M-W 9:25-10:40 I guess one could say that the story of Charles Andrew Phillips began when I emerged into the world at 10:20pm on February 20th, 1969, in Concepción, a small Catholic hospital, in San Germán, Puerto Rico. My parents, both born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, were itinerant teachers and had been working at Inter-American University, or “Inter” as the locals call it, for about two years when I came along. Because my parents were both teachers at Inter, they hired a housekeeper to watch over me and take care of light chores during the day. Her name was Henriqueta, and to this day, my strongest memory is the smell of the house when she would make coffee. The people of Puerto Rico like their coffee very strong, as do the people of most Hispanic countries. I can still remember days in my toddlerhood watching Henriqueta sitting in a chair on the front porch, as she read the daily newspaper while drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette. The rich, warm aroma of the strong freshly-brewed coffee mingling with the acrid odor of the burning cigarette is deeply etched into my memory. Perhaps that is because I was very fond of Henriqueta, and that sensation is something unique to my remembering her since, at my age, I did not have many experiences upon which to form long-term memories.
At this time in American history, all across the United States there were political demonstrations, rallies, and protests for various sorts of causes and interests. Anyone living through those years can readily remember the political and social turbulence that existed. These types of things were not restricted to the mainland United States, and they occurred in Puerto Rico also. One of these in particular was an uprising for the independence of Puerto Rico from the USA by the native people of the island. The Independentistas, as they called themselves, set out to free their island from the “greedy Americans” and return their island to a tropical hideaway free from the tyranny and oppression of the large government of the USA, or so they propagandized. Large demonstrations, flag burnings and bonfires, frenzied rallies, and groups of islanders holding up signs peppered the otherwise serene and peaceful landscape. Americans (non-Hispanics) were harassed and made to feel very unwelcome on the island. These actions made my parents, especially my mother, very uncomfortable, fearing for the safety of their child. When I was three, they could finally take no more, so we moved back to the mainland.
Until age 13, we lived in Jackson, Mississippi, which is where we settled since my grandparents lived there. My father, who desired to go back to school and obtain his doctorate, was accepted at the University of Arizona. In May 1982, we packed everything up and moved across country. A few days after arriving at our new house, my father who had lived in Arizona during his childhood, took us to meet an old friend of his with whom he had reconnected. As I entered their home, I was suddenly taken aback by a strangely familiar sensation. Then I realized what it was; coffee and cigarettes. They were a Mexican family, and the very strong coffee brewing in the kitchen combined with the burning tobacco of a cigarette someone was smoking immediately took me back to my earliest recollections. Now fast-forward through high school, as I could write a whole book about that part of my life.
At the age of 20, I married my wife and then in due course we had four children together. In 1998,