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Descubre Tu Historia, The Story of My Abuela and Me

Growing up in my family I was always very close to the women, they were where I always sought safety and companionship. I can say that I have been lucky enough to have a story with most of my Abuelas and Bis Abuelas (Great Grandmothers). But there was one I never met and for most of my life she was just a first name and last name. What would have been my story with her? See with Abuela Nereida, she is the Abuela that loved to feed me, and I loved going to “el pueblo de Bayamon” with. Abuela Iris, the teacher, would take me to school with her when I was off from my school and had me sit in her classroom as her guest. She would purposely ask me questions she knew I knew to show me off to her class. Abuela Milla, I loved going to her “casita de campo” and sit and have some of her limbers. Abuela Nolin was the most affectionate, with always an endless supply of hugs. I always wondered, Abuela Faustina, what about you? Had my dad not lost you at 10 years old, what would have been our story?

            I sat down 11 years ago and finally decided it was time to find out her story and as I found her death and then her birth record, Abuela Faustina became real. I found out she was born in Maunabo, Puerto Rico on 7 March 1927, that her parents and my great grandparents names were Santos Maldonado and Herminia de Jesus both from Maunabo. As I shared these details with my dad it opened a line of communication between us and the stories of Abuela started to come. I learned how kind she was, and how she was always thinking of others and willing to help and her amazing cooking. I also learned the sad and hard parts of her story and how much she suffered in her 42 years. As I discovered more, and our family started having the hard conversations it surprised me how opening those wounds started to feel a lot like healing. It confused me at first, because I never associated healing with Genealogy. But as I learned about her line I also learned about the history of my island of Puerto Rico. The clearer about the past I became, it helped me understand my present more and the elders of my family. Then the next feeling was, empowered, because now I was full of the knowledge and history I never knew before. Then as I shared these realizations and truths with others, I learned the need in our communities, and how Genealogy could also help in so many ways with our sense of belonging and acceptance of our individual selves and within the collective.

            Genealogy sparked a passion in me I had not felt since I was a little girl. I had long forgotten the little girl that dreamt of being a teacher, historian, reporter, archeologist and yes, a writer. The little girl inside of me was bursting with excitement, she had found her purpose and everything she loved was literally rolled up into one word, Genealogy. Four years ago, I started Descubre Tu Historia and got my certificate for Genealogy Research from Boston University. Two years ago, I left my full time and now I dedicate myself to helping other Latinos make connections to their ancestors, unearthing truths, make sense of family mysteries, find long lost family members, and more importantly help them in the empowering and healing journey of Genealogy.

            But something was still missing, because no matter how much information Genealogy gave me it still did not give me my story with Abuela Faustina. Then a conversation with my mentor revealed a very important detail I had looked over. We were talking, and I expressed how I still wished I had a story with Abuela, and then my mentor looked at me and spoke. “Iris, Descubre Tu Historia is your story with your Abuela”. I was stunned into silence and then as I took in what she said, my eyes opened wide and the realization of this truth enveloped me and I cried.

            So, the answer to the question in the first paragraph, “what about you Abuela Faustina, what would our story be?” Abuela Faustina she is the Abuela that in revealing her truth to me through documents and her son she guided me back to my own. 

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