Borinquen Marrero

Writing about my grandfather Borinquen is a daunting task. For one thing, I don't remember meeting him. I think he visited us three times before he died in 1962, twice in California and once in Ohio.

I don't remember when I learned that he was a judge; perhaps when I was teenager. By then, my parents were separated and the extended family on both sides felt far away. But I'm sure that my father rarely spoke about his parents, or his childhood, or anything about his family history.

When I started doing genealogy research, my focus was on Borinquen. He intriqued me. I was lucky in some respects because his name is so unusual. An Ancestry.com search brings up no other people with that full name. And although the 1900 census data for his early years is missing (as it is for everyone, since it was mostly lost in a fire), the census data for 1910, 1930 and (recently) 1940 are all very helpful.

Borinquen was 18 when his parents both died in the last two months of 1916. He brother James applied for a passport to Canada early the next year.

Shortly after Puerto Rico fell under United States control (1898), the U.S. Congress passed the Foraker Act (1900), which established the civilian government for the island. The act granted Puerto Rican citizenship (not U.S. citizenship) to those on the island who desired it. Puerto Rican citizens at that time were considered noncitizen nationals Puerto Rican citizenship.

In March, 1917, as the U.S. prepared for war in Europe, Congress passed the Jones-Shafroth Act, which granted U.S. Citizenship to anyone born in Puerto Rico after April, 1899.

Travel to the U.S.

Borinquen first travelled to the U.S. six months later, in August 1917, aboard a ship named Caracas. He was 19. His stated destination was 2221 Arch. St., Philadelphia. Interestingly enough, two other nineteen year-old passengers on that ship were headed to the same destination. And a year later, when Borinquen's older brother James registered for the draft in Philadelphia, he gave his address as 2112 Arch St. (He also indicated he worked on Arch St.) The 2200 block of Arch St. contained a single, 12-story factory building known as the Larkin-Belber building, built in 1912. This suggests that Borinquen may have been travelling to Philadelphia seeking work. That was the most common reason for Puerto Rican migration in 1917.

Borinquen was the first in his family to head the mainland, as far as we know. Migration to the states was not common in the early part of the century. In the years 1910-1920, the average annual migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland was only 1,100 people per year.

At some point, Borinquen moved to New York City, enrolled in night classes at Fordham University, and completed a law degree by 1923. He obtained a passport that year to travel to Mexico, Venezuela, Panama and Columbia.

Borinquen married his long-time sweetheart Maria Luisa Dam Puig in Vieques on July, 16 1925. She was a teacher. At the time, he was already a municipal judge in Vieques, handling many marriage licenses. Maria Luisa died a year later, on May 26, 1926 of a pulmonary embolism, very likely due to pregnancy.

Borinquen remarried on December 31, 1927 to Ignacia Román Vazquez, in Rio Piedras.

To be continued...