Friday, January 31, 2014

52 Ancestors – #5 Manuel Correa Rivera (1920-1993)

Post #5! I'll dedicate this post to a man I knew soooo little about until recently. Literally, growing up I only knew his name and that was about it. Yet now with how much I know about him, I feel a strange connection to this ancestor. I wish I would have meet him, but unfortunately he has passed on and so now I can only carry his stories and listen and learn about the life of my great grandfather, Manuel Correa Rivera.

Manuel Correa Rivera, was actually born as Isidro Correa Rivera in Río Jueyes, Salinas, Puerto Rico. Our family isn't sure why he took on the name Manuel, but that was also his grandfather's name so it could easily have been in his honor or because he looked so much like him. Manuel was the eldest of three children, Manuel was born on the 4th of March 1920, his brother Alejandro on the 17th of March 1923 and his sister Modesta on the 16th of January 1927. Their parents were Julio Correa Gustavo (son of María Paulina Gustavo Lotten) and Julio's wife has gone by the names Amalia Rivera Rodríguez and Amalia Rivera Masantini.

Salinas, Puerto Rico [Google]

Living on the coast and literally by the water meant that being fishermen was probably an accessible business and easy job to get into. My great grandfather never officially worked as a fisherman from what we know but his father Julio certainly did. Odds are Julio's father Manuel Correa was also a fisherman in Salinas. Unfortunately, at the age of nine my great grandfather lost his father Julio to Tuberculosis in 1929. Three years later, Manuel and his siblings would lose their mother to what is known as Pre-eclampsia. Most likely, Amalia was pregnant at the time of her death (In the 1930 Census, she appears living with a Francisco Giraud López who could have been the father of the child). I imagine this was a tough time for Manuel and his siblings, by the age of 13 he had lost both of his parents leaving him, his brother and sister orphaned at a young age.

Luckily, the 1935 Census can tell us where the children were sent to live. Manuel Correa Rivera appears in the 1935 Census living with his aunt Senovia Correa Gustavo and her husband Francisco Alvarado Santiago. Modesta Correa Rivera was also living in this same household. I can't however find Alejandro Correa Rivera anywhere on any of the census records. Could he have passed away as a child? 

By 1940, Manuel is living and working in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the 1930 Census, Manuel had appeared living in San Juan (briefly I guess), with his cousin Celedonio Sécola Correa – son of his paternal aunt Luisa Correa Gustavo. In 1940, Manuel (recorded with his nickname 'Manolo') was living with Luis Sanchez-Vahamonde Oller and his wife Sarah Aparicio on Calle Padre Berrios in San Juan. Luis Sanchez-Vahamonde was working as a lawyer in San Juan and my great grandfather was the family chauffeur. 

Between 1940 and 1944, my great grandfather would meet my great grandmother Ernesta (Ernestina) Miranda Rivera, originally from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Together they had two children, the first my grandfather and the second his little sister who passed away from Meningitis at the age of 5. This picture below was taken sometime between 1944-1950 (my guess probably 1948-49), pictured is my great grandfather in the middle with his two children on his side. When I showed my grandfather is picture, he remembered that they nicknamed his father "Joe Louis" because he looked so much like the boxer. 

Manuel Correa Rivera Center [Personal Family Photo]

For many years I had known so little, there were rumors that he might have been from Ponce or Guayama, until I finally discovered he was from Salinas. We knew that he worked for the AMA (Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses) company in San Juan and apparently had become one of its first drivers when it first started. Recently, this summer I learned more about my great grandfather from my half great-uncles who were his children from a second marriage. Manuel was apparently a very intelligent man who loved to read the newspaper and complete the crosswords in the back, always finishing them completely. He was apparently very musically talented, he was able to play the guitar, the marímbola and even the accordion. The accordion to me was interesting because it makes me think of French people right away, could he have learned to play from his father when he was young?

I was also told that he loved to speak to foreigners in San Juan when he was driving for the taxi company. Manuel apparently was able to speak four languages: Spanish, English, French and another they couldn't remember. I was floored when I heard he spoke French! Did he inherit French as a language from his father and maybe other family members he lived with when he was younger? Could the fourth language my uncles couldn't remember be Créole?

This small fact drew me closer to my great grandfather, especially being the only one in my family greatly interested in languages. I talked before about genetic memory, could Manuel have passed down a love of languages to me? I had always wanted to learn French and travel to France when I was younger, when I completed my goal it just felt right. Was it encoded in my DNA?

I unfortunately don't know what my great grandfather passed away from but I know he passed away on the 7th of May, 1993. I also don't know where he is buried but I imagine it is somewhere in the San Juan/ Hato Rey area. Hopefully I'll be able to visit his grave someday and pay my respects to him. I would have loved to hear his stories of his childhood in Salinas and find out whether or not French was a household language used between family members. Hopefully there are more stories of him and his family somewhere in Salinas, waiting to be found! 

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