It is said that age brings wisdom and the members of Paulina De Leon’s family agree with that adage. De Leon, a Moruga resident, was born on June 14th 1924. Now at the age of 95, she has a wealth of experience and wisdom. Today, most members of her family go to her for advice and a belly full of laughter. Although she has become visually impaired, De Leon is truly young at heart, has a powerfully commanding voice, a good sense of humour, is always high in spirits and has endless stories to tell.
The WE Mag team journeyed to Moruga, a long but beautiful trip, to meet with De Leon. Her granddaughter Shemarah Kyla Tajudeen, told us that her grandmother, who was originally from Rancho Quemado, Erin, has strong Spanish blood as her great-grandparents came from Venezuela. De Leon’s family spoke Spanish and Patois and insisted that she got married into a Spanish home. At the age of 30, which would have been considered quite old for marriage back in those days, Paulina got married and went all the way to Moruga to live with her husband Agustine (Loro) De Leon.
Questioned on her adjustment to life in Moruga, De Leon related, “I didn’t like Moruga but I did done marrid (married) so I had to stay. It had no light, was bushy and had no house close by. I used to use lamp and had to go by the river for water.” As for her feelings for Loro, the mother of six (one deceased) said, “I did fraid him a lot. He was a serious man. He never used to let me go out and I could not even wear makeup. Times were not always easy. When I was by meh father house I used to get to wear lipstick and put Cutex but when ah marrid, ah never get to do that.”
Known to be one of the most stunningly beautiful women in the village, De Leon worked hard to raise her children planting cocoa and coffee, working on their cocoa estate, rearing pigs, cattle and white fowl. Later on, the family opened a shop and a bar called Traveller’s Cozy Nook. “Loro and I used to dry the cocoa and coffee. I used to push the cocoa house and dance cocoa till all meh foot get dutty (till both my feet got dirty). It was hard work. Today I have to wear socks because I get arthritis from all de hard work. We had no fridge and I cooked on a fireside and make bread in a dirt oven that Loro made.”
Asked about her biggest dream she said that it was to get married. However, when asked if she could live her life over what she would have done differently, she said, “I would not get married.”
If she could offer one bit of advice to the women of today and to her granddaughters, what would it be? “I would tell them that I want to see all of them get marrid (married) and have a child but I fraid for them because man now not good at all, at all at all” she laughed.
Despite the challenges that she has faced in Moruga, she grew to love the area. De Leon continues to be a pillar in her home as her children and many family members continue look to her as a source of strength. She is a true testament that although life can be challenging, we can still make the best of it. De Leon continues to laugh heartily and manages to keep her spirits high – this, she says, is the secret to a long life.
Story by Bavina Sookdeo