedro Antonio (ca 1733 – <1814) Aguada
paternal
BIRRIEL, Leandro (ca 1799 – ) Canary Islands, Spain
RODRIGUEZ, — (ca 1787 – ) Carolina

5G Grandmothers –

MENDEZ, Tomasa (ca 1745) Aguada  – C1b2
DE ARCE, Rosa (ca 1711 – ) Aguada
DE SOTO, Juana (ca 1740)
DIAZ DE LA CRUZ, da. Martina (ca 1740 – <1829)
GONZALEZ de Cordero, Estefana (ca 1735 – ) Rincon
HERNANDEZ DEL RIO Y GARCIA, Olaya (1716 – ) Aguada
HERNANDEZ DEL RIO Y RIVERA, Rosalia (ca 1748 – 1794)
HERNANDEZ NIEVES, Maria (ca 1755 – >1822)
LORENZO DE ACEVEDO Y HERNANDEZ DEL RIO, Maria Antonia (ca 1737 – )
MENDEZ de Hernandez, Juana (ca 1748 – <1848) Aguada
DE OLAVARRIA de Sosa, da Ana (ca 1754 – <1780) Aguada
PEREZ DE ARCE, da. Maria (ca 1748 – ) Aguadilla
RODRIGUEZ, Maria Josefa (ca 1752 – ) Islas Canarias
RUIZ de Cabal, Margarita (ca 1743 – ) Aguada
DE SANTIAGO de Gonzalez, Maria (ca 1714 – ) Aguada
DE SOSA Y DE LA ROSA, Maria Antonia (ca 1750 – ) Aguada
DE TORRES DEL RIO, Maria Valentina (ca 1745 – ) Aguada
paternal
GIL, Maria (ca 1784 – ) Carolina

Step 5G Grandmothers –

DE RIVERA, Águeda (ca 1744)  Aguada
VELEZ, Narcisa (ca 1746) Aguada

6G Grandfathers –

DE LAS CAXIGAS, d. Rodrigo (ca1695 – ) Leon, Spain
HERNANDEZ, Manuel (ca1730 – <1822) Aguada
HERNANDEZ DEL RIO, Andres (ca1700 – <1808) Aguada
HERNANDEZ Y DEL RIO, Diego (ca1691 – ) Aguada
PONS SERBERA, Juan (ca1718 – )Mahon, Menorca, Islas Baleares
PORTALATIN, Tomas (ca1722 – ) Aguada
DE SOSA, d. Juan Bernardo (1721 – 1796) Leon, Andalucia, Spain
DE TORRES, Domingo (ca 1720 – ) Aguada
XIMENEZ, unk. Aguada

6G Grandmothers –

CALDERON, Juana (ca 1727 – ) Aguada
CORUMEL, da. Maria (ca 1700 – ) Santander, Spain
GARCIA DE ESTRADA de Hernandez del Rio, Francisca (ca1696 – )
MOLANO BATLE, Juana (ca 1722 – ) Mahon, Menorca, Islas Baleares
DE NIEVES, Micaela (ca1735 – <1822) Aguada
DE RIVERA AVILES, Andrea (ca 1728 – ) Aguada
DE LA ROSA -VELASCO Y HERNANDEZ DEL RIO, da. Jacinta (1720 – 1784) Aguada
DEL RIO de Torres, Maria (ca 1725 – ) Aguada
Step 6G Grandmother –
DE LA CRUZ Y GOVEO, d. Ana Maria (ca 1766 – 1796) San Juan

7G Grandfather –

HERNANDEZ DE LA CRUZ, Andres (ca1644 – ) Santo Domingo
DE LA ROSA Y VELASCO, Juan (ca1690 – <1811) Santo Domingo

7G Grandmother –

HERNANDEZ DEL RIO Y TORRES, Jacinta (ca1690 – <1811) Aguada
DEL RIO (ca1649 – ) Santo Domingo

8G Grandfather –

HERNANDEZ Y DEL RIO, Manuel (1669 – ) Santo Domingo

8G Grandmother –

DE TORRES, Margarita (ca1674 – ) Aguada
QEPD
Yes it’s scant back here!
Are you related? Feel free to give a shout out!