Moving to Puerto Rico in 1973 While Singing Crocodile Rock

caribbean beach

As Mother’s Day approaches I can’t help but think of my mom and grandmother, Abuela who are no longer with us. I miss them both so much. They brought back memories of when we moved to Puerto Rico from New York in 1973. It was quite the culture shock for a 15 year old!

March 1973

I remember the days prior to our move to Puerto Rico.  It was 1973, the long truck full of our belongings sat in our driveway. Elton John was singing Crocodile Rock on the radio.

As I looked out my bedroom window for one of the last times, I wondered if this was going to be a good move. I was scared, but we had traveled to Puerto Rico so many times since I was a little girl.  I loved each visit we made there. I kept telling myself that it was going to be alright.

I had already said goodbye to my friends from school and the neighborhood. As I continued sorting and packing I felt excitement and nervousness all at the same time. I didn’t know how to speak Spanish but I kept pushing that out of my mind.

The day finally arrived and it was time to leave for the airport. As we got in the car I took everything in. The front steps that we would all sit out on in the hot summers eating Popsicles, the rock wall we all worked on together, the dogwood we would lay under and make snow angels, as the snow fell on our faces in the winter. All those memories flooded back to me.

As the car drove us away, I remember looking back at the only house I could remember since I was 5.  We drove past the Green and the Grove where my brother, sister and I used to play for hours at a time. Down the long hill until I no longer could see our house anymore. I turned around and sat quietly looking forward. Now it was real, we were on our way to our new home.

Hours later we landed in Puerto Rico. It was hot and all of our family was waiting for us behind a gate! Everyone was so happy! If I recall correctly my uncle drove us home. I remember feeling a little car sick as he was taking those hair pin curves on our way to Naranjito, the small town we would be moving to. He was driving so fast that I was holding on for dear life.

My Abuela was so funny, even though I barely understood a word she said to me! I could tell she was happy to have us all there with her. My uncles and aunts were always so wonderful to us. We had so many cousins and I couldn’t wait to get to know them even better.

We moved into Abuela’s house until our house was built. My dad was going to be starting on that soon. Although there was a language barrier I began to understand some Spanish. I was terrified of speaking it in fear of making mistakes and being laughed at.

My Abuelo loved to play dominoes and I had fun playing too. One of my uncles used to call me “tramposa”, which means cheater, among other words de cariño of course! I can’t imagine why! I will always remember him playing with a cigarette in one hand and a shot glass on the table. We always had so much fun! There was always laughter, I miss them so much.

I didn’t know Spanish, how was I going to learn it? We had gotten by with the family since most everyone spoke English.  I knew once we started school it was going to be a different story.

Our first day of school came too soon. I was scared and sick to my stomach. I didn’t know what to expect. I was too shy to speak Spanish.

I walked into my math class, and sat down. I think we must have been in the basement, it had a dirt floor. I remember the teacher speaking but it was like when the Charlie Brown cartoon adults speak, “wamp, wamp, wamp” but in Spanish! They could have had the volume completely off, I could barely understand anything. Then all of a sudden a few chickens ran through the classroom! I remember thinking, “oh crap where am I?!”


I don’t know where to start.  I loved Abuela so much. I was always in awe of her abilities to grab a live chicken from the back yard and have it plucked, cooked and served within an hour! I loved those lunches! She was such a strong woman. She suffered quietly; you would have never known the pains that she had lived through in her lifetime. Despite all of that she was always laughing. Her eyes twinkled when she talked! I see her eyes when I look at my uncle.

I used to sit and listen to her stories for hours. She would tell pretend stories of her trips to Europe. When I moved away to college she used to write letters as if she was writing from abroad! Because of those stories I knew that I had to visit those places.  Years later when I walked around Barcelona, I thought of my sweet Abuela who hadn’t been blessed with that opportunity. Her stories of “Espaaaña” and “Barthelona” were so wonderful.

Barcelona, Spain

Photo Property of Lisa Ladrido

Even though she had a kitchen at times she would still cook out back in that big black caldero. She was always busy doing something.  You could always find her washing clothes, hanging them on the line, cleaning, feeding the chickens or cooking, cooking and cooking! The house was always spotless.

She enjoyed going through her family picture albums. We would sit on the side of her bed as I listened to her talk about those times and the people in the photos.

When we used to visit on vacation she still lived in the old house. I remember hearing the rain when it hit the tin roof.  To this day I love that sound. The coquis would be singing as dusk fell, “coqui, coqui, coqui”. The moon would be shining through those swaying palm trees. It was truly perfection!

During those days my hair was quite wild, it was somewhere between an afro and Diana Ross!  Remember we are still in the 1970’s! So at night when we were outside I could feel something swooping by my head! Later I soon found out they were the resident bats from the attic!  I could just imagine one of those babies stuck in my hair, squealing to get out of that nest!

Her house had wooden shutters that covered the windows when it rained.  There were no screens on the windows.  What for?  We had mosquito nets on our beds, and believe me they weren’t only to keep out mosquitoes!

Living in upstate NY I had never seen a cockroach, but these apparently weren’t the ordinary cockroaches. They flew and were over 2 inches long! They were so big you could fit a collar around their necks and take them for a walk!

She taught me how to use the old Singer sewing machine. I do confess getting my finger caught in that needle a few times! I still have that machine sitting here in my home. All of her belongings are still in the drawers as she left them.

I miss my Abuela so much. I wish I had been there during the end. I couldn’t talk to her because my mom was dying and the thought of seeing or hearing that pain would have been dreadful to me. I wanted to spare my Querida Abuelita any pain. Losing a child is tough; knowing that your child is suffering is tougher. I knew that the families were there to take care of her. That gave me comfort.

Now they are all together in Heaven. I picture my uncle and grandfather playing dominoes, my mom holding my baby Alexandra in her lap, while sitting and laughing with my aunts, and my Abuela? Well I am sure she isn’t sitting still in Heaven either!



photo by:
Lisa Ladrido (66 Posts)

Lisa is an R.N. Mom Blogger and the author of Mom Blogger Buzz. She writes about Social Media, Technology, Product Reviews, Blogging Tips, Travel, Family and Health. She and her husband live in the Seattle area. They have 5 sons, 4 grandchildren and 3 furry four legged children!

34 comments for “Moving to Puerto Rico in 1973 While Singing Crocodile Rock

  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)
    May 6, 2015 at 3:57 AM

    Your Abuela sounds like such an amazing lady. So happy that you were able to make so many great memories with her.

    • May 6, 2015 at 5:41 AM

      Yes, she was Robin. Thank you!

  2. May 6, 2015 at 5:45 AM

    What a beautiful tribute. There is nothing like a Grandma’s love.
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  3. May 6, 2015 at 5:53 AM

    What a great story! I miss my grandma a lot! I was always grandma’s girl when I was growing up and am so fortunate to have had her with me for so long. Thank you for sharing your abuela story with us!
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  4. May 6, 2015 at 6:19 AM

    Your grandma sounds so lovely. This is a warm reminder that I need to call and check in on my grandma today and not let busy life be a priority.
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  5. May 6, 2015 at 7:17 AM

    Such wonderful memories! I have few memories with my grandmother but what I do remember are here eyes. It is amazing how they way someone looks at us stays with us.
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  6. Kathryn
    May 6, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    What a sweet tribute! I have fond memories of my grandmother as well.

  7. aimee fauci
    May 6, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    Now those are some amazing memories ! I love the chicken story.

  8. May 6, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    what a beautiful post. So happy you got to make so many happy memories to pass on.
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  9. Rachelle J
    May 6, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    What a wonderful story! I love thinking back of times spent with my own Grandmother. Luckily she is still living and is able to make memories with my daughter :)

  10. May 6, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    Wow! What an adventure you had! Sometimes the times in our life that are the hardest are the ones that we look back on and remember most fondly thanks to the PEOPLE who were part of it.
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  11. May 6, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    Grandmothers are the best. My mom lived in Puerto Rico when she was a teenager. Her stories are so great.
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  12. May 6, 2015 at 11:36 AM

    I loved reading this! It made me feel like I was there. I was nervous for you! Such crazy, wonderful, fun, exciting, brilliant, and awesome memories! Your Abuela seems like she was a phenomenal woman and how blessed you are to have had her in your life! Such a beautiful tribute!
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  13. May 6, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    What an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by such loving family. You are truly blessed to have had such a close relationship with your abuela. She sounds like an awe-inspiring lady!
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  14. Pam
    May 6, 2015 at 12:26 PM

    Your post is so sweet! Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful lady. Plus, I think I would have been shocked over the chickens running into the classroom too!
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  15. May 6, 2015 at 12:39 PM

    What a beautiful story. Isn’t family everything? I loved the imagery you painted of this time just with words.
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  16. May 6, 2015 at 12:39 PM

    What a beautiful story! Your grandma sounds like a wonderful lady. I
    Chickens running into a classroom? Sounds pretty funny.

  17. May 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    What a sweet post! Makes me wish I had known your family!

  18. Pam
    May 6, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    What a beautiful post. It is great to have so many of those warm memories. I have some of the same type too…like the rain hitting the metal roof. I think as you get older those memories are just so much more precious.

  19. May 6, 2015 at 5:16 PM

    What a blessing to have those memories of your abuela. She looks beautiful in the photo. I’d take experiences over things anyday.
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  20. May 6, 2015 at 5:37 PM

    What a wonderful story! She sounds like a lovely woman . Love the pictures of the area,
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  21. May 6, 2015 at 7:21 PM

    Your Abuela sounds like an amazing lady. Isn’t it amazing how much our grandmother’s influenced our lives. I learn so many life lessons and wish that they knew how much they taught me.
    Uplifting Families recently posted..How to Talk To Your Tweens or Teens About Tough Topics #FindYourBold #adMy Profile

  22. May 6, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    such beautiful memories! i also have a dream of living in another country someday! =)

  23. May 6, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    What a great story! Such wonderful memories!
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  24. Rosey
    May 7, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    I love that you have such good memories! My grandmother was an amazing woman too. I am so very thankful she was a part of my life.

  25. May 7, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    What a great story! I am so glad you shared that with us–I certainly haven’t lived anything like that in my day. This is why I love blogs!!

  26. Kat
    May 7, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Wow, I love the story-telling you do! this is a great, beautiful way to immortalize your grandma.
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  27. May 7, 2015 at 10:34 AM

    What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing with us. I miss my grandmother too.
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  28. May 7, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    What a culture shock moving from NY to Puerto Rico must have been for you. It would have been so hard to leave behind your friends. Puerto Rico is so beautiful. I have always wanted to go there.

  29. Megan @ C'mon Get Crafty
    May 7, 2015 at 12:35 PM

    I’m sure your Abuela would be touched by your loving remembrance. She seems like she was quite a special lady!

  30. May 7, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    Your Abuela reminds me a lot of my Tata in Spain. She also taught me how to sew and many other wonderful things that have served me well as a woman and a mother.
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  31. June 4, 2015 at 1:37 AM

    Very touching story, Lisa. I’m sure your Abuela feels your love any time you mention her or think about her and smiles. Thank you for opening your heart before us. I wish you all the best!

  32. Joy
    June 5, 2015 at 6:16 AM

    I dream of moving to Puerto Rico! I love the music, the language, the climate and the stunning nature! I am more than happy to find your blog! This is such a touching story… I really enjoyed reading! :)

  33. July 18, 2015 at 8:46 PM

    I haven’t heard that song in such a long time. I’ve heard Puerto Rico is nice.

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