5.23.2008

Tío Pablo: Jibaro, Borinqueneer, Sage

My Tío Pablo, a Jibaro from Carite, served in Korea with the 65th. He was a Borinqueneer. Memorial Day is his day, too.

I vaguely remember as a small child hearing him talk to the men about the 65th. I didn't understand what it all meant--other than it clearly meant a great deal to them.

Forty years later, at his farmhouse on a Carite slope, Tío Pablo--his body riddled with multiple cancers--rested quietly waiting for the end. Framed above the bed was a photo of a young, vital Pablo in his 65th dress uniform and cap.

A young Boricua, one of many braves, was sent to fight an enemy on the other side of the world. The Boricuas fought bravely--and a huge number of died.

Afterward, many of the Boricua veterans followed Yankee buddies to U.S. Northern cities in search of their rewards. It was the 50's and the U.S. industrial machine was humming with the muscle of so many war veterans. Instead, too many Boricuas found low-paying, dangerous factory jobs, racism and long stints in VA hospitals to treat mysterious illnesses.

Of course, that was Tío Pablo's experience.

I always viewed Tío Pablo as a pretty smart man, proud, skilled--and so I always wondered why it was that he choose to return to Carite so early. He was may be in his early 30s. There on our ancestral land--still referred to as El Conuco and the rise above--Tío Pablo spent the rest of his days as a man of the land.

Never a rich man, Tío Pablo confided that he had all he needed: his wife, Tía Irene; his land; his health--even when it was failing; and his freedom.