Sunday, January 28, 2018

January Ancestor of the Month: Mario Valuja Hernandez

Mario Valuja Hernandez: My Dad

Born in La Habana, Cuba,  in La Habana vieja or La Habana, central. The name of the neighborhood is still unclear. Through the years, I’ve been told Bejucal, Vedado, or Marianao, all near Quivican. 

It seems to me, that Havana is a pretty large area, yet it seems no matter where in Havana you’re from it is referred to as La Habana.  I guess, if you’re from there that makes sense, but to me it sounds rather vague. I don’t have his birth certificate to verify the exact location, but I can only hope to find a way to acquire a copy someday.  

A Bit of History...

My grandfather, Juan Valuja, left Cuba around c1908 to go to Tampa, Florida to work as a Cigarmaker.  I believe that is his first trip to Tampa, as per a Passenger List Record I found a few years ago, although, I am still piecing together his story.  
My Grandfather and Grandmother, Juan Valuja Garcia and Maria Hernandez Luis, met and married in Tampa in 1912, and the following year their first child was born. They left the United States to move back to Cuba in the summer of 1915, where their second child was born. 

The Early Years in La Habana.  

In La Habana, Cuba, my grandparents lived on Calle Virtudes, which I believe is where my dad, the youngest of 4 children, was born in 1920. 

The later moved to Calle Maloja in La Habana Central. It is this location, that my family remembers those years with great love and joy as they relay stories about the great house on Calle Maloja, where my grandparents lived. There were many family gatherings, and happy memories about those wonderful days and numerous accounts of how dearly loved my grandparents were by our family and friends

Daddy in his teens. 

Daddy with his 2 sisters, and Uncle Francisco

From a very young age, my dad, always had a great desire and hope to come to America - the land of great opportunity. It seemed his entire family, all had a great love for America and the American Dream, and most of all, New York, the most wonderful and greatest City of the world. Ok, I am biased, as I was born in New York. 

Mario, attained a visa to visit the United States, for the first time in 1946, and absolutely fell in love with New York. He was here for several months and worked in hotel  and restaurants as a waiter. When his Visa expired, he had to return home to Havana, but he knew it would not be long before he would, someday, go back to live permanently. . 

Grandmother, Maria with Daddy and Uncle Jesse, Grand Uncle Francisco

Off to America.

It was 1954, when he was finally, able to immigrate to the United States. Initially, he stayed with his sister, Mercedes, my Aunt Icha, as everyone called her.  She immigrated to the United States, several years earlier, in the late 1940’s. Shortly after she arrived, she landed a job as a seamstress in a Manhattan factory, and was on her way to a new life in a new country with a future of promise.  
At work, she met a woman named Mary, who was also a recent immigrant from Cuba. They had a lot in common, a new country far from their homes and everything familiar, so they became fast friends and shared an apartment..  

                                   Mario Valuja & Maria del Carmen (Matos) Valuja

In early 1955, Mary’s sister, María Del Carmen Matos, came to this country. and stayed with her in their apartment.  She met Mercedes’ brother, Mario, and the rest is history… . they fell in love, married a short time later, and went to live in Brooklyn. I was born in Coney Island, the southern part of Brooklyn, two years later.  

Brooklyn, New York, 1959

Brooklyn and Queens. 

My daddy was a great, loving father. He was a faithful, hard working family man who took good care of his family. We had many friends, and lots of social gatherings. I remember a lot about Brooklyn… Flatbush, Sheepshead Bay, Junior’s famous New York-style Cheesecakes, Coney Island and the famous Coney Island Amusement Park and Boardwalk, and many visits to Brighton Beach. 

By trade, Daddy was proficient in the hotel and restaurant world. He worked for several years as a waiter in upscale hotels, he was well liked and did very well with the public, which he rather enjoyed. He loved to sing and had a great voice.. I think he and his brother, Jesse, must have received the same genes when it came to vocals. They were both great at it, and loved to sing every chance they had. I seem to remember someone had my dad record a demo, many years ago. I remember the Record but, I don't know what happened to it after all these years. 

Eventually, he was given the opportunity to work for The Metropolitan Club on 5th Ave. and 60th St. In Manhattan.  It is next door to the Pierre Club. 
The Metropolitan Club  is a  private social club, in Manhattan, New York City. It was founded in 1891, for men only, by  J. P. Morgan, who served as its first president.  The rules did eventually change and allowed women into membership. Other original members of the club included William Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt and James A. Roosevelt. 

I remember visiting as a little girl from time to time, and how fascinating and beautiful it was. He was a professional bartender in this club and served many famous people and he became friends with a few of them over the years. I remember he would tell me about Richard Nixon, and General MacArthur’s widow, Ed Sullivan, Cecily Tyson, and others that I cannot recall. I remember he was friends with the man that was a friend of Judy Garland and a mentor or coach to Liza Minell, Ms Garlands daughter. My dad did very well there and had great favor as people liked him. He was a people person. He always had a great personality, funny and witty

We eventually moved to Queens Village, New York, where we bought our first home, in the 1960’s. I grew up in this house and remember it very well with many great memories. My sister was born in this home, in the late1960’s. 

Down South to Fort Lauderdale.

In the early 1970’s, we left New York and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 
That was a huge move and change.  Even though, I have been away for a long time now, I am still a New York girl, always and forever, through and through. 
Daddy loved New York, but not the cold so much, and since most of our family was now living in Miami,  we went south to be closer to family. 

1976 - Daddy and Me, as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall, in New York. 

I returned to New York, to work at Radio City Music Hall as a Rockette, then married in the late 1970’s.  We moved to Mobile, Alabama, and a few years down the road, my mom and dad, also relocated there. A big change for them, both. Daddy never really liked Mobile, although they made many friends and he loved being close to us and his five grandchildren. 

I think of those years with such sweet memories of us all together and treasure every moment we had. He was a wonderful, loving father and grandfather. 

Daddy with youngest Granddaughter, Sarah. 

Daddy died in 2001 and I was never the same again. I still miss him so, even after all this time. 
Love you forever, daddy.

The Family Tree
*Mario B Valuja: 
1920—2001, 1920, Bejucal, La Habana, Cuba.  d. 2001, Alabama. 

*Father: Juan Jose Valuja (Baluja) Garcia. 1891—1964, b. 13 Jan 1891  Marianao, La Habana, Cuba. d. 1964  Queens, New York 

*Mother: María Hernandez Luis: 
b. c1879  Bejucal, La Habana, Cuba. d. 1948, Quivican, La Habana, Cuba.  


Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 ~ Happy New Year!!!!

This year I’m hitting the ground running and not thinking about it too much. 
Last week, I read an article by Amy Johnson Crowe called  ‘52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks’
The title caught my attention and as I thought more about it I realized that means a commitment to writing every week. 

Last year, I committed to write in my blog once a month. After about 4 years of hit or miss, I felt I needed to challenge myself to a deadline, of sorts. As a result, I am encouraged to say that I accomplished that challenge as I completed a post each month ending with my last post for 2017, in December. 
Although, committing to write about an ancestor every week sounded a bit daunting at first, I quickly decided to get on board. I figure, even if I cannot do all 52 weeks due to dodging curve-balls throughout the year, I will still be ahead of where I am now.  A win, win, I think. 

I signed up for the weekly prompts as suggested in the article. I believe it will help keep me on track, as well as serve as a weekly reminder. 

Since the first week is ‘Start’, I decided to begin with my dad this week, and my mom next week. Then, I will work up my family tree for the following weeks down the road.  For more details, see Amy Johnson Crowe's article.   

One thing that resonated with me, is that there is flexibility on how you go about it.  You can write on whatever platform you like, such as a blog,  social media, or in the form of a letter to someone.  
My take away, is that the important thing is that you write, and not focus so much on the logistics that can keep us from moving forward. That has been my particular obstacle in the past. 

I plan to make most of my entries here, on my blog, so that I can keep them in one place. I can also use the tag feature for future searches, should I need to refer back, or possibly update information. I may post a link to each post on Facebook and Twitter, as she suggests, as well as adding hashtags to make it searchable.  

I do know that there will be some weeks that I may miss. But I will have to be OK with that, realizing that in the long run I am am still moving forward and making progress.  I think it is important to focus on flexibility, so it can work with our busy lives and schedules.

This is the first month of a brand new sparkly year, and along with it brings new goals, new  projects, assessing current projects, and re-organizing methodology. This often includes patterns of research, re-organizing paper files, digital files... basically, a new beginning in some ways, and completing unfinished projects, in others. 

Either way, we are moving along the road to discovery, connections, and adding more information to some of those stubborn, long-term brick walls. Perhaps, more importantly, making written progress in our own efforts of leaving our generational legacy with our footsteps.  

May your 2018, be happy, enlightening and memorable.