The first of my Boricua profiles will be of my mom, Margarita Maria Morales Kearns who passed away this year at the age of 80. Margarita, or Daisy as she was known, was born in 1932 in San German, Puerto Rico. Even though things were very difficult on the island during the depression, her family did fairly well as my grandfather had a good job with a hardware store. My Mom was the second of six kids, 7 later on when my grandparents took in one of my cousins during the hard times. She became a very responsible older sister and was only 14 years old the first time she was asked to be a godmother. By the end of her life we had estimated that she was godmother to at least 70 people and that is a conservative estimate.
Very early on she proved to be an excellent student. She attended the prestigious Central High School in San Juan and by the time she graduated with a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Puerto Rico, her GPA was just short of 4.0.
She attended Columbia University on scholarship, acquired an M.A. and then a PhD in Romance Languages. When my Dad met her in 1953, she had learned 6 languages and was an interpreter at the United Nations.
She started her career as a professor of Spanish at Gettysburg College, but later she would become one of the leaders of the Latino community in Harrisburg, Pa. Mi madre was a founder of one of the first Latino community centers in that part of the state, and would serve on no less than 15 different boards and countless numbers of committees. This all transpired at a time when Puerto Ricans and all people of color in that region were not allowed to join various clubs and organizations, but my mother never let that poisonous behavior stop her from advocating for justice. She was a very devout Catholic and her faith helped her deal with those tribulations along with others. Doña Margarita was one of those rare people who walked the walk as they say when it came to following Christ’s example. On many occasions we would have visitors–sometimes relatives, sometimes not—who would come to ‘visit’ for days, weeks and even years at a time. It should be noted that for most of that era we lived in a small 3-bedroom, one story ranch house that sometimes held up to 16 people.
Margarita Morales Kearns was a remarkable person, a proud Puerto Rican educator, community activist and long suffering and patient mother to a demented poet. She is sorely missed by many.
– Rick Kearns