OF PUERTO RICO
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NEW WORLD NEIGHBORS
Three years ago in Puerto Rico, Muna Lee told me stories of the
soldier-dog, Becerrillo, and of Ponce de Le6n, and of the voyages,
and the discoveries, and the Indian wars. I thought then that
these tales about the island of Puerto Rico ought to be written
down, and that Muna Lee was the person to write them. As this
little book will indicate to young and old, she knows and oves
Children make an alarming audience for any writer to fa e,
for they must be spoken to sincerely and truthfully, and yet w th
a communication of the sense of life which they have a right to
demand. Perhaps because Muna Lee is a poet, and a very is-
tinguished poet, her audience of children has not frightened er.
She writes at once with truth and with simplicity and with *fe.
There are many things in Puerto Rico we Americans in he
United States might well wish changed-many things for w ich
we are responsible. But the sea and the wind and the past are.
things we must wish to leave as they are, only desiring to 1ow
more of each of them. It is these things of which Mun Lee
writes, and her book gives, therefore, the understanding/all of
us, young and old, must wish to have. Puerto Rico s now
American, but it was always Caribbean, and will always be
.Caribbean, however the world changes. These are Caribbean
stories and to read them is to live a little while under that
eternal wind and by that ancient water.
Washington, D. C.
OF PUERTO RICO
D. C. HEATH AND COMPANY
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO ATLANTA
SAN FRANCISCO DALLAS LONDON
Copyright, x944, by D. C. Heath and Company
Printed in the U. S. A.
PANCHO AND THE ADMIRAL
THE VIRGINIA VOYAGERS
THE YANKEE PRIVATEERS
VICTIMS OF THE HURRICANE
THEIR OWN PLOT OF GROUND
FORTUNES OF A FAMILY, 1493-1943
Christopher Columbus made four voyages to the
New World. He discovered Puerto Rico during
the second of those voyages, on November 19, 1493.
Among the soldiers accompanying him was Juan
Ponce de Le6n, who first settled in the city of Santo
Domingo on the neighboring island of Hispaniola.
Ponce de Le6n was a brave and able soldier and
an ambitious man. When Puerto Rico was settled
by the Spaniards several years after the discovery,
he became the island's first governor. He con-
quered and almost exterminated the native Borin-
quen Indians, and encouraged Spanish colonists to
build homes and cultivate the land.
Many present-day Puerto Rican families are
directly descended from the soldiers and settlers
who came with Ponce de Le6n. The five stories in
this book follow the fortunes of a typical, but im-
aginary, family descended from one of Ponce de
Le6n's soldier-settlers. We have called this family
Toro, a name which is as usual in Spanish as
Brown or Jones in English. Each story deals with
a boy belonging to that family, a boy named Fran-
cisco Toro. (Pancho, Paquito, Pachin, and Paco
are all nicknames for Francisco.)
The first story deals with Pancho Toro, who
saw Ponce de Le6n set sail for Florida in 1521.
The second is about Francisco Toro, who might
have been Pancho's great-great-grandson, and his
encounter with some Englishmen who landed at
Puerto Rico. The third story tells how Paquito
Toro played a small part in keeping two American
ships from falling into British hands in 1777. The
fourth records how the great hurricane of 1899 led,
indirectly, to Dr. Bailey K. Ashford's discovery
of the hookworm. The final story is based on the
distribution, by the government of Puerto Rico, of
land to poor families so that they may grow the
food that they need.
All these stories are true stories in their essential
facts. All the dates and the details are written down
in history, and may be verified in contemporary
chronicles or modern government reports.
-.-. :1 .i ,'.'-51 -
PANCHO AND THE ADMIRAL
The Toro family were among the first
Spanish colonists in Puerto Rico. Pancho's
father was an old soldier, strong in loyalty
to Ponce de Leon, and eager to help when
his former leader outfitted an expedition
to Florida in 1521.
It was just after daybreak, in late February, 1521,
and the great fronds of the palm trees creaked
pleasantly outside the little house with the thatched
roof. Pancho Toro smiled drowsily, half asleep.
That sound always made him think of soldiers.
Their shirts of mail gave out the same ringing
noise when the wearers marched along or reined
in their spirited horses.
At the thought, Pancho rubbed the sleep from
his eyes and jumped from his hammock. This was
the day that his father and he were to go over the
mountain to San German, where many soldiers
would be, and many horses; more of both than
Pancho had ever seen together at one time in all
his short life. For this was the day when the Ad-
miral, Don Juan Ponce de Le6n, was to go sailing
off from Puerto Rico to finish discovering some
strange place called Florida.
Pancho had no idea where Florida was. He knew
only that everybody that his father had spoken to
for these many months past had talked of the same
thing. The Admiral was calling upon his old sol-
diers, and upon settlers who were raising their
crops and their herds, and was persuading as many
as he could to make this voyage with him. In Puerto
Rico the Indians had been conquered, he told them,
and farms and towns ha4 been laid out on this
tropical island discovered by Columbus less than
thirty years ago. Life was dull here now for men
of adventurous spirit. There were beautiful un-
known lands to be discovered for the greater glory
of God and of Spain. Let those who loved only
peace and quiet hold back, but let the bold and
venturesome go with him.
These were Ponce de Le6n's arguments, and, in
truth, many persons had decided to make the trip
to Florida. Even Pancho's father, here on his hill-
side farm, had become restless, remembering the
days when he too was one of the Admiral's sol-
diers. That had been before a blow from an Indian
stone ax had left him with a crippled arm. But a
lamed man could make no voyages of disc
The most he could do was to go with his son to the
little port of San German, to.say farewell to his
As for Pancho himself, he felt that the trip over
the mountain and into town was as exciting as any
voyage could be. He could hardly wait to get
started. As he ran outdoors, he saw that his parents
were wrapping up small parcels in neat square
pieces of yautia leaves. His father held up several
round, whitish sweet potatoes and a handful of
"These are for the Admiral to take to Florida,"
he announced proudly. "He is a man of prudence
and foresight. He goes forth not to lay waste the
land he finds but to make it more fruitful, a place
fit for man and beast to live. That is why for these
six months past he has urged everybody to bring in
seed of the best and finest fruits and vegetables, that
he might sow them in Florida when he starts a
settlement there. That is why he is taking good
farmers with him, and livestock. He is a shrewd
man, our Admirall"
As he finished speaking, he tied up the last of the
leaf-wrapped bundles, and said briskly, "All ready,
now! Let's be off, Pancho!"
It was a long journey, five hours' trudging by
the sun down the valley and across the mountain,
and then a good hour's walk along the beach.
They were well on their way, each with a-palm-
leaf basket full of choice seeds and tubers slung
from his shoulder, when Pancho, who had been
thinking over all that he had ever heard about Don
Juan Ponce de Le6n, asked, "Father, did you ever
see the big dog, Becerrillo?"
"Of course. I used to see him in the days when I
was a soldier. All Ponce de Le6n's men knew
Becerrillo, a great bloodhound, in color between
yellow and red. He was not just a dog, that Bece-
rrillo. He was a soldier, too."
"How could a dog be a soldier?" Pancho de-
"Becerrillo was a soldier because our governor
and captain, the Admiral Don Juan Ponce de
Le6n, made him a soldier," his father answered.
"Becerrillo's name was carried on the rolls and he
received the pay and a half of a cross-bowman. He
earned it all. He was a good soldier, that dog."
"But what did he do?" persisted Pancho.
"When Ponce de Le6n was new to this island,
and we were fighting the Indians night and day,
Becerrillo would fight alongside us in the open or
lie in ambush, just as we did. He would do sentry
duty at night like a man, and better than any man.
When the moment came to charge, no Indian could
withstand him. He would down one with a single
leap. The Indians soon learned to flee when they
saw him coming-or even when they thought he
might come. It was a strange thing," Pancho's
father added reflectively, "but that animal never
made a mistake. He could always tell a Spaniard
from an Indian, and even a good Indian from a bad
Indian. Never once did Becerrillo attack an Indian
that had been baptized."
Pancho shifted the basket of potatoes to ease his
shoulder, and asked another question. "Is it true
that before Ponce de Le6n came to the island none
of the dogs in Puerto Rico could bark?"
"Well," his father answered thoughtfully, "I
think that it is true and is not true. The Indians
used to keep an animal about their dwellings that
did not bark, certainly. It looked rather like a small
dog. Maybe it was a dog. Maybe it was something
else. I never saw one very close and there are none
about any more."
"Perhaps they were pigs," suggested Pancho.
"Now, that is foolish of you, my son," his father
answered reprovingly. "There were no pigs on this
island-no, nor cows nor goats nor horses-until
Spaniards brought them here. When Columbus
discovered Puerto Rico and landed not so very far
from where we are now, one of his companions
loosed some pigs and goats from the livestock car-
ried aboard the ship. It was his hope that-these
animals might live and breed here in Puerto Rico,
until such time as the Spaniards should return. And
that is just what occurred. The herds. increased,
running wild among the palms and mamey groves.
But as for those dumb dogs, they were always here.
Not that I like dumb dogs myself," he ended de-
cisively. "It is a dog's nature to bark, and barking
keeps their spirit up. You should have heard Bece-
rrillo on a moonlight night!"
Pancho could not help thinking that it was more
comfortable to listen to stories about Becerrillo
than it would have been to hear him.
"Was all this long ago?" he asked-finally.
"Very long ago," his father replied. "It was all
of fifteen years after Columbus discovered this
Island that Don Juan Ponce de Le6n came to gov-
ern and subdue the Indians, bringing with him
Becerrillo and many men-at-arms. Men came to
raise crops, too, and carry on all the work needful
for a settlement. During long years the Admiral
and his soldiers fought the Indians until only a few
remain, shy people in the forest and timid fishers
along the coast. Becerrillo saw many battles before
he died a soldier's death. And that was long before
you were born, my son."
They had crossed the flank of a mountain by this
time and were descending toward the coast. Pancho
forgot all about the fierce old dog Becerrillo and
those small dumb dogs of the Indians, when, all at
once, he caught a breath-taking view of the sea.
Sure enough, they had come at last to the seaport
town of San Germain, a mere handful of houses.
In the sunny, palm-fringed harbor two vessels
swung gently with the motion of the sea. Their
bright sails glinted in the sunshine and their great
curving prows looked proud and strong. The decks
were crowded with men.
Pancho's father pointed excitedly. "There are
the ships! Look, my son, how strong and graceful
they are, riding the waters of the bay! The vessels
were provisioned in San Juan. But the Admiral is
taking some men from here, besides those he
brought from the northern part of the island. Also,
he is taking on cattle. He is a wise man, our Ad-
miral. That is why I know that he will be glad
to have my sweet potato tubers and these fine guava
seeds that will grow fruit as big as your fist and
rich as cream."
They were being pushed and jostled now by
crowds of men in the little town, all hurrying
toward the beach where piraguas, small Indian
boats with a single sail, each laden with men and
produce, were pushing off toward the two vessels
in the bay. Pancho's father walked up boldly to a
big fellow in a jerkin, who was checking off the
little boats as they were loaded, and said, "I bring
a gift here for the Admiral Don Juan Ponce de
The big man gave him hardly more than a
glance. "You know the saying about the Admiral,"
he answered forbiddingly. "Ponce de Le6n is no
friend to those who are friends of gifts."
"This is no present brought that I might ask a
favor," Pancho's father retorted hotly. "I am an
old soldier of Ponce de Le6n's. I bring roots and
seed for his plantings in Florida."
"Oh, that puts quite a different light on the mat-
ter," the big man said. "The last boatloads are
going out, for the vessels are about to sail. You
might take your stuff aboard, you and the boy. That
is," he ended doubtfully, "if it is really good seed."
"The biggest and finest potatoes and guavas on
all this island," retorted Pancho's father stoutly.
The big man laughed. "Climb into that boat,
then, and lend a hand," he told them. "May the
Admiral eat the fruits of your gift"
Pancho was almost dazed with wonder and de-
light. He could not believe that it was happening
to him, to Pancho Toro from up in the mountains.
To think that he was actually in a boat bearing out
toward the ship where Ponce de Le6n was; that he
might even see the Admiral with his own eyes.
Once on deck, Pancho found himself pushed
against a roll of rope, while his father hurried off
to add the roots and seeds to the ship's stores.
Pancho's eager eyes took in everything. Here a
soldier was polishing a sword hilt with a bit of
rag; there another sharpened an ax. A tall boy of
sixteen or seventeen stood a little apart and gazed
at the mountains of Puerto Rico, soft green against
the soft blue sky, as if he were wondering when he
would see them again.
"Who are you, snooping about?" asked a voice
sharply. Pancho looked up, startled, to meet a pair
of green eyes.
"Please, sir, I am not
snooping. That is, I don't
mean to snoop," he said, '
almost stuttering with ex-
citement. "But-but do
you think I might see the '
Admiral Don Juan Ponce
"See the Admiral!" The green-eyed man re-
peated his words in astonishment. "When Don Juan
Ponce de Le6n is preparing to set sail, do you think
that he would have time for a boy like you? Or
even if he weren't sailing, for that matter!"
"Oh, no, sir," Pancho assured him earnestly. "I
don't mean for him to see me. I just want to catch
a glimpse of him."
Just then an elderly man came up and spoke in a
worried voice. "The medal that the Admiral's
daughter Dofia Leonor gave him as a parting gift
cannot be found. Could it have been dropped out
here, do you think?"
The green-eyed man looked doubtful. "Maybe
so," he said; "but it hardly seems likely. Boy!" he
exclaimed to Pancho, "did you hear? Look lively
and see if you can find a medal dropped here on
the deck-a gold medal."
Pancho dropped down to his hands and knees.
After a few minutes of eager, fruitless searching,
he straightened up and thought, "Now, if I were
a gold medal, where would I hide?"
Though he thought very hard, he could not
think of a satisfactory place to hide if he were a
gold medal. So he asked himself another question,
thinking of the most precious thing that his mother
possessed. "When my mother loses her thimble,
how do I find it?" And he smiled to himself, be-
cause it was a good joke on his mother that, usually,
when she called on him to help find her thimble,
it was on her finger all the time. She never really
lost it, though she often thought she had.
Then an idea occurred to him. Perhaps the Ad-
miral was sometimes absent-minded, as his mother
was. Perhaps at this very moment his medal was
hanging on a gold chain around his neck, under-
neath his shirt, as men were accustomed to wear
such medals that they prized dearly. The more
Pancho thought about it, the more he felt sure that
that was where the medal was.
Finally he screwed up enough courage to tell the
man with the green eyes what he was thinking. The
man brought his fist down on a stack of hides with
"Do you think I am going into the Admiral
with such a crazy idea as that?" he demanded.
"Who on earth would suggest to Don Juan Ponce
de Le6n that he has that medal hanging on his
"I know," said Pancho, "but still, he might
"I'll not be the one to tell him sol" cried the
The elderly man came on deck again. "The
Admiral is really depressed by losing that bit of
gold," he said, looking worried. "He feels it an ill
omen to sail without the parting gift that his
daughter gave him with so many prayers for his
safety. The time for sailing is at hand. I wish that
we might find it before weighing anchor."
The green-eyed man cleared his throat. "Er-
er-Don Martin," he began hesitantly.
"Well, what is it, man?" Don Martin asked
"Do you know anything about it?" Don Martin
demanded urgently. "Speak up, if you do!"
"I don't know anything, Don Martin, but this
boy here-it's just a foolish idea of his-but there
might be something in it."
"Well, boy, tell me your idea at once," Don
Martin said to Pancho, who stood by almost
"If you will pardon me, sir," he said, finding his
voice, "I think the Admiral may be wearing the
medal. Like my mother's thimble."
Don Martin looked as if he were about to burst.
"What is this about the Admiral and your mother's
thimble?" he shouted angrily.
"Oh, sir," Pancho said, "I only meant that
when my mother thinks that she has lost her
thimble, often it is really on her finger. And it may
be that the Admiral is wearing his medal and has
forgotten that he put it on the chain around his
"That is absurdI" exclaimed Don Martin. Then
he looked thoughtful. "Who knows?" he said. "But
who would dream of suggesting such a thing to
the Admiral himself?"
As he stood undecided, there was sudden silence.
All eyes turned toward a tall, bearded man with
piercing eyes who came out on deck. Pancho's
heart almost stopped beating as he realized that
this was the Admiral Don Juan Ponce de Le6n.
And then he saw something strange and wonderful.
The Admiral was talking to Pancho's own father.
Bidding him farewell, the Admiral said, "We
saw many fights together in those days, old soldier
of mine. I wish that you were going with me to
colonize the fair land of Florida."
Don Martin heard this, too, and felt emboldened.
He made a quick decision. "Don Juan," he said,
"this boy has a suggestion about your medal,"
Ponce de Le6n looked sharply at Pancho.
"What! You have found my medal?" he asked.
Poor Pancho wished that the earth would swal-
low him, especially when he saw the dumfounded
look on his father's face. How could he ever explain
himself to the Admiral, Pancho wondered. And
suppose he did do so, and the medal was nowhere
to be found?
Pancho gulped and answered in a quavering
voice, "Your mercy, had you thought of looking to
see if you are wearing it?"
For one moment the Admiral's eyes gazing into
his seemed to Pancho as fierce as Becerrillo's might
have been. Then the stern, haughty look softened,
and a glint of amusement shone in it. Without
uttering a word, Don Juan Ponce de Le6n fingered
at his throat and drew out from underneath his
collar a long glittering chain. Pancho held his
breath. So did his father. So did Don Martin. The
Admiral looked at something dangling from the
end of the chain; then held it up for all to see the
round gold medal carved with the figure of St.
John and the Lamb.
"My boy," said Ponce de Le6n to Pancho, "be-
cause of you I sail with a lightened heart. You
have found my medal as truly as if you had fished
it up from the sea. And now, ashore all who do not
sail with me! God keep you safe on this island of
Puerto Rico I"
THE VIRGINIA VOYAGERS
The Toro family, after several genera-
tions, had moved down from the moun-
tains and were raising cattle and ginger
near the southern coast of the island.
Meantime, in these early years of the sev-
enteenth century, Puerto Rico was suffer-
ing from frequent attacks by English,
Dutch, and French pirates.
"This is good pasture," Francisco said, as he looked
at the six cows, knee-deep in lush green grass.
Fernando, his elder brother, nodded his head.
"The only trouble is, it is too near the sea for com-
fort," he answered. "You know the pirates, how
they have been swooping down on Puerto Rico
more than ever lately, and especially here on the
southern coast. Don't you remember that San Ger-
man used to be built right on the shore, until pirate
raids grew so frequent that the townspeople moved
up into the hills and rebuilt their homes there for
safety's sake? Dutch, French, and English-they
are all alike when it comes to harassing Puerto
"Well, I hope that the pirates keep off until our
cows have got the good of this fine grass," Francisco
repeated. He sat down cross-legged on a stone and
began in leisurely fashion to eat the fruit from a
sea grape that spread broad leaves beside it.
It was a pleasant autumn day, the twentieth of
October, in the year 16o6. The pasture land that so
pleased the two boys and their cattle was a field of
wild grasses beside the Caribbean Sea on the south-
ern shore of Puerto Rico. They were very proud
of their herd, and very careful of it. Aged seventeen
and thirteen, Fernando and Francisco Toro had
been orphaned several years before. They and the
aunt who lived with them made a frugal living
from their cows and from a carefully tended patch
Along the edge of the shore, screening the pas-
turage from the sea, ran a belt of mangrove trees,
wading into the sea itself on their stiltlike, many-
pronged roots. While they ate sea grapes and talked
about the possibility of a hostile ship landing for-
eigners on their coast, a strange boat entered the
little cove fringed by the mangrove trees, without
the two boys noticing its approach. It was a very
small boat indeed, an English vessel of fifty-five
tons. But when the LWO boys looked up at last and
saw a spread of white sails above the tops of the
mangroves, it seemed to them enormous.
"What shall we do?" demanded Francisco in
terror. "Let's drive the cows up into the hills!"
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"We have no time for that now," replied Fer-
nando. His face was pale and set as he thought for
a moment. "All we can do is to wait here and try
to persuade those foreigners not to take our cattle;
or, if they insist on taking them, to pay us for them.
There is not much hope, but it is our only chance."
"I'd rather have my pinta cow drowned than
have them take her away," Francisco told his
brother sadly, as his eyes dwelt on the spotted
heifer that was his special pride and care.
A hullo sounded from the shore, and the boys
drew closer together in an instinct of mutual pro-
tection. An oddly assorted group of ten or twelve
men appeared, coming up past the mangroves.
"What kind of people are those two in the middle?"
asked Francisco in a shaking voice, pointing to
two strange red-skinned savages with feathers in
"I can't imagine!" returned Fernando in equal
amazement. Then he said excitedly, "Why, they
must be those red Indians from the countries far
to the north that we have heard tales about. Do you
suppose that Indians are turning pirates, too?"
"Oh, Fernando!" Francisco cried, as the group
came still nearer. "One of the men is beckoning to
us. Why, it is a priest!"
It was quite true that, as the group approached,
a gaunt man in the torn and tattered robe of a Fran-
ciscan friar advanced and made the sign of the
cross. The boys responded wonderingly.
"Peace be with you, my children," the priest
said in Spanish. "Do not be afraid. These good
men are friends."
The two brothers looked at each other in aston-
ishment, then gazed with wonder at the friar and
the several sturdy, sun-tanned, blond foreigners
who escorted him. Last, and most amazedly, they
stared at the two savages with their strange red
skins and haughty, high-cheeked faces.
The priest noted their wondering, half-fearful
look, and said reassuringly, "These are kindly men,
my sons, all of them, even these redskins whose
names are Mannido and Assacomoit. They are In-
dians from the English colony of Virginia far off
in North America. Last year five such wild but
friendly savages were taken to England, that folk
there might see what manner of men are native to
those Virginian lands. Three of them, I am told,
have remained in London where they are objects
of great interest. These two are returning home.
The others with me are English colonists on their
way to the colony of Virginia."
The two redskins understood none of this, but
apparently they recognized their own names and
were aware that the boys they had come upon on I
this island coast were regarding them with wide-
eyed interest. Both Indians showed their teeth in a
broad grin and suddenly ejaculated a few guttural
syllables. Their intention was amiable, to show
friendliness and good humor, but as a matter of
fact, they frightened Francisco so much that he
almost fell off the rock into the big bush of sea
The other men accompanying the priest burst
into laughter. One of them said then in Spanish,
"See, here, lads, we have landed here for one pur-
pose only, to set this good friar ashore. I am John
Stoneman, pilot of the Richard of Plymouth. We
left Plymouth on August twelfth, twenty-nine of
us aboard. Our boat is bound for the northern plan-
tations of Virginia, with Nicholas Hine of Dart-
mouth as master of the vessel." He was evidently
trying to reassure the boys as to the good intentions
of the crew.
The priest here explained gently, "They have
saved my life, my sons, and it is for that reason
only that they have landed here in Puerto Rico."
"Why, I thought they wanted our cows!" Fran-
cisco blurted out.
"Be quiet, Francisco," whispered Fernando. He
then asked, "But how came your life to be in dan-
"It is a long story," the friar answered, "and I
should like my good friend John to relate it."
"It was like this," John Stoneman said. "When
we were off the island of Hispaniola a fortnight
since, we saw a white flag bobbing up and down
on shore. While we wondered what that could
mean, a canoe pushed out toward our ship with a
half-dozen savage Caribs in it. Then to our amaze-
ment we saw that the Father here was aboard it
"And I had no idea that John could speak Span-
ish," interrupted the friar, "and so called out in
Latin, beseeching them as they were Christians
to show mercy and compassion on me. I told them
who I am, a humble preacher belonging to the
Order of St. Francis, by name Friar Blas, who set
sail two years since from Seville."
"There were several aboard who understood the
Latin," John Stoneman explained. "But when we
heard that Friar Bias was Spanish, I became in-
terpreter. He told us that he had been, for sixteen
months, a slave to those Carib savages, and that two
other friars of his Order, who went with him to
Hispaniola, had been murdered brutally and cast
into the sea."
"God be praised that they spared you, Father!"
exclaimed Fernando. "But how did you escape?"
"They were about to kill me also," the friar said.
"But it chanced that some of their tribe came in
from a neighboring island with a great store of
stout linen cloth, salvaged from a galleon that had
been wrecked there. I showed them how to make
sails for their canoes, to ease the hard labor of row-
ing. It was their first experience with sails, and
they spared my life in hope of my teaching them
much more useful lore."
"As you may well believe," John Stoneman con-
cluded, "we were moved to compassion by the harsh
fate of this distressed priest, who had dealt so kindly
with those who treated him so ill. So that is why
we have come ashore in Puerto Rico, to leave Friar
Bias among those of his own faith and race and
tongue. Will you receive him?"
"Receive him!" Fernando cried. "He is most
welcome and brings a blessing with him." At this
point, as the younger boy pulled at his arm and
tried to say something in his ear, he asked a little
impatiently, "Well, what is it, Francisco? What are
you saying?" Then after listening to his brother's
whisper, he said warmly, "Of course Tell these
English friends what you want."
"Only this," declared Francisco. He came run-
ning forward with Pinta, giving her a gentle pat
as he led her over to John Stoneman. "This is the
finest heifer of our herd, and we would like you to
have her as a token of our gratitude for your great
goodness to Friar Bias."
THE YANKEE PRIVATEERS
In 1777, in North America, the thirteen
colonies were fighting their war for inde-
pendence. In Puerto Rico the Toro fam-
ily, tending a little truck farm, had not
heard about the war; but Puerto Rico had
a part in it, nevertheless.
The news got around quickly. Every man and boy
in Mayagiiez seemed to be hurrying toward the
wharf. Women flocked out on the balconies of all
the houses that faced the harbor.
Everybody was looking at the schooner Endo-
wack and the sloop Henry, which had just taken
refuge in the harbor of the quiet Puerto Rican
town. A pursuing British man-of-war under full
sail stood out against the horizon, making for the
port of Mayagiiez as fast as wind and seamanship
could bring her. Every person in the crowd was
trying to get a good view of the two ships at anchor
and of the vessel headed toward them.
Twelve-year-old Paquito Toro, astride his sturdy
little horse Rubio; had a better chance than most
to make a way for himself and was quick to take
advantage of it. Some people grumbled as the
horse ridden by the wide-eyed twelve-year-old
country boy calmly pushed through the crowd, but
most merely looked surprised and laughed. Then,
again, all gave their attention to the harbor.
As for Paquito himself, he saw no reason why
he and Rubio should not get a good look at what-
ever there was to be seen. He had come down from
the mountains early that Saturday morning, the
first of August, 1777, his saddle-baskets filled with
yuca and yautia and plump ears of corn to sell.
But before he could reach the public market on
the plaza, he had been swept along with this ex-
cited crowd hastening to the seaside. Paquito came
to town only once or twice a year, and never before
had he come alone. It was important for him to
sell all his vegetables and take the money home to
his parents, but at the same time he felt that he
and Rubio must learn what caused this disturbance.
At last they found themselves at the water's very
edge. The horse planted his feet firmly on the sand,
and Paquito settled himself more comfortably. All
about them echoed talk and exclamations. On the
bay, besides the foreign sloop- and schooner, were
several small barks, and the boat in which the cap-
tain of the port had been rowed out to confer with
the commanders of the two vessels seeking refuge.
From the mastheads of the Henry and the
Endowack alike fluttered a flag. Paquito had seen
few flags in his life and certainly never one so
strange. Each bore a snake coiled to strike, a rattle-
snake, if Paquito had known, with a warning in
bold letters underneath-DON'T TREAD ON ME
"There is going to be trouble here," an elderly
man standing near by said soberly to his neighbors,
as he watched the man-of-war tack and veer and v
come ever nearer. Then several voices cried out
together, "Look! They are coming ashore!"
In fact, the captains of the Henry and Endowack
were being taken on to the port captain's boat, and
the sailors from both vessels were clambering into
their own ships' boats that they had lowered to the
water. A great cheer went up from the men of
Mayagiiez as the seamen plied the oars and made
for the wharf, though all eyes strayed anxiously
every few minutes toward the man-of-war.
Paquito edged Rubio a little closer to the man
who had predicted trouble. "Would you please tell
me, sir, why everybody is so alarmed?" he asked.
The elderly man, who had been shading his eyes
with his hand as he gazed anxiously out to sea,
looked at the boy and answered him, kindly enough
but a little impatiently. "The Endowack and the
Henry are merchant vessels that have armed to
protect themselves. They are Yankee ships, which
means that they come from the English continental
colonies in North America that are fighting for
their independence. That bigger vessel out at sea
making for port here is a British warship chasing
"The Yankees are coming ashore Viva!" cried
the crowd again.
Everybody surged forward. The North Ameri-
cans looked on anxiously as the Spanish port cap-
tain spoke to the crowd. "That British vessel is the
Glasgow, a man-of-war carrying twenty guns," he
said. "Evidently, she intends to come in here to
take this sloop and schooner as prizes, and these
men as prisoners."
"No!" went up the shout from every throat. The
Spanish official smiled. It was evident that he had
expected this response and that it gratified him.
"Of course, we will offer hospitality to the ships'
captains and to these seamen," he continued. "As
you of Mayagiiez know, King Carlos of Spain
ordered ten months ago, in November, 1776, that
boats belonging to the North American continental
colonies should be admitted to Puerto Rican ports,
with the same rights as the boats of all friendly
Then he turned to a young man beside him, his
interpreter, and said, "Say to these North Ameri-
can seamen that, although our town is undefended,
they are welcome to the shelter of our city."
The commanders of the North American vessels
thanked him. Then the elder of the two said some-
thing urgently to the interpreter, who repeated it
in Spanish: "He says that they are very grateful,
. ; .k '
but that that man-of-war about to make port will
take their ships as prizes. Although their vessels
have only ten guns between them and their ammu-
nition has run very low, they frel that they must
fight rather than lose their ships without trying to
save them." v
As he and the rest listened eagerly to all this,
Paquito was more excited than he had ever been in
his life. The big warship was very close at hand
and looked terrifying. Would there be cannon-fire?
He wondered if Rubio, too, felt the tension in the
air, as he patted the horse's mane reassuringly.
"No," the port captain was saying. "We will
have no fighting here, and your ships will not be
taken. Trust us, my friends. We shall carry out the
orders of King Carlos and our own desire, which is
to help you. No, do not argue-you have no time
to spare. Hurry away with these good citizens, Don
Alberto and Don Ernesto, and leave the question
of your ships to us. They will not be taken."
The Yankee seamen looked at one another,
looked at their sloop and schooner, looked at the
man-of-war flying toward them. Then the captain
of the Endowack said, through the interpreter,
"We accept your offer, sir, and are grateful, but
you must forgive us if we go with heavy hearts.
We are citizens of the North American colonies,
where seamen and landsmen alike are struggling
to make our country free. It is not only that we
dread to lose our ships, whose cargoes are urgently
needed by General George Washington, but that
we especially dread to lose them to the Glasgow.
That vessel has pursued us without rest a long way.
The Glasgow has done much harm, not only to our
valiant merchant vessels, but also to our brave con-
tinental navy. Only a few months ago she met a
squadron of our boats off Rhode Island, and dam-
aged them greatly; and ever since has constantly
harassed our merchant shipping. It is dreadful to
see the Glasgow coming into this port where our
ships lie helpless against her. You are very kind,
but what can kindness do against cannon balls?
With no guns to defend your port, how can you
possibly save our ships?"
The port captain smiled. "I repeat that you need
not fear for your ships, Captain. What Mayagiiez
lacks in guns, she will make up in ingenuity. But
go now, with these good gentlemen, you and your
men; and try to believe me when I say that there
is no need to worry."
So the Yankees went off with Don Ernesto and
Don Alberto in search of rest and refreshment.
They went, truth to tell, not very happily, and with
several lingering backward looks at the Endowack
and the Henry.
As soon as they were gone, the port captain's air
changed to one of brisk decision. "We must hurry I"
he said to the townspeople crowding round him.
"First, let us see how much time we have." He
studied the oncoming Glasgow a moment and made
a mental calculation. "We have about half an hour
before that man-of-war can anchor," he said. "Juan,
take Erasmo with you and row out to the Endowack
and Henry and haul down their flags. Now I need
someone to hasten to my home. There is not a
moment to spare."
He glanced rapidly over the crowd. All at once
he noticed Paquito. "Splendid! That's what we
need, a boy on a horse. Boy, do you see that stone
house with the royal palms in front of it, off there
at the end of the street?"
Paquito, his heart thumping with pride and ner-
vousness, said, "Yes, sirl"
"Well, ride there and ask for the two Spanish
flags that are in the big chest beside the staircase.
Ask whoever opens the door. Well, what are you
"Will they give me the flags, sir?"
The port captain pulled a ring from his finger.
"Show this. Then there can be no doubt that you
come from me. Hurry now, as fast as that horse of
yours can carry you. If you take too long, the
Yankees will lose their ships!"
The words were hardly out of the port captain's
mouth before Paquito had taken the ring and dug
his bare heel into Rubio's flank. The little horse
started off at a spanking pace. The boy could not
imagine how the flags would save the ships, but he
was very willing to find out. He had liked the
frank, friendly look of those stalwart Yankee sea-
men, and he liked their proud-looking graceful
boats. He would feel very sorry if that big man-of-
war with the twenty cannons captured the little
sloop and the schooner.
Suddenly he realized that there was a great
clatter of feet behind him. Glancing back, he saw
that most of the boys and several of the men who
had been in the crowd at the wharf had decided
to accompany him and were running after Rubio
as hard as they could. Rubio realized it, too; and
as he did not like to be accompanied, he put back
his ears, gathered speed, and had left them all
behind by the time that Paquito pulled him up
before the house with the palm trees.
If the servant who came to the door was surprised
to be shown the signet ring and asked for the flags,
he did not say so. What he said was merely, "Yes,
yes; just a moment." Indeed, it was hardly more
than a moment's work for him to throw back the
lid of the huge carved chest of maga wood and
take out two Spanish flags.
While he waited, Paquito stood first on one foot,
then on the other, staring at the massive furniture
and rich red silk draperies of the finest room he
had ever seen. The instant that he had the flags,
however, he was up on Rubio's back again and
headed toward the wharf. When he met the boys
and men running up the street, they turned, too,
laughing and shouting, and again followed him.
As soon as the port captain received his ring and
the flags, he gave the latter to a husky sailor, with
orders that they be nailed to the masts of the
Endowack and Henry. In a short time the order
was carried out, and the banner of Spain floated
out protectively above the North American ships.
"Not a minute to spare" the Spanish officer
muttered, for now the Glasgow had entered port.
The crowd waited breathlessly, with only an
occasional murmured word, as the Glasgow
dropped anchor. Soon a boat put out from the man-
of-war with her captain and several uniformed
seamen. They came ashore, and the British captain
and the port captain saluted each other.
"I am Captain Thomas Pasley of His Majesty's
Navy," the British captain said briefly, in Spanish.
"Those vessels yonder are my rightful prize."
The port captain smiled pleasantly. "They fly
the Spanish flag, my friend," he replied.
The English officer's face flushed with anger.
"They have no right to fly it!" he exclaimed sharp-
ly. "Those vessels are captained and manned by
rebellious subjects of His Majesty, King George
III. My orders are to take them to Jamaica; and
with or without your leave, that is what I intend
The port captain did not seem at all worried.
He spread out his hands in a gesture of helplessness.
"It may be that you are right," he said; "but it
is too late for me to do anything about it now. The
Spanish flag is at the mast. As you know very well,
if you take those ships from this port while they fly
that flag, it will be an act of war against Spain.
Of course, if you like," he added, "you may consult
the Governor-General in San Juan, but it is only
fair to warn you that he will undoubtedly support
what I say. Furthermore," added the port captain,
turning to the crowd, which had been intent on
every word, "these good citizens of Mayagiez are
also exactly of my opinion on this matter."
"Yes, yes, we are!" roared the crowd.
Captain Pasley was very angry, but it was easy
to see what he was thinking. Taking two small
ships as prizes while they flew the Spanish flag
might well involve not only him but his country
in new troubles that they had not counted on. After
a few moments of grim silence, he turned on his
heel and strode back to the boat that was waiting
to row him out to the Glasgow.
A little ripple of delight ran through the crowd,
and they called out to the departing Englishman,
k- X -
The port captain drew a breath of relief. Again
his eye fell on Paquito. "Well done, boy!" he said.
"You got those flags here in the nick of time. You
should be pleased with yourself, and with that
stout little horse of yours."
a- -- z
"Yes, sir, I am pleased, very pleased!" Paquito
replied earnestly. "There is only one thing."
"Yes, what is that?"
"My vegetables, sir. I have to sell them. But
what is the use of taking them to market? When
we went for the flags, I noticed that not a soul is
The port captain laughed. "The reason for that
is that everybody in Mayagiiez is right here at the
wharf," he agreed. "But that yuca and corn and
yautia you have there must certainly not go to
waste. We have our guests to feed, those Yankee
seamen from the North American colonies. They
are big fellows, all of them, and I wager that their
appetities are good. I am going now to visit them
at Don Alberto's and Don Ernesto's, and to give
the captains back their own flags so that they can
sail as soon as they are sure the Glasgow will
trouble them no further. Follow along with your
vegetables. I know that all these good citizens will
be coming, too. By the way, what is your name and
what do you call your horse?"
"I am Paquito Toro, sir, and this is Rubio."
Then, to Paquito's complete astonishment and
delight, the crowd again burst into a shout. And
what they roared this time was, "Viva Paquitol
VICTIMS OF THE HURRICANE
At the close of the Spanish-American
War in 1898, possession of the island of
Puerto Rico passed from Spain to the
United States. The Toro family, at this
time, lived a pleasant and prosperous life
on a coffee farm in the central mountains.
Early in August, 1899, Pachin Toro and his parents
tried to persuade Don Zeno to make a trip to Ponce
to see the young United States Army doctor. Don
Zeno was Pachin's grandfather, and he was grow-
ing thinner and paler every day. Nevertheless, he
refused to leave the mountain farm.
"There's nothing the matter with me but
anemia," he insisted. "Everybody gets it sooner or
later. If I am to die of it, what of that? It's a
natural death, anemia is. Besides, this doctor is one
of those North Americans who came to the island
only last year. I grew old under Spanish rule here,
and Yankee ways are all new to me."
It was Sunday afternoon. The three grownups,
together with Pachin and his younger brothers and
sisters, were sitting in front of the little farmhouse
in the shade of a giant mango tree.
The Toro farm lay high up in the mountains.
Horses and cows browsed contentedly in a tree-
dotted field near by. Beyond the house stretched
rows of coffee trees. Because coffee likes sunshine
but not the strong direct rays of the sun, it was
growing in the shade of much larger and taller
maga trees. Each slender coffee tree was so thickly
fruited with bright red berries that the boughs bent
toward the ground under their weight.
Don Zeno's eyes lingered on this wealth of coffee.
"You know that three weeks from now we must
pick those berries. This has been a good year on
the farm in every way. The cattle have had rich
pasturage. The goats have given more milk for
cheese than ever before. The pigs are fat. Even the
hens are laying well. Of course I must be here to
pick these fine coffee berries."
"That is just it, Fatherl" cried his daughter.
"You can start out before sunrise, day after tomor-
row, and get to Ponce long before noon. Then stay
in Ponce and see the doctor every day for a week.
You can come home at the end of the week with
the prescription he gives you. By September you
should be a new man. Pachin can go with you. He
has never seen Ponce, you know. Why, just think,
Father, you and he will come back so well and full
of spirits that you will do the work of four coffee-
pickers instead of twoI"
"If it is only for a week, I'll go," Don Zeno
agreed at last. "But I know very well that nothing
is the matter with me but anemia. No doctor can
keep a man from getting that."
As for Pachin, he was overjoyed at the thought
of spending a week in the city and turned hand-
springs all around the mango tree.
Before daybreak on Tuesday, the eighth of
August, Don Zeno and his grandson started on
their trip. Down along the mountains they trav-
eled, to the city on the southern coast called Ponce,
in honor of Puerto Rico's first governor, Ponce
de Le6n. Each rode one of the graceful, steady
little Puerto Rican horses that seem to be as sure-
footed as goats. Each sat on a wooden saddle, with
a folded rug of fringy cotton string for a cushion.
It was hot, even before sun-up, and an hour or
two later, Don Zeno sighed. "There is something
oppressive in the air. It weighs on my spirits, too.
I feel, somehow, that I shall never pick that fine
The day grew hotter and hotter. The air was
very still. Not a frond of the royal palms nor a
leaf of the guayacdns was stirring. Even the big
leaves of the llagrumo tree never once flopped
over to show their silver underside.
Riding along, Pachin suddenly exclaimed,
"Look, Grandfather! Those queer black birds!"
Don Zeno looked, and his face grew anxious.
"Those are sea birds," he replied, "and they have
no business in the mountains. There is an old saying
that when they fly over the land, a great wind is
"I wish a little wind would blow," said Pachin.
"The air is so heavy that I can hardly breathe."
Ponce is a city by the sea, with two big central
parks, or plazas; not only one, as is the case with
most Puerto Rican towns. The homes along its
pleasant streets were embowered in flowers. As
Pachin and his grandfather trotted down the street
on their horses, Pachin looked admiringly at the
church and the stone buildings that seemed to him
enormous. But in spite of the keenness of his inter-
Sest, his head ached a little, and the air clung like a
S"I don't like this," his grandfather said suddenly.
"Do you see that color in the sky?"
It was a very queer color indeed, a dull coppery
yellow that was reflected luridly on the house-fronts.
"That means a big wind," Don Zeno repeated.
Soon he stopped to ask a passer-by how to find
the United States Army doctor who was doing so
much good to sick people from the countryside.
"You will find him in the hospital up there,"
came the answer at once, with a gesture toward a
big yellow stucco building on the hill overlooking
the city and its placid bay. "Just ride up and ask
anybody for Dr. Bailey K. Ashford. You can't
In fact, with surprisingly little trouble, they
soon found themselves amid a crowd of patients
in the anteroom of the big building, awaiting the
"It is growing very dark in here, Grandfather,"
said Pachin, who had a basket on his arm laden
with goat's cheese and guava paste from his
"This darkness is not natural, especially with
all these lamps lighted here in the hospital," his
Suddenly a gusty wind blew out of the sultry
stillness and slammed the door. A lamp crashed.
The lights went out. The wind passed as soon as
it had come, and a tall young man in the uniform
of a lieutenant of the United States Army came out
from the doctor's office and asked, "Was anybody
"No, no, Doctor!" called several voices; and
then as the wind blew hard again, someone cried,
"Doctor, this is a hurricane!"
"I believe it is," Dr. Ashford replied soberly.
"We must do what we can to make things safe."
The gusts of wind were coming closer now.
"Pachin, the shutters his grandfather ex-
claimed, and Pachin began closing and bolting the
heavy shutters of the windows lining the walls of
the room. Amid the increasing din of the storm,
all hands helped with a will.
The young doctor worked with the rest, until
all at once he said, "That gate out there must be
opened, so that people who seek refuge here can
enter. Otherwise they will be crushed in those
flimsy huts near the hospital."
An orderly dashed out to open the great wrought-
iron gates. Soon dozens of men, women, and chil-
dren followed him in to the safety of the big
building. With its walls four feet thick and its flat
brick roof, it was in no danger of blowing away.
Somebody had produced candles from the store-
room, and their flickering light shone on the groups
of sick people and refugees crowded into the big
"Grandfather," Pachin whispered, "it is not just
coffee that I am worrying about now."
Don Zeno put his arm about his grandson's
shoulders. "Courage, child" he said. "The farm-
house is strongly built. The mango tree makes a
windbreak in front, and on three sides it is shel-
tered by the mountains. I think that the house will
withstand even such a wind as this. But the coffee
must have been blown away and the cattle killed
by now. We shall have nothing left but our will
to work and the good Puerto Rican soil. Well, we
have no cause to complain if all the family are
Just then Dr. Ashford, who had been speaking
with first one and then another to cheer them up,
stopped in front of Don Zeno and said, "You are
new here, my friend, are you not?" While Don
Zeno was explaining why he had come, a deafen-
ing crash resounded.
"A house has smashed against this building!"
someone cried out.
Then all at once, even more suddenly than it had
come up, the wind died down. Inside the hospital,
people held their breath, listening. There was per-
"Is the hurricane over?" Pachin asked hopefully.
"No," answered his grandfather. "This is only
the lull. It will begin again in a little while, worse
"Doctor, Doctor, where are you going?" several
voices shouted as Dr. Ashford dashed toward the
door. "It hasn't ended yet."
"I must go for my wife. This is the chance I
have been awaiting to get to her," Dr. Ashford
said, hurrying out. In twenty minutes the doctor
was back again, this time accompanied by his wife.
As they passed through the room, someone said,
"She is a Puerto Rican lady, and as kind as she is
Then came the second fierce.onslaught of the
hurricane. This time it roared for hours. Every
now and then there would be a sharp snapping
sound through the uproar. "That is the palm trees
breaking off," Don Zeno said.
It was nightfall before the storm finally blew
itself out; and then, though the wind died down,
the rain was like a waterfall tumbling from the sky.
Don Zeno and Pachin shared their basket of cheese
and guava with the others in the hospital, and Dr.
Ashford's orderly brought out big cups of coffee
and slices of bread and meat.
Morning dawned at last on scenes of indescrib-
able destruction and desolation all over Puerto
Rico. It found the hospital in Ponce fuller than
ever. Don Zeno sought out Dr. Ashford. "Here
you have many wounded and suffering to tend. I
am not really a sick man and should return to my
"You too are ill," Dr. Ashford answered, "and
I must find out what is the trouble. As for going
back, all the mountain roads are impassable. No,
you must stay in the hospital and let us look after
you. Besides," he added, with a twinkle in his
kindly blue eyes, "your grandson Pachin is a good
lad, and has already made himself useful. He can
help me care for these refugees."
"Oh, Doctor, can I really be of some use?" cried
"Indeed you can. There is always work for will-
ing hands, you know." Pachin's hands were willing
and his feet were speedy. During the next few days *
he did hundreds of errands in the hospital.
Meanwhile, news from the farm was brought
by a friend who made his way down the mountains.
All their coffee trees had been blown down, he told
Don Zeno, and of course the crop was a total loss.
It would be years before they could produce any
more coffee. All the cattle except one cow had
been killed, and every pig and chicken. A few
of the goats had saved themselves. The hurricane
had torn the roof from the house. But the family
was unharmed. When Don Zeno and Pachin heard
that, they wept with joy and said a prayer of
Dr. Ashford, however, was troubled because of
Don Zeno's illness. The doctor had a way of ex-
plaining things to his patients, and so one day he
talked with the frail old man.
"This is an anemia that you have," Dr. Ashford
said. "Hundreds, even thousands, of people all over
Puerto Rico are suffering from the same thing. In
some cases it might be due to improper food or bad
living conditions., But you, and many others, live
in the mountains where you breathe pure, fresh air
and eat plenty of nourishing food. I do not yet
understand why you should have anemia."
"Anemia is the natural death, Doctor," repeated
Don Zeno resignedly. He was growing weaker in
spite of hospital care. But Dr. Ashford smiled and
shook his head.
"There is a reason," he insisted. "I am deter-
mined to find it. At first I thought that perhaps
Puerto Ricans did not eat enough meat; but when
I had all the patients served a pound of meat a day,
they seemed hungry again soon after eating it, and
grew no stronger."
Pachin listened eagerly. Already he had seen
how hard the young doctor was working to solve
the secret of this malady that made thousands of
Puerto Ricans pale and thin. The boy was begin-
ning to realize, even though dimly and vaguely,
something of the greatness of science, which makes
men labor earnestly and tirelessly for the benefit of
mankind. Pachin could even see that the dreadful
hurricane might prove to be the cause of benefit as
well as of suffering, if a cure for anemia should
result from investigation and treatment of the hun-
dreds of ailing victims of the storm.
In November, more than three months after the
hurricane, Don Zeno was still a patient at the hos-
pital, and Pachin had become its regular errand
boy. The family on the farm sent cheerful messages
urging them to stay until Don Zeno was cured.
In Pachin's mind a great dream took root and
began to grow. He mentioned it timidly to Dr. Ash-
ford. "Please, Doctor, do you think that if I stayed
here and went to school I might some day learn to
become a doctor, too?"
The young Army surgeon leaned back in his
chair and smiled warmly at the boy. He gave
Pachin the same encouragement he was to give gen-
erously to so many others in Puerto Rico during the
next thirty-odd years. "Of course, you can, Pachin;
and I will help you if I can."
After a moment, the doctor said something that
Pachin Toro would never forget as long as he
lived. "You have come to me with your question
on a very important day in my life, and, I think,
in the history of the public health of Puerto Rico.
I have just found out at last, after so many efforts ,
and experiments, what it is that causes the anemia
from which your grandfather and so many others
suffer. Now that we have found the cause, we can
"Will you tell me what it is, Doctor?" asked
"From this day on, I shall spend my time and
energy telling people what it is and trying to make
them all listen," promised Dr. Ashford. "It is a
worm, my boy, a tiny threadlike worm, the hook-
worm, that enters the body, hooks itself to the wall
of the intestine, and sucks the health away. It may
bore in through the sole of a bare foot. So you must
always wear shoes. It may lurk on the surface of
fruits or vegetables. So you must always wash them
well. It may be in drinking water, or come from
dirty hands. So you must see that food and drink,
and everything touching them, are clean. There is
a great work to be done in teaching the poor and
the ignorant-yes, and in enlisting the aid also of
the wealthy and the learned-so that all will help
in the campaign against the hookworm."
"And can I learn how to help some day?" asked
Again Dr. Ashford smiled, and the tired look
left his eyes. "Every man, woman, and child on the
island can help," he said. "And when they all do,
we will conquer the hookworm that is sapping the
strength of Puerto Rico."
THEIR OWN PLOT OF GROUND
After the beginning of the twentieth cen-
tury, coffee was grown less and less in
Puerto Rico, and more and more land
was used for growing sugar cane. Other
hurricanes, after that of 1899, damaged
the coffee trees. Finally, the Toro family,
like many others who were honest and
hard-working, had no land and no home.
For the hundredth time, Paco Toro and his sister
Maria talked over the wonderful thing that would
happen tomorrow. The two children were thin
and barefoot and ragged, but their eyes were spark-
ling as they thought of the great day coming nearer
every minute. They wove baskets of palm fiber
while they talked, each seated on an empty box.
Their home was built of odds and ends of boards,
and roofed with old gasoline cans flattened out and
nailed to makeshift rafters.
There was no real furniture in this house of one
poor room. Boxes served as chairs and table, and
across one corner was slung the hammock where
their widowed mother and the baby slept. The
other four children had as their beds palm-leaf
mats on the bare floor. No home could have been
humbler and poorer, although the bare boards of
the floor were scrubbed clean.
On this late afternoon of June twenty-third, 1942,
the baby sister was asleep in the hammock. The
two younger brothers, Carlitos and Moncho, were
sitting cross-legged on the ground outside, busily
stripping palm fronds from the ribbed stalk so as
to have a supply on hand for the basket-weaving.
The hovel where these children lived stood amid
a dozen others more or less like it. It would be
hard to imagine a drearier or more hopeless place,
in spite of the lush green fields of sugar cane that
stretched beyond the huddle of miserable dwell-
ings, and the graceful coconut palms and densely
massed mango trees that grew round about. But it
would also be hard to imagine happier, more ani-
mated faces than those of Paco and Maria.
"I can hardly wait," she was saying. "Oh, Paco,
will the government really let Mamma have a plot
of land for her own, her very own?"
"Of course," Paco replied stoutly. "It's not just
for us. It is for all who have worked hard and yet
never been able to have any house of their own,
nor any place to grow yams and plantains and to-
matoes to eat. You had better be thinking of what
you are going to do to cultivate that patch of
ground when we get it tomorrow," he added, "in-
2.- .64 4.
stead of sitting there and getting your palm fiber
all tangled up while you wonder whether or not
we shall get any land, after all."
"Oh, I know that, Paco," his sister answered
eagerly. "And, indeed, I am thinking of what we
can do. I shall work so hard and be so happy! I'll
make rugs out of string, and towels out of flour
sacks. Just think of growing vegetables! Think of
having a plot of land! Oh, Paco, what if something
should happen, and they should tell us tomorrow
that it isn't true?"
"Nothing of the sort can happen," Paco insisted.
"It is a new law. The legislature made the law,
and the governor signed it. The government of
Puerto Rico bought the farm land from the com-
pany that owned it. Tomorrow it will be divided
up among the workers who have been cultivating
it all these years, but have never had anything of
"Poor Papa!" said Maria. "If only he could
have lived to see it. All his life he longed for us
to have a patch of ground."
"Every widow who lives and works near here
will have a little plot of land by this time to-
morrow," Paco said soberly. "If Papa could have
known that, he would not have worried so before
"We can stay on ours as long as we live and
nobody can put us out," Maria repeated. "And no-
body can forbid us to grow a garden. We can even
keep a goat to give us milk. I am the happiest girl
on earth, right this minute. And just think, we shall
all be happier still tomorrow!"
As she finished speaking, their mother, Ana,
came out of a neighbor's hut and called to them.
"The drawing will be early tomorrow afternoon,
children!" she said.
Maria and Paco, Carlitos and Moncho, all left
off what they were doing and ran forward to meet
her, asking a dozen questions.
"Now, don't all talk at once," she said. "Just be
quiet a moment, and I will tell you everything.
There are almost five hundred acres in this fine
big farm that the government bought," she ex-
plained. "Tomorrow we shall draw lots for them.
Each acre has been divided into four numbered
plots. We shall learn by the number I draw which
plot will be ours."
"Some plots must be much better than others,"
"Of course they are," her mother answered
serenely; "but we can have a little home and garden
on whichever one we get, even if it is the poorest
of them all. And any plot of land that is our own is
better than such a place as this, where at any
moment the owner of the land can tell us to get
out and send us off, homeless, looking for a place
to lay our heads."
"We had better be making plans for building
that new house of ours," Paco repeated practically.
"We have no money. The few cents that we get
from making these baskets and doing odd jobs are
not enough to build even the cheapest and smallest
house. What are we going to do about it?"
"I have found out about all that," his mother
replied. "In the first place, as you know, this house,
bad as it is, is built with wood belonging to us.
Your father gathered up the boxes and boards and
he collected the gasoline cans, one by one, for the
roofing. Some of that material we can use. That is
one good thing, at least, about having a tiny ram-
shackle house; it is easy to tear down.
"Wait a moment," she added, seeing that Paco
was about to interrupt her. "I know what you are
going to say, my son; that these poor boards and
planks won't be enough for a house. That is true.
But you are the man of the family since your father
died. This is how you can help. Don Andres, at the
country store, has a pile of fine cured planks of
royal palm, and he has promised to let us have as
many as we need, if you will run errands for him
every Saturday, Paco, until they are paid for."
"Then we can have our new house at once !" cried
"Yes, we can," agreed his mother. "And we can
dig a garden patch at once. Just think, this very
summer we can be eating well from off our own
land-we who never have had any land and have
never eaten well in our livesI"
"Quico's father says that all the children will
have a playground," piped five-year-old Carlitos.
"You will have a beautiful playground," his
mother assured him, giving him a kiss. "Out of
those lovely fertile acres, a big field has been left
undivided. That is where we can pasture our goat,
when we get a goat. And whether we ever get a
goat or not, that is where you can play."
"I shall have chickens on our lot and sell the
eggs," interrupted Maria.
"I shall have a little pig and feed him palm nuts,
until he is sleek and fat for market," cried Moncho.
Carlitos said, "I want to have a teeny-weeny
puppy that will play with me on that playground
and wag his tail."
It was hard for any of them to go to sleep that
night. Their minds were full of the home that
would be theirs by this time tomorrow. Paco
planned to set out plantains and bananas and was
just deciding to raise green peppers to sell, when
Maria called softly to him across the room. "Paco,
are you awake?"
"Yes, what is it?" he whispered back.
"Won't it be nice if our land has a mango tree
on it, or a mamey?"
"Oh, Maria," Paco replied, "our plot will be
wonderful, whatever there is on it, or even if it
is bare as your hand."
"Children, children!" their mother said from
her hammock. "Do go to sleep so that we may be up
bright and early and finish our work tomorrow
morning. We want to be at the schoolhouse on time
for the drawing of the lots."
Next afternoon, there gathered at the country
schoolhouse all the people who, like Ana and her
family, were living wretchedly on land not theirs,
in the neighborhood of the big Candelaria sugar
cane farm. That was a farm on the northern coast
near Toa Baja, which the government had bought
to distribute among poor families, just as it had
bought other land for the same purpose in other
sections of the island.
Several officials of the Puerto Rican government
were at the schoolhouse ready to begin the draw-
ing. One of them explained the new law.
"Now, according to the Land Law," he said,
"a commission that we call the Land Authority
buys land in regions where there are many field
workers. Those workers, as a rule, live on land not
their own, where they cannot grow food, or cut
wood, or keep a hen or a goat. After the Land
Authority buys a farm, however, or some other
*u.r c ~
large piece of land, it is surveyed in acres and each
acre is divided into four plots of ground. Every
worker living near by, who has a family and no
land of his own, is given one of these plots. It costs
him nothing. From that time on, the plot belongs
to him and his family, and nobody can take it from
them or put them off it. Now, come inside, and the
drawing will begin."
The little schoolhouse could not hold them all.
Some waited patiently outside for their turn. Ana
was one of the first to be called. The children were
permitted to go in with her. Maria and Paco were
quiet and pale with excitement. Carlitos and
Moncho clung half-frightened to their mother's
skirt, their eyes as big as saucers.
A pleasant young man with a friendly manner
and a big black moustache sat at a table. His straw
hat, upside down before him, was filled with folded
slips of paper. Ana looked at them doubtfully. The
young man asked a few questions to identify her.
Then he said, "It is your turn now, Ana Toro.
Draw your slip of paper and you will have your
"Is that all there is to it?" cried Ana.
"That is all," said the young man, smiling at her.
Ana put out her hand timidly and pulled a slip
of paper from the hat. As she drew it forth, she
said, "Take it, Paco. Unfold it. I am almost afraid
to look at it myself."
Paco unfolded the paper, his heart beating hard.
He and the young man looked at the paper together.
The latter matched the number with a number on a
map before him, and scratched it off. He called a
young fellow by the door and showed him the place
on the map.
"Juan," he said, "take this good woman to her
plot of ground, so that she will know which one it
"It isn't far," Juan said cheerfully, as they started
out. "We can walk there in a few minutes."
"Oh, then our lot is near the schoolhouse 1" cried
Paco in delight.
"Which one is it, do you suppose?" his mother
asked tremulously. "My son, I can hardly walk. I
am weak with happiness."
"I feel more like running and shouting de-
clared Carlitos sturdily.
Just then their guide stopped. "Lookl" he told
Ana. "This is your lot, this one with the three palm
trees full of coconuts and the papaya full of fruit."
"Oh, Mamma, Mamma!" cried Maria. "See
there in the corner! We have an apple-bananal"
"This is a wonderful plot of ground where we
can build our house and plant our garden," Paco
said happily. "We can go to school, and cultivate
our vegetables, and still have time for weaving
baskets and for me to run errands for Don Andres."
Ana had not uttered a word. Speechless, spell-
bound, she gazed on the green plot of ground that
was now hers and her children's, as if its palm trees
and papaya and banana were growing in Paradise
She put her arms around her children and held
them close a moment. Then she said in a low voice
to her eldest son, "Paco, you remember when Don
Luis spoke in the plaza and explained about the
four freedoms. He said that there must be free-
dom from fear and freedom from want, and free-
dom to worship and freedom of speech. Don't you
see, that is what we have now, all those four free-
doms on this little plot of ground that is our very
*,-, _l&OkiI .-
I ^'i^^^Bf^J -
All Spanish words are marked Sp.
adios (ah-dee-ohss') Sp.-good-by.
Alberto (al-berr'-to) Sp.-Albert.
Ana (ah'-na) Sp.-Anna.
Andres (ahn-drayss') Sp.-Andrew.
apple-banana-a kind of banana that has the flavor and fra-
grance of apples.
Assacomoit (as-sa-co'-mo-it)-Indian taken from the Virginia
Becerrillo (bay-say-ree'-yo) Sp.-little calf: the name of Ponce
de Le6n's bloodhound.
Blas (blahss) Sp.-a man's name.
Borinquen (boh-reen'-kayn)-the name of the peaceful farming
natives of Puerto Rico at the time of the discovery of the
island by Columbus. Also Indian name of Puerto Rico.
buen (buen') Sp.-good.
buenos (bway'-nos) Sp.-plural form of buen.
Candelaria (cahn-day-lah'-ree-ah) Sp.-candlestick; also often
a woman's name.
Carib (car'-ib)--one of.a savage, cannibal race formerly in-
habiting some parts of South America and some West Indian
Carlito (car-lee'-to) Sp.-Charley.
Carlos (car'-los) Sp.-Charles.
dias (dee -ahs) Sp.-days.
Don (don) Sp.-the Spanish title for a gentleman, used only
with the given name, never the surname.
Dofia (don'-yah) Sp.-the Spanish title for a gentlewoman,
used only with the given nanie, never with the surname-
Endowack (en'-doh-wack)-an American vessel in the War
Enrique (en-ree'-kay) Sp.-Henry.
Erasmo (eh-rahs'-mo) Sp.-Erasmus.
Ernesto (err-nays'-to) Sp.-Ernest.
Fernando (fer-nahn'-do) Sp.-Ferdinand.
Francisco (frahn-sees'-ko) Sp.-Francis.
guayacan (gwa-yah-cahn') Sp.-a large tropical tree with very
Hispaniola (es-pah'-nee-oh'-lah) Sp.-a large island of the
West Indies now divided into the Dominican Republic and
the Republic of Haiti.
Juan (whan) Sp.-John.
la (lah) Sp.-the.
llagrumo (yah-groo'-mo) Sp.-a tree with large leaves, white
on the underside.
Luis (loo-ees') Sp.-Louis.
maga (mah'-gah) Sp.-a Puerto Rican hardwood tree with
large leaves and red flowers.
mamey (mah-may') Sp.-a tropical tree with large sweet yellow
mangrove-a tropical seashore tree with spreading roots called
Mannido (man-nigh'-do)-one of the first Indians taken from
the Virginia colony to England.
Maria (mah-ree'-ah) Sp.-Mary; Maria.
Martin (mar-teen') Sp.-Martin.
Mayagiiez (mah-yah-gways') Sp.-a town on the west coast of
Moncho (mon'-cho) Sp.-nickname for Ram6n (Raymond).
Pachin (pah-cheen') Sp.-a nickname for Francisco.
Paco (pah'-ko) Sp.-a nickname for Francisco.
Pancho (pahn'-cho) Sp.-a nickname for Francisco.
Paquito (pah-kee'-toe) Sp.-a nickname for Francisco.
pinta (peen'-tah) Sp.-spot; pinta cow-spotted cow.
piragua (pee-rah'-gwah)-a small Indian dugout with one sail.
Ponce (pon'-say) Sp.-a surname; also name of the second
largest city in Puerto Rico.
Ponce de Le6n (pon'-say day lay-on') Sp.--one of the con-
quistadors; companion of Columbus on his second voyage;
first governor of Puerto Rico and discoverer of Florida.
Puerto Rico (pwer'-toe ree'-ko) Sp.-literally, rich port. An
island in the West Indies belonging to the United States.
Quico (kee'-co) Sp.-nickname for Enrique (Henry).
Rubio (roo'-bee-o) Sp.-roan; reddish.
Salvador (sahl-vah-dor') Sp.-a man's name.
San German (sahn her-mahn')-a town first built on the south
coast of Puerto Rico and then rebuilt in the mountains to
escape pirate raids.
Santo Domingo (sahn'-to doh-meen'-goh) Sp.-former name of
the largest city on the island of Hispaniola.
Toa Baja (toe'-ah bah'-yah) Sp.-a town on the north coast of
Toro (toh'-roh) Sp.-bull; also a surname.
viva (vee'-vah) Sp.-long live! hurrah!
yautia (yow-tee'-ah) Sp.-a tropical vegetable, sometimes called
dasheon in English.
yuca (yoo'-kah) Sp.-a tropical vegetable.
Zeno (say'-no) Sp.-a man's name.
"Ft '~ ~,~