“Well, I almos bahn eeya.”
(“Well, I was almost born here.”)
Maria de los Angeles Martínez Friday is better known as Maria Friday by her friends, family, co-workers, and community at large. She was born on September 4, 1954 on the island of Vieques, a municipality of the larger island of Puerto Rico, but came to the island of St. Croix with her parents Victor Angel Martínez (Caní) and Sofía Elena Salgado Sanes (Martínez) in 1960 when she was six years old. Her father’s main interest for emigrating was because of financial reasons. He was looking for a better life for himself and his growing family, but was not interested in working in the sugarcane fields. Before he passed away in 1977, he had worked in a food store, cement manufacturing company, oil refinery, hardware store, cockfighting arena (“Gallera”), and had had his own business as a truck driver. Her mother also worked as a cook at the cockfighting arena and after her husband passed away, at a family dry-cleaning business (“Laundry”). Maria’s hardworking parents managed to build a small house in Estate Calquhoun after living in Verdején for a time. Maria continues to make her home in that community on the same plot of land, although the house that her father built was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and was rebuilt and enlarged by Maria herself. Maria studied in the public schools of St. Croix before completing a degree in Secretarial Sciences in Jacksonville, Florida. She was first in the Army Reserve and then the National Guard and received an honorable discharge from both. She worked as a recruiter for the National Guard and has worked for the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Campus, for the past 21 years in different capacities. She is currently the Administrator/Supervisor of Student Housing at that campus. During a two year leave of absence from her university job, she worked as an assistant for former Virgin Islands Governor Roy Lester Schneider.
Maria, who is the proud mother/grandmother of three daughters and three grandchildren, is proud of her Puerto Rican heritage, but she is also proud of the fact that she is Crucian as well. She knows the Puerto Rican traditions, but also the Crucian ones. The Crucians like to say “I bahn eeya,” (I was born here) and Maria says “Well, I almos bahn eeya” (Well, I was almost born here). She feels that St. Croix (Sta. Cruz) is what has given her everything (education, values, traditions) and where she has made her own contributions. In the past and at present, she has been the president of the PTA (Parent/Teacher Association) at her daughters’ schools and is the president of her community/neighborhood association. She likes to help people from all backgrounds and walks of life, not just people from her own community.
One of Maria Friday’s greatest wishes is that the people of Puerto Rican and Crucian ancestries preserve their customs and show interest in their countries and cultures. She feels that that is the only way for these things to survive. She is proud to say that she is both Puerto Rican because of her ancestry, and Crucian because of her life in St. Croix.