My full name is Orlando Vázquez Cordero
guess you could call
me a Jíbaro... a self-educated Jibaro. That's what Don Jibaro, the nickname by
which I’m known, is. I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on November 25 of 1948.
As a child, I lived in Cataño (across the San Juan Bay) in a few barrios:
Sabana, Amelia and Juana Matos. I don’t remember much of those first three years
but there’s a memory of a small house at the end of a dirt road. The one bedroom
house was made of wood and painted dull green with a linoleum thatched roof with
the “fregadero” (kitchen sink) sticking out of the kitchen window. Thus when you
close the window the sink, faucet and all, stays outside hanging from the house.
Onf my first two years I don't remember much, probably because I was to busy
developing a file system that will serve me as memory storage for years to come.
On my third Día de Reyes (Three Kings Day) I got a little red
fire truck. Not the big one that you ride in, but a small one that you push with
your hand, while emulating the sound of the engine with your mouth. I went
outside to play and my neighbor buddy, whose name escapes me now, had also a
little car, but his had doors that opened. Mine didn’t. I told him that mine was
better because there was no danger of people falling out of the truck and asked
him if he wanted to trade. He accepted and I went home with my new door-opening
convertible. A few hours later his mom, with him by the hand and crying, knocked
at our door. She wanted her son’s car back.
My fourth birthday was a vivid memory. We had moved to Andrades St. and into a
better house… with a porch! My cousins were older girls and made it a pointo for
me to have a birthday celebration. They brought in a cake from the bakery with
all sorts of figurines on the frosting. It was wrapped in a beautiful blue
cellophane tissue that I kept for a while, but my mom made me throw it away
because “babies choked on it”.
I went to school for 1st grade at the Logia Loarina (a Lodge
that doubled as a school) where I didn't learn anything that I can remember,
except maybe reading. I used to walk to school from home and back (in those days
it was safe.)
One day, it began to rain after school and I didn't want to get wet, so I waited
in front of the school for the rain to end. After a very long while, the rain
wasn't stopping, so I decided to start walking, because it was about to turn
dark. It rained and I walked, and it rained some more... then I stopped right in
the middle of the sidewalk and began to cry. I cried and cried some more and
called for my "Papi", but not many heard me, because not many were out walking
in the rain!
Suddenly a car stopped and the man inside said... "CUQUITO!!"
(that was my childhood nickname) and summoned me to get in. I recognized him...
the man was Artemio, a friend of my father. He took me home and my Dad thanked
him. I don't have any more memories of Artemio except he drove a 1956 Ford
Victoria (hard top) in mint condition!
Forty years later I went back to Cataño to visit the homeland and I saw a man
that looked just like the memory I had of Artemio, except he had a wrinkled
smiley face. I stopped the minivan that I was in, and called him. I asked him if
he remembered picking up a little boy in the rain forty-five years earlier, not
too far from where we were. He scratched his head, smiled while looking down at
the ground and said... “Mmm, most likely, because I used to come that way from
work." He had no idea who I was... but he remembered my father.
• MORE LATER •