The Mouth is A Family's Cabinet of Reunited Memories
Vicente Andino Viana
My grandfather died before I was born. When he passed, all connection to his side of the family was lost. We always believed the family remained in Puerto Rico but hoped one day we would somehow reconnect with them. Having grown up living with my maternal grandfather, I always wondered about my paternal grandfather's family. I would ask my grandmother to tell me about him. Her words were always few but I remembered her sharing with me these 2 things.
1. He was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
2. Vicente was the name of his favorite brother
I had been building a family tree for years. When I became aware of the autosomal DNA tests, I took one along with both of my parents to not only learn about our ancestry but possibly connect with long lost family. Having both my parents test helped me differentiate which side my matches were connected to. My father had an overwhelming amount of matches of Puerto Rican descent. For several months, those matches showed up as no more than 4th cousin or higher. However, one had a tree with the name Vicente Andino in it. I wondered if it could possibly be my father's brother. I reached out in a message but the account holder hadn't logged back in to read it. Then almost a year later, a close match came up in the 2nd cousin range. My curiosity had me reach out as they had no tree or surname I recognized but shared DNA with the match that had Vicente's name in their tree. I messaged this new match with my grandfather's name and other family surnames I found in my research. And that day in June 2017, we had found Vicente's family and began planning a mini family reunion.
A few weeks later, we our families had a meal between traded pictures and stories of coffee rituals and serious smiles that my grandfather and his brother shared
Vicente Andino y Viana was born in the Hato Rey area of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico on May 2nd, 1902. He was the son of Salvador Andino y Verdejo (Sierra) and Teresa Viana. Vicente was Salvador's 1st of 12 children and 21 years older than my grandfather.
Vicente, along with most of my grandfather's siblings had their births recorded at the Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Rio Piedras which was built in 1714.
In 1910, Vicente was living with his father, stepmother Guadalupe and younger sister Genara along the highway Carretera Central San Juan which linked Ponce and San Juan through various towns including Rio Piedras. The highway was constructed through the labor of Chinese prisoners from Cuba, vagrants in Puerto Rico, free men and local plantation workers. Roadmen's houses, built from brick and wood, were situated along the stretch of road for supply storage and continual maintenance of the project. These were separate from the wooden barracks and huts utilized by the prisoners during the late 1800's. This is the type of dwelling Vicente probably lived in through his early years.
In 1920, Vicente was 18 and living with his father, my great grandmother Otilia and 5 siblings along the same Carretera Central. Vicente was employed as a mechanic and by 1930, he had moved to Vista Alegra lodging with another family while working as a cabinet maker.
At the age of 31, he lived on Urbana Rexach Calle Cuatro, a section of Santurce with his wife Laura Diaz. He worked as a carpenter for FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) an organization created under Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to revitalize the job market for the unemployed. Puerto Rico's population in the 1930's was about 1.5 million with over 60% of the island being unemployed. The mid 1930's reached a height of social and economic tensions resulting in the formation of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. Protests and backlash towards the aims of the Nationalist Party led to to the Rio Piedras Massacre in 1935 and the Ponce Massacre in 1937. Both were within close proximity to where Vicente and his family were living.
By 1940, Vicente was living on Calle Quintana with his wife and their 2 daughters planning for a better life on the mainland,.
Of those that migrated from Puerto Rico, 88% moved to New York City. Vicente's cocoa brown hands carried his trade across the ocean carefully crafting cabinets and tables for other families to create memories around while he awaited to bring over his own.
Vicente's first home was in the Bronx where he worked to establish himself before sending for his wife and 4 daughters in Puerto Rico. From the Bronx, they moved to Brooklyn and eventually Hoboken, NJ. All 3 cities served as a major center of Puerto Rican communities created from families that relocated from the island between the 1930's -1960's. In these communities, they formed a little piece of home away from home through shared plates, job and housing referrals, watching each other's kids, music, conversations over coffee, and domino games in front of stoops Vicente passed away on July 5th, 1993, and had lived only a train ride away from us since the 1950's. My family never got to know him. But now we are still only a train ride away from making memories over a handcrafted table with his daughters.
~ Nia Andino~