A couple of weeks ago I woke up with the idea of writing a book – I just have to write, and even though I’m not famous as Gabriel García Márquez, I’m certain he started by writing what he felt was good at the moment. So, let the writing begin!
The first idea I woke up with was not this one. But we know every idea changes or evolves until it turns into something perfect, or as close to perfect as it can be. The first question that popped into my mind was: What the hell will you write about, Lugo? The answer was simple: I will write about me, my life and my years living. Then, another question even more important: Why would anyone read a book about your life if you are not a celebrity of any kind? The answer was even simpler and may sound a bit poetic: Why wouldn’t someone read about my life? It may be interesting reading about my life. And, as a matter of fact, I truly believe it may.
Where do I begin? That’s a complicated one. I think I should start from the beginning; starting by explaining what was happening in my parents’ life before I arrived in it. That’s the way Isabel Allende did in her book Zorro; she began by introducing the story of how Diego’s parents met so we could understand why little De la Vega wanted to fight for justice. I will then start from the beginning since I’m not George Lucas – starting at the middle may be fun, but then more complicated to explain.
Mister Juan Antonio Lugo Pérez was born one April in the town of Cidra almost 60 years ago. He was raised in one poor place in the town called Barrio Sud, and he was the 8th in a list of 13 children my grandparents had. His parents were very poor, but that does not mean they were not educated. I know a lot of stories from my father’s childhood, a lot! For instance, at supper time, if someone visited their house, the meat was for the visit and literally, it was taken from his plate and given to the visit. My father, being the genius he grew up to be, every day as soon as that meat touch his plate, that was the first thing he ate, just in case someone wanted to visit, the meat was safe in his belly.
They did not always have meat to eat or even a food for everyone. Papi tells me that sometimes my grandmother used to make bacalao (fish) really salty. That way, while eating bacalao they had to drink lots of water thus getting full faster with less food. A good way to make sure everyone had something to eat. And God forbid, one of them dared to say they did not like the food or that it was not enough. In those case my grandfather started hitting them with his cap, or whatever he could find, while telling them: “¡Carajo, condenao cabezón afrentao!” (hard to translate).
My mother, Eileen Ivette Rivera Rolón, was born on August 4. Her childhood, even though she did not have food shortage, still was complicated. Mom was raised by her father’s mother. Her grandmother, Pancha Soto was since “Mami Pancha”, and her uncles and aunts are her brothers and sisters – you have no idea how hard this was to explain to my wife.
Her sisters, who are really her aunts since they are her father’s sisters (complicated right?) taught my mother a lot. But since they were at least 20 years older, mom was alone with abuela Pancha. Abuela was Pentecostal and mami learned about God at a young age. She went to Sunday school and Wednesday service, she sang the songs and played a mean tambourine with rhythm and style. Grandma also believed in strong punishment: none of that “go to the corner and thing about what you did” thing! Mom was raised with positive and strong believes that made her be the great woman she is and that helped us, her children, be who we are.
My parents met at a young age. I’m sure that the fact that my grandfather from my father’s side and my abuela Pancha were brothers had something to do with it. So, when I think about it, my parents were cousins, which explains a lot in terms of crazy (the good kind of crazy). They studied in the same public school and they had the same friends. But while mom studied, dad was goofing around or working as a shoe shiner for two cents (he bought his bread and banana with one cent and the other to his father).
Dad was not applied at school but he recently told me that abuela Pancha feed him with lots of energy and support. Mom did not have a choice other than to study, and she was more than fine with it. How did Juan and Eileen fall in love? The way people fall in love. That is the only explanation I have because I know a lot of stories about those two lovebirds, but I don’t remember hearing how they fell in love.
Once he graduated from high school, dad studied electricity and mom started studying education in college, even though she would have love to be a nurse. Mom did not finish her studies, and she regrets that a bit. Some years later, in 1978 my parents sent a letter to a stork and a beautiful and cold day in December, the first Lugo Rivera flew in: my brother and mentor for who yours truly, Juan Antonio. On May 1980 I arrived and on December 1983, this time closer to Christmas, another stork flew in with a beautiful baby girl, with an amazing smile and rebel hair: my sister who I love, and get chocked up with just by mentioning her, Jaleen Franceska.
If you noticed, my brother and my sister flew in, and I just arrived. They were planned, and I, as usual bothering and horsing around without an invitation. My parents told me that my arriving was a surprise (if you play with fire, you may get burned) in every sense. Even though there is no such thing as being prepared, at least you can plan and expect when to have children; it costs a lot and when the economy is not on your side the problem is bigger. So, hunger and misery joined forces – figuratively speaking – and here I am. Not only the time was bad, but the baby had problems digesting the milk and buying formula brand milk costs a lot. My pediatrician, Nanito (he is still a hero in Cidra) gave my parents a couple of boxes of canned milk and things got better. But I can now understand how hard that must have been.
Anyway, the Lugo clan – mom, dad, Junito, Franceska and myself – have thousands of stories and we have been through many situations. But we have learned and grown a lot. We have laughed together and cried alone, as have you, my dear reader. That does not make us special nor different; it makes us who we are. I don’t write so you can follow my path, but if you can improve yours based on what I write, then we all win.