Come Celebrate Juneteenth with The Majani Project in DC!

Flyer for Family 365: a Juneteenth celebration Event

Will you be in Washington DC this Saturday?

This Saturday June 15, The Majani Project is holding Family 365: A Genealogy Block Party to celebrate Juneteenth, National Independence Day. Honoring ancestors is the order of the day!

I’m so excited to say i’m one of the genealogists who’ll be participating in this event. I’ll be zooming in & chatting with Kenyatta Berry, former host of Genealogy Roadshow, LaJoy Mosby, President of AAHGS and guests about how to get started with genealogy– even if you haven’t started before. Let’s get into it!

The indoor/outdoor event happens between 1-5pm at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement, more details below:

About the event: Ties of the Black and Brown communities in DC go deep! Chuck Brown is the father of go-go, but did you know about the music’s Latin influence?  We’re excited to announce a first-ever event in a celebration of similar and shared heritage, history, and identity. Plus—discover how to unlock the secrets of your own ancestry with renowned genealogists LaJoy Mosby, President of AAHGS, Dr. Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, with special guest  Ms. Kenyatta Berry, former co-host of the “Genealogy Roadshow” will also be here!

Verbal Gymnastics is bringing Playback Theatre (where storytelling and art meet community) to the party, so get ready for some amazing and interactive improv! We’ll also have the DC Office of the Medical Examiner onsite to highlight Black and Brown missing persons cases. Learn how genealogy is used to solve crime! So come on out—there’s something for everyone!

Date: Saturday, June 15

Time: 1pm – 5pm

Location: Episcopal Church of the Atonement (5073 East Capitol St SE) and 52nd St SE

Admission: Free and Open to All

Highlights Include:

Live Music: Go-Go, The Lilo Gonzalez Band, and More!

DJ Buddah!

Free Food!

Cultural Performances!

Game Truck!

Giveaways!

 Parking:

Street parking and parking lot at Guiding Light Baptist Church (1 51st St SE)

About The Majani Project:

Organized by the Majani Project, a Black youth-focused genealogy nonprofit located in Ward 7, in collaboration with Genealogy Adventures, the premiere Black online genealogy show, this event aims to introduce youth and adults to genealogy to honor the ancestors, unravel family history mysteries, and connect with your roots. 

What Lies Beneath: The search for unmarked burial grounds in Hillsborough County

What lies beneath exhibit panel

The Waterman Exhibit Gallery, Institute for Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science, Social Science Building (SOC), USF 15 Sep 2023- 30 Jan 2024

https://www.usf.edu/arts-sciences/institutes/ifaas/programs/what-lies-beneath-exhibit.aspx

The idea of a cemetery often brings with it a belief in permanence. The emotional, physical and community efforts to commemorate ancestors can collide with the sobering reality of what happens when these sites of memory are lost, forgotten or erased by larger forces set in play by Jim Crow.  These erasures wipe away the human traces of a former world built with a difficult history that extends to the Post-Emancipation period.

Myrtle Hill Cemetery & Spanish Park East Cemetery in maps. What lies beneath, USF, Dec 2023

Overbuilt & Conveniently Forgotten

During the time I have lived here, several rediscovered burial grounds beneath high schools and housing complexes appeared in the pages of the Tampa Bay Times, awakening the grief of many over the unmarked graves. In 2019 the bodies of ancestors buried in the Zion Cemetery and Ridgewood Cemetery emerged as recent examples of a history of segregation literally buried in the rush to develop areas of Tampa. Ground penetrating radar found 145 of the original 270 burials from the former Ridgewood cemetery that year, nearly all of them Black.[1] Redlining was the motor for such outcomes.

Museum Studies: Race, Memorialization & the Museum

Over forty cemeteries and burial grounds were identified in the study  undertaken by Dr. Kimmerle and her Ph.D. candidate Kelsee Hentschel-Fey, along with GIS Manager Benjamin Mittler, and Dr. Lori Collins of the USF Center for Digital Heritage and Geospatial Information. Students in Dr. Kimmerle’s museum studies class  “Race, Memorialization and the Museum”  produced the exhibition. 

“The exhibit offers a unique view into the history of the area told through the lens of its cemeteries, utilizing historic and modern photographs, archival documents and maps depicting the approximate locations of newly re-discovered burial grounds, and mixed media sculptures to help convey the story of the buried past. “

Memory Jug, Caitlin Figueroa.
Memory Jug, Caitlin Figueroa. Mixed media.

Images of the Exhibit: December 2023

This fascinating show was created by several scholars who came together in a multi-year interdisciplinary investigation into unmarked burial grounds in Hillsborough County, Florida.  As one walks through the exhibit, the layers of information ultimately defy anonymity, and offers proof of a history told by those who lie beneath the city. To end on the Dozier School for Boys was a powerful note. Here are some of my fotos of the show, that lend an idea of the content. 

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Why this Show Matters

Given the history of this state and the current efforts to obscure Black and Indigenous histories, this exhibit matters.

There remains a profound need for a followup exhibition covering the continued efforts on memorialization by various local and descendant communities as additional sites come to light.  

[1] Paul Guzzo, “NAACP wants reparations for Tampa’s Black cemeteries that government “stole”. Tampa Bay times 27 Feb 2023

https://www.tampabay.com/life-culture/history/2023/02/27/tampa-black-cemetery-ridgewood-naacp/

Resources

See collection of articles on the Tampa Bay Times website:

In search of lost cemeteries A number of cemeteries forgotten through the years across the Tampa Bay area came to light during 2019, most of them final resting places for African-Americans. The new attention to old burial grounds springs from a Tampa Bay Times report in June that revealed the first and largest of them – Zion Cemetery in Tampa.

https://www.tampabay.com/topics/zion/

Black Cemetery Network: Zion Cemetery https://blackcemeterynetwork.org/bcnsites/zion

African American Cemetery Alliance of Tampa Bay https://african-american-cemetery-alliance-of.business.site

Florida Public Archaeology Network http://www.fpan.us

FPAN – Training courses on cemetery care https://www.fpan.us/training-courses/crpt/

AAHGS-Tampa

Dozier School for Boys / Florida School for Boys https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_School_for_Boys

“A Forgotten History of How the US Government Segregated America.” NPR, 3 May 2017. https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america

Lcdo. Lorenzo Oscar Caban Arocho’s Bienvenidos a Moca

cover, Caban Arocho, Bienvenidios a Moca

Mira lo que los Tres Reyes Magos brought to my house!

A new book by Lic Lorenzo Oscar Caban Arocho, Bienvenidos a Moca. As you can see, this is a big book that is another contribution to a growing list of books on the experience of being Mocano. In it, Caban Arocho brings together his memories with a wide range of photos and publications on Moca. 

This book, as with other generational local histories, take a highly personal perspective and are insightful as they lend a sense of the changes in barrio Pueblo over time. There’s even his reflections on my article on Leoncia Lasalle and her family, that awakened his recollection that she was his partera, the midwife who brought him into the world over eight decades before. 

I’m looking forward to delving into the book— and will post where you can buy a copy. In the meantime, here’s the ISBN number: ISBN 979-8-3507-2470-7

photograph of Lcdo Lorenzo Oscar Caban Arocho

Lcdo. Lorenzo Oscar Caban Arocho, from Bookdatabase online. Note the sleeve decoration made of mundillo. His wife is an accomplished tejedora (lacemaker).

cover, Caban Arocho, Bienvenidios a Moca
Cover, Lorenzo Oscar Caban Arocho, Bienvenidos a Moca (2023)

Ubiles: AfroIndigenous Families of Northeast Puerto Rico

View from fortifications of San Juan in 1824
View from the fortifications of San Juan, 1824. Library of Congress. 

What are the origins of the Ubiles families of Barrio Mabu, Humacao?  This post is part of a larger project that explores the lives of ancestors who lived centuries before in Northeast Puerto Rico. As a genealogist, this was an opportunity to delve into the ancestry of Marie Ubiles, and share more about what documents hold about her ancestors, Juan Lorenzo Ubides Rodriguez and Petrona de la Cruz Amaro. First I needed to explore who were among those who held the surname during the late seventeenth-early eighteenth century in Northwest Puerto Rico. Here is the first chapter of the project.

The locations for the Ubiles family clusters extend across the Northeast by the early eighteenth century.

NE Portion of 1898 Map of PR showing locations for Ubiles families- San Juan, Bayamon, Trujillo Alto, Cangrejos, Loiza & Humacao

Origins

In Puerto Rico, the surname Ubiles begins with Capt. Miguel Joseph de Ubides y Espinosa, born in 1699 in Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz. Son of Juan de Ubides and Ysabel Calderon, it is unclear as to whether his parents came to the island at all. Miguel de Ubides was once a partner and then an enemy of Capitan Miguel Enriquez, the privateer who rapidly ascended San Juan’s social caste, only to be turned upon later. Both Enriquez and Ubides’ were enslavers and slave traders, and here lies the origin of the Ubides of color.  Over time, the spelling of those once enslaved changed.

Properties

Capt. Miguel de Ubides married Cecilia Sanchez Araujo on 8 July 1720 in the Cathedral de San Juan, and they had at least four children. One reached adulthood, Juan Manuel Ubides Araujo born in July 17341. Unlike many dwellers of the time in San Juan, Ubides lived in a two-story building. It was described by historian Angel Lopez Cantos, and based on a July 1725 inventory of de Ubides’ embargoed property:

Y la casa de fiel ejecutor del cabildo de San Juan, Miguel de Ubides, tambien era de dos plantas. En la anterior había una ‘sala’ que ocupaban mitad del espacio y la otra un ‘aposento’ y una ‘despensa’. Abajo solo había un habitación que servia de tienda y el postal. El hueco de la escalera lo habían tapiado y hacia las veces de ‘almacén2’.

And the home of the faithful executor of the cabildo of San Juan, Miguel de Ubides, was of two floors. In the rear was a large hall that took up half the space, another chamber and a pantry. Below there was a bedroom that served as a store and the post office. The space underneath the stairs was closed off and at times, served as a warehouse. 

   This lends an idea of the kinds of property and labor that de Ubides used in his business—there would be a need for domestics, cooks, storekeeper, clerk, and porters, all roles that could be done with enslaved workers. This knowledge also represented a route to freedom in early San Juan, if one were able to arrange buying it. To know these aspects of how to run a business oneself meant one could openly support their own families once out of bondage. 

Smuggling

The sixteenth – seventeenth centuries were a time of smuggling in the Caribbean, as Spain paid more attention to the development of silver mining in the Yucatan and its other colonies. As a result, Puerto Rico was a hotbed of smuggling activity that connected merchants to Curacao, Venezuela and other islands . The ships and cargoes taken as prizes by Spanish and Spanish American merchants were sold in the British West Indies. [See Cromwell 2018]

Miguel de Ubides was involved with Captain Miguel Enriquez, the privateer hired by the Spanish government. Eventually, Enriquez was turned against by the elite of San Juan, disturbed by his rapid social climb and business expansion. Another reason they resented him was that Enriquez was the grandchild of an enslaved woman from Angola, and in a world where the proximity to Europe was paramount, he did not fit in. de Ubides was among those who pitted themselves against Enriquez, and he also suffered the embargo of his property not long after. The larger question is how much of their business was involved with the slave trade. Lopez Cantos suggests that Enriquez’ holdings numbered over 200, including those enslaved who worked plantations. There is only a trace of people held by de Ubides and Enriquez in surviving parish records.

Enslaved Persons Held by Miguel de Ubides

The earliest mention of enslaved Ubides is in the pages of the extant books for Nuestra Senora de los Remedios in Viejo San Juan. 

Maria Antonia, hija de Antonia, morena esclava del Cap.n Miguel de Ubides, Jul 1748 Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

This July 1748 baptism for “Maria Antonia, hija de Antonia, morena esclava de Dn. Miguel de Ubides. Padrino, Joseph Manuel Carrillo3is among the few documents for the enslaved persons held by Ubides. Antonia’s age is not noted, and she may be anywhere between 12 to 45 years of age, probably born in Puerto Rico. 

Joseph, hijo de Maria, morena esclava de Miguel Ubides, 1738, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios4

   Maria, a Black woman enslaved by Miguel de Ubides in 1738 gave birth to Joseph, who was baptized on 26 October 1738, and Manuel de Jesus served as his godparent. This entry illustrates how ‘new property’ was registered through parish records. Additional documentation for Maria and Joseph may no longer be extant. 

Acta de Bautizo, Joseph Antonio Ubides, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, San Juan, 1773. FS.org

When Joseph Antonio, a formerly enslaved man from St Thomas was baptized on 17 January 1739, Dn. Miguel de Ubides served as his godfather5. Joseph Antonio, a freedman, was baptized together with Antonia, an enslaved woman held by Capitan Andres Antonio. Joseph Antonio’s conversion to Catholicism was an assurance to the Spanish crown of his loyalty [6]. What is unusual in this record is that two men brought two persons to be baptized, one who liberated himself from a British colony and the other, an enslaved woman.  Why the double baptism? Were they a couple? There is no additional information to go on. Apparently, Joseph Antonio took the surname of his padrino after 1739- and is the same Joseph Antonio Ubides who dies in May 1770, married to Ana Lerey. 

Summary

Several people of African descent carried the de Ubides surname in early-mid eighteenth century San Juan. As documentation is scarce, there is evidence of them in parish records. There are several clusters of this surname with a connection by name or association.

How many enslaved persons were held by Capt. Miguel de Ubides is unknown. Given that his property (like Enriquez) was impounded, an inventory was made of his holdings. It is possible that enslaved people appear on these pages, either as a numeric count, or perhaps, a named list. Protocolos from this time period for San Juan are unfortunately, not extant. 

If you’re from one of the Ubiles family communities, I hope you’ll share your story.

References

  1. Juan Manuel Ubides,  Acta Bautismo. “Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9398-KC9B-1?cc=1807092&wc=QZYD-N2K%3A149110901%2C149110902%2C149142201 : 14 December 2021), San Juan > Nuestra Señora de los Remedios > Bautismos 1723-1738 > image 147 of 216; paróquias Católicas (Catholic Church parishes), Puerto Rico.

2.     Angel Lopez Cantos, Miguel Enriquez.  Ediciones Puerto, 3rd Ed, 2017, (1994) 96.

For an idea of the extent of smuggling, see Jesse Cromwell, The Smuggler’s World: Illicit Trade and Atlantic Communities in Eighteenth Century Venezuela. UNC Press, 2018.

3.     Maria Antonia, hija de Antonia [Ubides]  Acta Bautismo, “Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9398-K839-63?cc=1807092&wc=QZYD-2V5%3A149110901%2C149110902%2C149154801 : 23 December 2021), San Juan > Nuestra Señora de los Remedios > Bautismos 1747-1754 > image 33 of 220; paróquias Católicas (Catholic Church parishes), Puerto Rico.

4.     Joseph hijo de Maria [Ubides] Acta Bautismo,  ‘Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9398-K833-2J?cc=1807092&wc=QZYD-2KM%3A149110901%2C149110902%2C149146801 : 15 December 2021), San Juan > Nuestra Señora de los Remedios > Bautismos 1735-1739 > image 114 of 143; paróquias Católicas (Catholic Church parishes), Puerto Rico.

5.     Joseph Antonio, Acta de Bautismo 1739″Puerto Rico, registros parroquiales, 1645-1969″, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6DBL-YF8Z : 15 December 2021), Joseph Antonio Miguel de Ubides in entry for MM9.1.1/6DBL-YF8C:, 1739.

6.     Did Joseph Antonio Ubides serve in the military, as many free Black men did in Cangrejos?  See: David M Stark, “Rescued from their Invisibility: The Afro-Puerto Ricans of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century San Mateo de Cangrejos, Puerto Rico.” The Americas 63:4 (Apr 2007), 551-586.

Friendly Village: a second grade trip

PS 25 in South Bronx, 1905
PS 25 in 1905.  I attended some 55 years later. The school is still there, on 811 E 149th St. NYC.gov

That diasporic feeling 

There is no one place or time when diaspora occurs…it is a perpetual space of change and displacement. An awareness. It’s a process I share with many, whether by blood, place or experience, with locations linked by oceans and shaped by the relentless squeeze for money and power.

 How we understand this process has a lot to do with the narratives fed to us as children. Here’s a memorable text whose social cues seemed sketchy to me in grade school. 

Friendly Village

Dick’s vision didn’t include the South Bronx. Cover of Friendly Village, 1967.. Photo: Thriftbooks.com

As a child in the early 1960s, the most confusing book I’ve ever encountered was an assigned second grade reader by Mabel O’Donnell, entitled Friendly Village.  I was switched into second grade mid-year, since I read at a 6 grade level thanks to my mom.  

Nothing in the book seemed to jive with what I knew of the world in the south Bronx. For us, landscape vistas were restricted to a small outcropping of glacial rocks, some maple trees and wildlife— pigeons and the large rats in St Ann Park, all four city blocks of it.  

Where we lived then was composed of blocks of tenements built at least a half century before my birth, dark narrow buildings whose stoops and entrances varied slightly from structure to structure — brick fronts, embellished by fire escapes above the street, each four to five floors tall, with four apartments to a floor. These buildings loomed before my small frame. 

Buildings of memory

Most tenements were built in the first years of the 1900s, the metal ironwork that once flanked the stairs collected in the 1940s for the war effort. This left most buildings with a bare stoop in front. 

Air shafts, then a recent innovation in 1900, defined the view in our apartment. from one window, one saw sets of white framed glass portals to other living spaces, surrounded by brick and crossed by laundry lines. Down below was the small concrete footprint of the space. Then, from early spring to late fall, these were full of bed sheets and tablecloths, shirts and underwear put out to dry.  We never made any experiments to test gravity or my parents patience. 

Yes, mami gave me a perm and already I wanted to wear pants. On the roof, 548 Fox Street.

Tenements on Fox Street 

Tenements on Fox Street
Tenements on Fox Street, Photo: NYC.gov

To my small body, this tenement and neighborhood that surrounded it on Fox Street it all seemed like an enormous urban site, full of adults and rooms with a million different stories.  Manhattan was even bigger.

Once inside, to reach our apartment, everyone made their way over white stone steps, climbing while holding on to a painted rail, inset into the top of cast iron balusters. The rail was coated in layers of thick enamel paint applied over many years. This smooth yet pebbled texture melted on the surface of the rail that linked the building’s floors and landings. 

Each step was made of pale, white-gray marble or soapstone, worn down at the center, a saggy appearance that testified to the movement of thousands of footsteps over its surfaces,  a bit worn away with each step. 

Every floor held a set of relationships, that ranged from the legal to inappropriate. parents, newborns, lovers, strangers who left traces on the pages of the  1920-1950 census.  My paternal grandparents lived in another tenement nearby, finally being able to settle down after the multiple moves during the Great Depression, heralded by the birth of my father.

 

At my grandparent's at 1022 E 156th Street
At my grandparent’s at 1022 E 156th Street, just blocks away.

Tenements were never part of the landscape of Friendly Village, and  Alice and Jerry never went to such places, nor did they go to play in the trash strewn spaces behind them. The South Bronx was different then. The entrances of the buildings on each grey and grimy block had stoops once bordered with ironwork. This was removed, molten down for the WW2 effort, and never replaced, leaving large holes and orphaned bolts that told of phantom parts. The now plain steps lead to the doors, some of them arching over the entryway to a basement workshop or apartment and storage rooms that ran along the length of the building.  

The Newsstand 

On the corner, it seemed a sizeable amount of steel escaped the wartime scrap heap and was a featured element of the commercial space of the corner newsstand. The store sat atop a metal sidewalk, raised about 3-4 inches off the concrete, its surface pierced with small round glass disks trapped in the metal pentagonal grids, to provide light for a mysterious space underground. This dark, almost green black metal surface surrounded the store, and clanged as one stepped up and walked on it, its own alert system that let the owner know a customer approached. 

The newstand rack was itself an accomplished bit of welded heavy steel plate with supports for shelves that held several daily and weekly newspapers just outside of its tiny space. inside the actual store was cramped and crowded with racks of magazines on its walls, comic books, boxes of cigarettes and chewing gum. Just enough space for one clerk to sit behind the counter, next to a heater in winter and a small fan in summer.

Gum of gums

Bazooka bubble gum. By Parka Lewis at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2939687

On the small counter next to the cash register, sat an open box of Bazooka gum for sale. For our two cents, we bought a piece of gum named for a rocket launcher, the brand name Bazooka revealing the proximity of recent wars to the lives of children who bought them, from World War 2 to Korea, and afterwards Vietnam. These small packets were extremely firm (the staler, the harder) a segment of sugary pink chewing gum with an indented line down the middle for sharing or apportioning.  It made a dentist visit much more likely.

Its dusted sugar surface was bound by a folded Bazooka Joe comic in 3 colors, that to our young eyes featured seemingly adult men exchanging pointless, corny lines in several tiny frames on a small sheet of shiny waxed paper. This gift arrived under a larger red and white wax paper wrapper w diagonal lettering that announced ‘Bazooka’.  

It took work to chew.  it was a product that simultaneously allowed one to both blow bubbles and to dissolve one’s tooth enamel. If the gum was stale,  masticating took twice as long to coax it into a bubble and create annoying, cracking noises.  

Bazooka was a different than Crawford’s Breath Gum, lovely purple pieces in a flat silver cardboard box with scrolling black letters. My mother loved them and almost always had a box in her handbag. Later we went for sticks of gum, peppermint but never spearmint. We left Bazooka behind.

Creative impulses 

At school or near these institutions, we noticed that the uses of gum extended to cheerful decoration, witnessed on the undersides of chairs and desks or on the lengths of telephone poles that became colorful, textured repositories of various brands, processed by teeth of children and teenagers. Such sites were only to be augmented with one’s own bit of masticated gum, and not to be touched by fingers.

Return to the Friendly Village 

But back to the Friendly Village, a book that only sowed more confusion as I read its pages. It featured puzzling details– Fathers who wore glasses, a suit and tie and carried a briefcase. I knew no one like that. My dad worked first as a baggage handler on the railroad and next for the Metropolitan Transit Authority when he finally passed the test for the MTA in ventilation and drainage. When we were little we only knew he was somewhere in the bowels of NYC, traversing endless miles of tunnels and small rooms crammed with the equipment that made it possible to see and breathe on the subway.  He worked two jobs at one point, so he was hardly at home. 

My grandparents lived just a few blocks away, my grandfather drove taxis or school buses for work and could barely read a newspaper. This was probably because of dyslexia, which added another layer of difficulty to everything he navigated stateside. He had a tremendous memory though for numbers and memorized lists of Bolita digits, no paper to find. My mother worked in various factories in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the 1940s to 1950s before she had us, and she was 14 when she got her first job. 

Details details 

As jarring a read as the Friendly Village  was, there was no village, no cows and no farmers in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.  instead, a steadily growing number of Puerto Ricans were packing a landscape created at least a half century before, at the turn of the century just after the Spanish American War.

We lived in a walk up apartment and there were no thatched roof houses anywhere nearby. The population of the Friendly Village was white and British, with pedigree dogs unlike the mutts that roamed our neighborhood in ragged packs. 

Actually, we were the ones the locals feared, the Puerto Ricans born on the island and stateside,  who occupied more and more apartments as the neighborhood aged and its former Jewish and Slavic inhabitants escaped to the suburbs. The book left me wondering about places like England, and what seems a high probability of being run out of a village if my family actually showed up there. 

To School, PS 25

Each morning as my mother walked us to elementary school we were careful to step over the legs of the two young men of color, both junkies with their backs propped up against a building. As we walked, I stared at the thin stream of urine that led from between their legs down the sidewalk, over the edge of the milled stone curb and into the gutter. Occupied with their high, they failed to notice the proximity of the yellow water that stained their pants as it streamed out of them; neither did they acknowledge seeing us walk past. They didn’t go to school, nor did they appear in any school reader. 

Fox Street became rougher by the year.  When a man was shot in the head just doors away on the block, my father decided that was enough. He began searching for a house in another location, in Hollis, in the very distant and exotic borough of Queens. 

We left the Bronx and the pages of The Friendly Village proved little help for understanding why I was called a Spic by whites fearful of our kind, nor of the girls who dropped an open container of milk on me on the stairs on Assembly Day, or those who decided to fight me in a group in the schoolyard. I was a white presenting skinny kid, a product of diaspora, settler colonialism & slavery, searching for a definition of self in books that didn’t acknowledge our blended existence. I kept reading. 

Dick and Jane, the ideal white boy and girl featured in the reader’s pages taught me nothing about how the world worked, nor of the working class, or of the many peoples caught in the flows of diaspora that made up the city of New York in the early 1960s. 

Decolonized spaces

Today we make our own villages, those safe spaces where we can reveal our fullest selves to survive and share our journey as best we can.  It’s remarkable how one group’s joy can be rejected, but they can’t steal it.  Brook Park, a place I visited in my childhood, is now the site where my Iukayeke holds its solstice ceremonies, and I connect, via technology. 

We are still here. 

Long gone, the buildings and streets of Mott Haven come back vividly in memory, places where my ancestors once tread as they made their way through the cycle of life. 

QEPD May they rest in peace. 

Seneko kakona 

History Unscripted: Real Talk Around Reparations

Title page for Real Talk About Reparations
Title page for Real Talk About Reparations
History Unscripted: Real Talk About Reparations, 15 Feb 2023

Last night, Nicka Smith & True Lewis hosted a panel for Special Episode of Black ProGen Live History Unscripted on reparations for African American communities in the US. Among the panelists were Dr. Shelley Murphy, Andre Ferrell, Ressie Luck-Brimmer, myself, with Teresa Vega, and Robyn Murphy Walker.

A lot has happened over the past five years that is beginning to yield redress for some. However, when the enormity of enslavement, its permutations and contemporary manifestations bear down on family histories, it’s on a collision course with producing documentation to establish identity for a reparations program.

These programs are growing, as are calls for the acknowledgement of harm across a constellation of institutions. Descendants will find genealogical skills key for navigating and reconstructing their family histories in locations across the country. A good part of what we talked about were some of the unforeseen limitations and the fraught emotions a process for engaging reparations can bring up. As True Lewis said, “Think about your family what can you do – as family historians – do to prepare our community and families for what’s to come?”

Those Black ProGen playlists are going to come in handy.

The Big Payback (2023)

Documentary by Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow on the passage of tax funded reparations program in Evanston, IL. This begins to give an idea of how long this struggle has taken in regard to the passage of H.R. 40, and how this process unfolded in one city despite the pandemic.

https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/documentaries/the-big-payback/

People & Property: Enslaved Ancestors sold by Rafael del Valle to Jose Genaro del Valle, Barrio Malezas, Aguadilla, 1854

foto shows landscape with houses and bay of Aguadilla in 1898
foto shows landscape with houses and bay of Aguadilla in 1898
View of Aguadilla, 1898, from Murat Halstead, Full Official HIstory of the War with Spain: The True Inwardness of the War. [HL Barber, 1898]

Slavery was a Family Business

Right now i’m looking over this entry for a property sale Aguadilla from February 1854⁠1. It’s a lock, stock and barrel sale between first cousins, and the order of importance for the details enumerated is very telling.

It begins with the layout of land in Barrio Malezas, Aguadilla, a 180 cuerda (174.6 acres) property, alongside several other plantation owners. D. Rafael del Valle y Ponce is selling this estate to his first cousin, D Jose Genaro del Valle y Arce. I have distant ties to these families, with Rafael del Valle being my 1C5R and Jose Genaro del Valle my 2C4R.  They were close and the relationship chart below outlines the cousin relationship between both men. Note that Rafael was also related to Jose Genaro’s mother, however, this set of relationships (via the Ponce line) is not included here.

Relationship chart for the del Valle cousins, E. Fernandez-Sacco, Reunion 13, 2022.

Rafael’s father, Nicolas del Valle y Perez de Arce served as Alcalde (Mayor) of Aguadilla three different times, in 1814, 1820-21 and in 1836. Rafael was one of his eight children with Eugenia II Ponce y Perez de Arce (b. abt. 1781).

Rafael’s cousin, Jose Genaro del Valle y Arce (bca 1819) was the son of Antonio del Valle y Perez de Arce (b.1783) and Maria Gregoria de Arce Ponce (1792-1842).

Jose Genaro’s father Antonio, served as Alcalde of Aguadilla just once, in 1837. Clearly, this family possessed a degree of political clout in the municipality. In addition, by having this sale occur within the family, they kept their wealth. As a business practice, endogamy helped to insure trust in partnerships at a time before banks existed on Puerto Rico.

An Arrangement

In January 1853, both Rafael del Valle and Jose Genaro del Valle went before the notary to record an arrangement that gave Jose Genaro del Valle the power to administer the cattle ranch in Barrio Malezas, including the enslaved persons, the animals there, and a house in town. By 11 February 1854, the situation had changed. Rafael’s contract which paid 400 pesos yearly to Jose Genaro, as he points out in the document, was now rescinded⁠3. Next on that same day, the sale of the property from Rafael del Valle to Jose Genaro del Valle was recorded. Jose Genaro del Valle was the new owner.

The Sale

The property transfer is just a few paragraphs long. Laid out are the names of the other property owners: Antonio Almeida & d. Manuel Badillo on the south along the Royal road of the mountain,  on the east with  Da. Rosa de Santiago and the Royal road that goes by the front to d. Patricio González, and on the west side, with Da.María Ponce and Da.Josefa Mirle. Wives could also own, manage businesses and inherit property independently of their husbands.  Each person ran their own hacienda or estancia that included enslaved ancestors.

Maria Ponce is most likely Maria Eugenia II Ponce y Perez, wife of Nicolas del Valle; Josefa Mirle is Josefa Mirle Gonzalez, wife of Francisco Almeida of Portugal. The baptism record for their daughter Manuela Almeida Mirle of 1817 mentions that she was born in Maleza Alta⁠4, which helps localize the family in a specific barrio. Both the Ponce and Mirle families, like the del Valle, held larger numbers of enslaved people to work their ranches, farms and plantations. 

The Valle plantation held some 100 head of cattle, 6 horses and two mares with foals. After the animals were enumerated in the deed, nineteen people held in bondage were listed.  The price for the estate was 14,000 pesos macuquina with 2,700 pesos of the total owed to Eugenio Alers, a hacendado who was building his holdings between Aguadilla and Isabela and lending money mid-century to property owners in the area.

Values for the nineteen enslaved persons, which may include at least two clusters of family, were not specified. Two persons on the list survived the Middle Passage, and another was from Costa Firme, Venezuela, pointing to the global connections of these transactions.  The rest were criollos, born in Puerto Rico; there were ten male and nine females of different ages, three of them too young to work. They were termed ‘siervos esclavos‘, enslaved servants, perhaps more concerned with running a household and raising livestock. There is no mention of specific duties in the deed.

Aside from two 40 year old men, these ancestors were young, and perhaps some of them made it into the pages of the Registro Civil. If they did, it seems unlikely they used their former enslaver’s surname after freedom.

Say Their Names

Here are the names, ages and approximate dates of birth for these ancestors in Aguadilla in February 1854. 

I plan to look back to records from 1822 and then to the cedulas of 1868-70 of the Registro de Esclavos to see if any of these ancestors remained under the control of del Valle family members. Hopefully there is more to learn about them. 

Related:

For a background on the history of Aguadilla and another sale see “Stories in a Box: Caja 1289, Slavery and the Hernandez Family.”, 13 Feb 2018: https://latinogenealogyandbeyond.com/blog/tag/aguadilla/

References

1 Haydee E. Reichard de Cardona, Haciendas agrícolas del triángulo noroeste de Puerto Rico, sus dueños e historias. Jose A Amador Acosta, Ed. Editorial HER Historias y Escritos Riquenos, 2020.

2Carlos Encarnacion Navarro, Fondo de Protocolos Notariales, Caja 1289, Serie Aguadilla, Pueblo Aguadilla, Escribano Lcdo. Manuel Garcia, 1854. AGPR.  En Aguadilla 2-11-1854 fol.74 a 76 ante el insfrascripto escribano Real y público y testigos que se   expresaran compareció D.Rafael del Valle de este vecindario y dijo que otorga venta Real y absoluta a favor de  D.José Genaro del Valle también vecino una estancia en esta juridicción en el barrio de Malezas compuesta de 180 cuerdas colindantes al norte con Antonio Almeida y D.Manuel Badillo, por el sur con el camino Real de la montaña, al este con  Da.Rosa de Santiago y el camino Real que pasa por   el frente a D.Patricio González, al este con Da.María Ponce y Da.Josefa Mirle incluidas las plantaciones en ellas, 100 cabezas  de ganado,6 caballos,2 yeguas con crías y los siervos esclavos Luis natural de áfrica de 30 años,Juana María de 25 años y su hija de un año,Tomasa de 40 años, Luisa de 25 años, Carmen de 25 años con una hija de un año,Demetrio de 12 años, Hermenegildo de 16 años,Paulina de   61   30 años, José de 20 años, José María de 40 años,Tomás de 40 años,Tomasa de 30 años,Antonio de 12 años, Juan José de 16 años,Isabel de 2 años,Manuel natural de costa firme  de 4 años,Andrés de 25 años natural de áfrica, una casa de madera y tejemani en la calle principal de este partido con solar de 16 varas de frente colindante al norte con Da.Paula Giménez, por el sur con el comprador, al oeste la calle y al este con otro solar del mismo comprador cuyos bienes le pertenecen por compra hecha a D.José Genaro del Valle según escritura otorgada en Enero 12 de 1853 por la cantidad de 14,000 pesos maququinos y 2,700 pesos quedan en poder del comprador hasta satisfacer la cantidad que el mismo adeuda a D.Eugenio Alers a cuya responsabilidad está gravada la estancia.Fueron testigos D.Ricardo Diez, D.José Trinidad Veray D.Ramón Esteban Martínez. 

3 Carlos Encarnacion Navarro, Fondo de Protocolos Notariales, Caja 1289, Serie Aguadilla, Pueblo Aguadilla, Escribano Lcdo. Manuel Garcia, AGPR fol.78 a 78-v, 11 Feb 1854.  En Aguadilla 2-11-1854 fol.78 a 78-v  ante el insfrascripto escribano Real y público y testigos que se expresaran comparecieron D.Rafael del Valle y D.José Genaro del Valle de este vecindad y dijeron que en Enero 12 de 1853 concedio el primero al segundo poder para administrar la estancia que tenía en el barrio de Malezas de esta juridicción, los esclavos y animales que tenía y una casa en este pueblo señalándole el salario de 400 pesos anuales y rescinden dicho contrato. Fueron testigos D.Ricardo Diez,D.Rafael Esteban Martínez y D.Francisco de Paula Vergara.

4 Acta de Bautismo, Manuela Almeida Mirle, APSCB Libro 5 #944,17 June 1817.

Gente 1868-1872: Enslaved persons held by Felipe Yturrino y Arzua

1893 Map of Cerro Gordo, Anasco

Events on the way to freedom

In my recent blog post Yturrino: Looking at a collateral line, I had questions about what kind of business Felipe Iturrino Arzua (1811 -1894) of Anasco was in. While I was able to follow some notary documents that described a  string of land purchases in different municipalities, it really wasn’t clear what he had invested in. 

These land purchases now make more sense after finding him listed in the 1872 Registro de Esclavos.  Yvonne Santana Rios’ transcription of Anasco and Cabo Rojo portions of the 1872 volume led me back to searching the FamilySearch database ‘Slave Registers, Puerto Rico, 1863  – 1879 ‘. I still have no name for the hacienda that these individuals worked, and know more or less where it was located, in barrio Cerro Gordo, Anasco. Yturrino and his family lived in barrio Corcobada to the east of Cerro Gordo, and later in a house in barrio Pueblo.

Anasco, Puerto Rico. Barrio Cerro Gordo is where formerly enslaved by Yturrino lived; he & his family lived in Barrio Corcobada.

In barrio Cerro Gordo, Anasco, Yturrino enslaved over 20 people, whose cedulas are receipts for the transfer of ownership from the individual slave holders to the colonial government, and they received 120 pesetas per document. The status change to libertos (freedmen or freedwomen) meant rights were established over time.

According to the terms of the Moret Law, these men, women and children entered a contract to work for their former enslavers or for a different plantation owner. They received no pay, but their freedom at the end of three years. For the youngest, this process of manumission lasted until 1886.

Labor: de Esclava/o a Liberta/o

There were a range of tasks, however few were dependent on women becoming domestics in elite households, or took in laundry, or were dress makers. The majority of enslaved women worked as Labradoras, field laborers alongside men. This ran contrary to the ideal of an enslaved person that circulated in prints and paintings, often depicted as male. Men worked as cooks, carpenters and mostly as field laborers in the sugar centrales that grew after the Spanish American war, and women’s labor shifted to the domestic.

While the categories for labor in the documents for the Registro de Esclavos are few, these do not give a precise idea of the range of tasks that a person had, nor how expert they had become. Cerro Gordo was elevated land, better suited for coffee cultivation, and this is likely the crop that Yturrino’s enslaved workers were raising. Given the patterns of inheritance, there is a high probability that the Hacienda de Iturrino in the 1893 Military Map for Anasco to San Sebastian is the same location as in 1870, situated near the streams in the hills that ran between Anasco and Moca.

Location: Hacienda de Iturrino, Barrio Cerro Gordo, Anasco. Mapa Militar, Itinerario de Añasco a San Sebastián, 1893. ADNPR

Say Their Names: Enslaved families, children, locations

Below is a list of 20 persons listed on cedulas from 1868 on which D. Felipe Yturrino y Arzua appears as dueno (owner). The oldest was Agustin an 80 year old man born in Africa; the youngest was 2 year old Josefa, born in Cerro Gordo, one of the children of Evangelista and Vicenta. Nearly half of those enslaved were children.

The few families I could trace to the Registro Civil opted to take a different surname; not one kept Iturrino as a surname. Some moved to Mayaguez in the years that followed. With the collapse of coffee prices after the 1870s, sugar plantations soon dominated the landscape.

Should these names be familiar to you, please feel free to reach out.

FolioNameAgeParentsOriginimage no.Link
7465Josefa2Evangelista & VicentaP.R.2773https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C3QX-V?i=2772&cc=3755445
7462Ceverino6Evangelista & VicentaP.R.2770https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C34X-W?i=2769&cc=3755445
7464Paula6Evaristo & EduvigesP.R.2772https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C34J-M?i=2771&cc=3755445
7454Amelia7Ma. Luisa 2aP.R. 2762https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C347-G?i=2761&cc=3755445
7463Salustiano7P.R. 2771https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C37C-K?i=2770&cc=3755445
7466Francisco7VicentaP.R.2774https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C3Q5-B?i=2773&cc=3755445
7452Maria 8Ma. LuisaP.R.2769https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C3QC-T?cc=3755445&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3A6ZGF-WYNJ
7461Antonio9EduvigesP.R.2769https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C34Y-C?i=2768&cc=3755445
7451Maria Francisca19Antonio & Ma. Luisa 1aP.R.2760https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C3QK-L?i=2758&cc=3755445
7457Jose Domingo19Ma. YnesP.R. 2759https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C3QQ-8?i=2764&cc=3755445
7448Maria Luisa 2a24Antonio & Ma. Luisa 1a. P.R.2756https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C34P-C?i=2756&cc=3755445
7449Maria de los Angeles26Simon & NarcisaP.R.2757https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C346-5?i=2760&cc=3755445
7453Vicenta28Santo Domingo2761https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C37C-W?=2762&cc=3755445
7455Eduviges32Jose Maria & CatalinaP.R.2754https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C3WW-Y?i=2753&cc=3755445
7447Ceferina32GenaraP.R.2763
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C37K-W?i=2757&cc=3755445
7450Saturnino38Africa2758https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C37K-W?i=2757&cc=3755445
7447Maria Luisa 1a42JovitaP.R.2755https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C34Y-7?i=2754&cc=3755445
7456Mariano43Ma. ReyesP.R. 2764https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C3WH-T?i=2763&cc=3755445
7458Evaristo45Mateo & JuanaP.R.2766https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C34M-P?i=2765&cc=3755445
7459Evangelista50Mateo & JuanaP.R.2767https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C34T-3?i=2766&cc=3755445
7460Agustin 80Africa2768https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSK3-C373-3?i=2767&cc=3755445
FolioNombreEdadHijo deOrigenNo. ImagenLink
Persons Enslaved by Felipe Yturrino, Barrio Cerro Gordo, Anasco, 14 October 1868. Caja 2, Registro de Esclavos, AGPR, Gob. Españoles, FS Film 008138868

Allen Acevedo (1955-2022)

Our cousin Allen passed this Monday 17 October, leaving us shocked that he is gone. Allen was funny, kind and generous, someone with a big heart. 

His funeral will be held next Monday, 24 October at Blount & Curry Funeral Home at Garden of Memories, 4207 E Lake Ave in Tampa, FL 33610. Visitation 1-2PM, Funeral Service 2-3PM.

Born in the Bronx to Vivian Fernandez and Manuel Acevedo, Allen was the second of two sons. He leaves Nancy his wife of 42 years, daughter Ileana and a grandson, his brothers Manny, Javier, Papo, Rachel, their children. The network of family who loved him are saddened by his dying. 

Allen was just a year older and in my life since I was born. Thanks to the tenements and cheap rents of the 1950s and 1960s, our extended family was just blocks away from each other in the South Bronx. This was a tough landscape, different from what is in Mott Haven today. 

A birthday party ca 1964, Bronx, NY. L to R: Orlando, John, Rachel and Allen.

There are some fotos of early birthday parties, the apartments full of children at birthdays and Christmas holidays. By the 1960s we visited Vivian and Manuel in their apartment in the new high rise projects on Westchester Blvd, where Manny played basketball and protected Allen, his skinnier, paler brother. 

Allen loved Bruce Lee and Kung fu movies, a love shared with my brother Orlando, figuring out the kicks and moves that sent people flying.  Another love was watching Soul Train. Allen also told corny jokes, loved to laugh and was easy to get along with.

I remember Allen telling me about his first jobs in the Bronx, during the 1970s. Once he worked at an Alexander’s on Third Ave. where leather jackets hung with thin chains down one sleeve as an anti theft device. Addicts floated in looking for an easy item to shoplift. One man was so out of it, he slipped a jacket on and proceeded to drag the enormous rack behind him, wondering why he was only able to move a short distance before being swept off the floor by security.  Working in department stores had its moments, so Allen got into computer programming very early.

Eventually he met Nancy, the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. His job sent them to Tampa. They were a perfect couple as her grounded strength balanced whatever doubts he faced. Allen could be a nervous guy, but Nancy affirmed him. He was a father to Ileana and a grandfather to her son, a granduncle, a brother and cousin to others.

Family meant a deep connection to Puerto Rico, Florida and other places. Allen was generous to a fault, helping out whenever he could. As other family did, we stayed with them when we visited Tampa, and when we first moved here. His mother Vivian lived with Allen and Nancy until the end of her life. He was a pallbearer for my father when he passed a few months later in 2017.  This too is part of a migration south that went from the colony of Boriken a century ago, then north to the Bronx and New York metropolitan area and then south to Tampa Bay. Allen, Nancy, Dolly, Vivian, Tony, Papo, Margie, Armando, Orlando, Luddy, Rachel and myself made their way here, all of us descendants of Ramon Fernandez and Angelina Calo and Carmen Dorios-Picon, born 100+ years ago.

The past week has been intense, to stand with family and be there for his passing. We hoped he would get through 3 weeks of an induced coma for acute pancreatitis, and then witnessed a series of complications erode the possibility of his return. We prayed and asked for him to stay, in some ways I held a childlike hope that this would change. Instead, a part of my life has calved and fallen away, and he becomes an ancestor, someone I will see when my transition comes. 

Allen in 1956

Much peace and love to all who knew Allen. 

Seneko kakona 

Luddy Fernandez Babilonia (1935-30 Aug 2021)

Luddy Fernandez Babilonia

In remembrance

Luddy Fernandez Babilonia
Earliest foto of Luddy Fernandez.

My mother has made the transition, completing her life on earth. She was 85 years old, almost making it to her 86th; if she had lived just a little longer, she would have welcomed another great-grandchild into the world. Losing her is devastating, and comfort that her suffering has ended. She was my connection to Puerto Rico, madre, madre tierra. She brought me and my siblings into the world, a feat that leaves me in awe of mothers everywhere. It was she who taught me to read by the time I was 3, yet she herself had little schooling, only making it to 4th or 5th grade, and few days in the classroom. She felt the loss of her mother profoundly at age 6, she and her siblings placed with relatives; she then lost her father at age 13. With the money from a settlement that came after being hit by a car, she was sent to New York City. She was part of the post-war diaspora out of Puerto Rico, people streaming to cities for factory work, encouraged by recruiters or family to find opportunities. Her siblings, Alex, Fredy and Maria preceded her arrival, and their lives intertwined against the backdrop of NYC and her 60 year marriage to my father. We are bereft and in grief at her passing, and we send her love, across time and space. Seneko kakona, QEPD

Funeral Details for Luddy Fernandez Babilonia

Merritt Funeral Home

Tuesday, 7 September 
Visitation, 10:30am to 11:30am
Chapel service, 11:30am

Merritt Funeral Home : 4095 Mariner Blvd, Spring Hill Chapel  (352)686-6649

Interment at Florida National Cemetery at 1:30pm 
Florida National Cemetery: 6502 SW 102nd Ave, Bushnell, FL 33513