I Wuz Just Thinking: Freedoms We Forget

Downtown Ponce, Puerto Rico. Photo: Visit the USA

In our country, I sometimes fear that our cherished freedom of religion and the right to assembly are mostly taken for granted.

Last Sunday while watching televised preaching, the sermon was about attending services.  The preacher made the comments about how wonderful it is to be able to worship in the USA – where we did not have fear but felt safe in assembly.

His words brought my mind  back to about 1971- 1972 while we lived in Ponce, Puerto Rico, considered a U.S. colony.

In our neighborhood was a church building that some of us Americans attended. My husband, two small sons and I met on Sundays for services in a little concrete building with a steeple and chairs.

Betty Mahurin Baker

We only met a few times before we heard threats that American churches would be bombed.  After the threats, the missionary and some of us began meeting in homes for safety purposes.

The stores in town had iron gates over the windows. Their doors were closed and locked at nights to protect them.

Even the nicer homes were built with iron gates to protect doors and windows.  I was glad we did not rent one of the higher priced homes that had air conditions in them.  Sleeping gas would be pumped through the air conditioner system, putting the families into a deep sleep.

Thieves would then back their truck up to the locked gates, place a chain around them, and pulled the gates off their hinges.  They would then go into the bedrooms where the adults slept and take their purses and billfolds and other valuables.  The family would awaken the next morning to find their homes emptied of furniture and valuables.

After hearing some of these stories, I was even more appreciative of my next door neighbors who kept a close watch in order to protect my family.

If a vehicle stopped in front of my house, a neighbor would ask the occupant what business the driver had.  After receiving information that they were friends of ours, they were permitted to enter our gate and knock on the door.

One neighbor was Puerto Rican, and the other side neighbor had been from Jamaica, prior to her escaping from Cuba.

I did not speak their language very well but having a couple of years of Spanish in high school helped me communicate, using a log of facial and hand expressions.

In our country, I fear that the freedom of religion and the right to assembly are mostly taken for granted,  as I wuz just thinking.

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