*The following text are found journal entries from the past few years on photographing my family.
July 4th, 2013
For a while now we have been taking care of Abuela ever since mom decided to fly her in from Puerto Rico because of the better healthcare system in New York. Abuela has Alzheimer’s and diabetes. She requires constant care and attention. Our apartment in the Bronx has transformed into a small nursing home with all of her equipment. She is quickly forgetting things and wandering about. Titi Wito is also coming down with Alzheimer’s. Everyone from the older generation is either getting Alzheimer's or passing away.
July 8th, 2013
I learned a great deal this past week and everyday was as fruitful, if not more so, than the day before. I learned that to be a good picture maker you have to be connected with yourself, you want to make a certain point with your photographs. Images are a reflection of what you see in yourself and only you can stop speaking and stop your voice. This project of photographing my family must go on as I feel I have to communicate my story and their story. This project allows me to reconnect with my family and dig deep within. I recall Maggie mentioning how this project could eventually be about separation and coming together in a Latino family. To me I feel this is about family, the good and the bad. The sickness, the passing, the happiness and play, and preserving and discovering one’s identity. Perhaps by understanding family I can better understand myself? One thing is for sure: making pictures should come in second to the experience. It’s important to be there as a person and the pictures will come.
December 13th, 2013
One photograph I missed and certainly didn't want to see again was my Dad being rushed down the Hospital Critical Care Unit hallway, entangled in cords, with a mob of doctors and nurses surrounding him. He had a really bad heart attack. Doctors determined the best course was for him to receive open heart bypass surgery. All those years of drinking beer at the store finally caught up. This was the first time I have seen him in this situation since the last time he gave Coua a flower. I couldn't pull myself to press the shutter. Dad wasn't the type to go to the hospital. He was stubborn and he always believed in the power of his own strength and that hospitals were set up to only make you more sick and pay more money. The doctors said that because of his age (67) that he would most likely survive surgery and recover. My sister, who was with the Ruffryders at the time, expressed her concerns regarding his heavy drinking and how that might affect his heart complications.
May 8th, 2014
My grandmother past away at 4:19pm on Tuesday May 6th right around Mother's Day and I was not there. In a way, I am glad I was not there. The hard part and the days of suffering at the hospital are over. It hit us hard because she was the tree trunk in our immediate family tree. Times were changing. We rushed to buy plane tickets and to fly to Puerto Rico to bury her on our home island. We made it to Barrio, Buen Consejo in Puerto Rico. It was sad. My grandfather waited on our porch the morning of the funeral. He hadn't seen Abuela for 3 years. This would be the last time he sees her. I found myself crying as I took some of the pictures. It was the only way I can make sense of everything and not feel overwhelmed with sadness.
May 6th, 2014
We returned to Puerto Rico one year after my Abuela passed away. The goal was to simply come together as a family. We did more relaxing activities including spending time with my grandfather, and helped my uncle around the house, and went to the beaches.
Just a few months after our gathering, I found out my grandfather passed away. It all happened so suddenly. I received a phone call from my mother urging me to buy a plane ticket to Puerto Rico. My uncle was all alone in the house and it felt so empty and quiet and calm. We buried him in the same place as my grandmother. Oddly enough, that same day there was a fire in the market place where he had spent most of his life working and selling produce and lottery tickets. Back at the funeral, my great grandmother attended. Staring at her son she did not know why she was there. She was confused. Her Alzheimer’s had reached a new level and she could not remember her son, the man in the casket. Now my uncle will be living alone in the house. We worry for him. He lived all his years with his parents at home and now he is left to live there alone. No wife, no kids, and no grandparents. We feel for him and love him now more than ever.
December 22nd, 2015
Been traveling to Puerto Rico to spend more time with the family that is left and to get to know my Barrio (hometown) more. Been spending time with Titi Ita who suffers from Alzheimer’s like my grandmother did before she passed away. All of the older generation of sisters seems to be coming down with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes I feel bad for Titi Ita since she spends her days home just waiting for Lysiane to come home and thinking about things to do. Occupying herself with small chores in between to break up the monotony. Anyways I think it’s important for me to be here with here so that she doesn't forget me as easily. It’s important to try and spend as much time with her now while I still can.
December 25th, 2015
Lately, I have been photographing our hometown Buen Consejo more. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the cold weather in New York. Something about being in Buen Consejo allows me to reconnect with my ancestors and those who have passed. The nostalgia can be felt through various generations on these streets. Whether it’s kids playing, getting ready for Sunday mass, or hanging out on the street, I feel connected to this town. I hear stories about my grandparents and those before me from neighbors who are still alive. It’s a small town population of around 2,500 but it seems to be a microcosm for a larger society. It’s right near the capital. We are close to Rio Piedras. Just right over the bridge.