Friday, April 22, 2011

Buscando muertitos

Searching for my antepasados makes me realize that we are surrounded by the dead-- when we watch films, listen to music, talk about classical works. But what genealogy enables me to do is to find those connected to me by blood. I've found cousins and family ties that resembled the mundillo I studied, a net comprised of individual turns and crossings. Latino genealogy is at a crossroads today, thanks to a growing demographic and the use of digital technologies, and I teach people how to get started.

Buscando muertitos, looking for my dead relatives has given me a lens to consider the past, my relationships, and the randomness of fate. It also enables compassion as one learns of various hardships and struggles that many people shared across different times and places.

When the passport photo of my grandfather and his family was taken in 1926, he did not know what was to come. He would have known that his father had taken chances, as he did in arriving in Puerto Rico from Ourense, Galicia sometime in the 1880s to later become a farmer of coconuts and fruit in the first decades of the twentieth century.  My grandfather was born at the start of the century and details about the life of his father, Juan Fernandez Quinta still remains a mystery.  I know who his parents are from a birth record for his son, Andres Fernandez Matos in December of 1899 in Puerta de Tierra, a barrio of San Juan. Juan was the son of Joaquin Fernandez and Maria Quinta, who probably remained in Spain, and were probably born sometime in the 1840s. What ultimately possessed Juan to leave?

Emigration never stopped in Puerto Rico-- this ebbs and flows across time, from the fifteenth century to the present. 1880 is still late; Ourense is Galicia's only landlocked province, an area one left by foot, train or river at that time. There's another document of my grandfather that says his father was from Santander, but my aunt said Ourense. Could Quinta be Quintela from Quintela de Leirad?  I hope to find another document that will clarify this.

It seems that Juan Fernandez Quinta arrived in Puerto Rico alone, and settled in an area that continued to grow beyond the walls of San Juan.  Modernity soon existed near the port, with the building of the Porto Rican Railroad, begun by French engineers from Marseille in 1888. In 1896, he married Catalina Matos Maldonado in the developing section of Santurce.

No comments:

Post a Comment