In Search of the Luminous Heart

In Search of the Luminous Heart

From the Mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado

The author recounts stories about her Puerto Rican family living with poverty and chaos in the 1900s, revealing them to be the inescapable foundation of her relentless quest for meaning.


Beginning with her family’s origins as tenant farmers in the mountains of Puerto Rico at the turn of the nineteenth century, Victoria Rivera Mckinley leads readers through dramatic and painful events, which in spite of psychological explanations, add up to experiences that are much larger.
Against a historical backdrop of Puerto Rico’s changing culture, she shows how a family of ten children survive and learn to look out for one another.
This is a success story, but not simply because the author leaves Puerto Rico and becomes a psychotherapist in America. Rivera McKinley offers an extraordinary perspective that finds truth in how each person lives experience in his or her own way. Her own journey ends in the Rocky Mountains, where Buddhist teachings offer her a spiritual and philosophical framework with which to understand her life.
In Search of the Luminous Heart is a deep and unusual look at adversity and belies terms like “dysfunctional” for family. Here, generosity of spirit is the key to survival. The family endures by using intelligence, compassion, and accepting lives that have the real taste of tears, blood, songs, and prayers.

Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club


4.0 out of 5 starsPuerto Rican-born Psychotherapist's Loving Memoir of her Family's Rise from Poverty is a Surprisingly Multi-layered Gem ByMs. Skeeter Readeron February 22, 2016 Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase I loved this book and recommend it with all my heart for all the reasons cited by previous reviewers. (In case anyone is wondering why I give it 4 stars only, here are my 2 reasons: First, precisely because there ARE so many wonderful reasons to praise the book. Although I have no statistics to back this statement, I believe that a big share of 1st books are autobiographical, either outright memoirs or memoirs-dressed-up-fiction. Given their own lives as their subjects, first time authors have so many stories to tell, so much first-hand knowledge and insight to share, that, as with the present book, the final work lacks the clarity and unity of style that is a hallmark of 5-star literary perfection. The seoond reason is a matter of principle. Even the works of great authors usually have their detractors. It follows therefore that if I were someone considering whether or not to buy a book by a little known author that had received only 5-star ratings, I would assume that all the reviews were written by family and friends of the author whose high praise was driven by a desire to help the author. Skewing the average by only I hope will give the book a better chance of finding the wide readership it deserves. . . and avoids dismissal by would-be readers as a book that only a family member would love. The "luminosity" elements of the book--love, faith, family, courage are a just a few--have been cited eloquently and thoroughly by previous reviewers. But there are so many other interesting aspects of this admirable first-time effort that I am going to use "my space" to list some of other virtues of this very good--if not perfect--book. 1) No prior review I think has cited the book's right to be classified as a family saga--a rags-to-riches story that spans five generations and more than a century, from the hardscrabble lives of the author's grandparents, unlanded and impoverished farm-workers in a primitive mountain community of Puerto Rico at the beginning of the 20th century, to the contemporary, farflung and privileged worlds that are all that her own and her siblings' grandchildren have known. 2) One reviewer already praised the author for her careful attention to the effects of local and national historical events on Puerto Rico and the members of her family. As I read, I was riveted by what I was learning about 20th Century Puerto Rican--even as I was often embarrassed to realize how little I knew about this US territory. 3) On yet another level, "...The Luminous Heart" is an insightful and perceptive ethnographic study of how a family, a community and a society as adapts to dramatic changes in its social, economic and political fabric. 4) As has been happens in many cultures, the academic, professional and personal achievements of the author and her seven siblings far exceeded those of their parents. As I read, I found myself pondering the age-old debate about the respective roles played by nature and nurture in shaping the people we become. Did the author's parents have innate, genetic talents that never emerged due to the constrictions of the social order into which they were born and the severely limited opportunities they had to flourish? If so, it is reasonable to assume that their children inherited the genes and found their way to social environments where these traits were allowed to emerge? On the other hand, the achievements of the second generation could have had nothing to do with their parents but were the shaped by their exposure to greater social freedom and social opportunities that far-exceeded those that their parents encountered. In the end, Ms. Rivera McKinley has created a literary gem with elements to pique the interest of multitudes of readers. My hope is that word of mouth will get it into the hands of enough people to build a following. For my part, I purchased 3 copies of the book and gave them to three people I work with who are of Puerto Rican descent. The personalities of the three are very different and while each has acknowledged a strong feeling of connection to Puerto Rico, the focus of interest is very different in each. I have asked each to post a comment on Amazon, or at least tell me their reactions to "... The Luminous Heart" so I can post their reactions in the present forum. I recommend that other fans of the book likewise send copies of the book for more reactions . . . and that Amazon replenish its dwindling stock. ~ Skeeter Reader, Amazon

5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Journey ByAmazon Customeron January 18, 2016 Format: Paperback Life as a journey is a widely accepted and used metaphor; for most of us an uncertain trip seen through a glass darkly. Mark Twain, who did not need the Apostle Paul’s guidance to see the dark side of things, is reported to have remarked that the two most important days in our life are the day we are born and the day we find out why. Those of us lacking Paul’s faith and Twain’s stoicism look to the generosity of others. Those who have the courage to share their experience and, in so doing, provide both guidance and encouragement as we try to find the right path and ever so gingerly approach the day we may “find out why.” Victoria Rivera McKinley’s In Search of the Luminous Heart , a memoir of her journey from rural poverty in the mountains of Puerto Rico, through academia, to life in New York City and contemplative retreats in the mountains of Colorado is an engrossing chronicle for all of us still searching. It is an authentic, well lighted journey worth taking. Rivera McKinley’s examinations of the economic struggles, relationships, faith, and hardships of her tenant farmer family, bring us back to our own struggles and sorrows. For many readers McKinley’s honest portrayal of her early life will evoke long dormant emotions of sadness, fear, anger, and even guilt over past failures. The economic and social development of Puerto Rico is interwoven with the Rivera family experience. In many respects the history of the Rivera family is very much that of other Puerto Rican and indeed other Latino families. The economic and emotional hardships encountered, as well as the accomplishments and triumphs in spite of circumstances, is much the same. An important missing “ingredient” in many families is the spiritual force represented by Sor Rosa, a family member who enters a convent, devoting her life to educate and liberate the forsaken poor. That oasis, a respite from the daily challenges of family and the pressures of poverty, is badly needed. All of us could have used a Sor Rosa growing up. Treatment of women in Puerto Rican society in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s is an important subtext. The suffering of women, and even of the men who abused them, is not ignored. Machismo was dominant and is enduring. Inculcated and passed from one generation to the next, negative treatment of women in Puerto Rico, and throughout the world, remains a problem to be solved. Notwithstanding some difficulties with her father, Victoria’s love, compassion and understanding for her parents and her brothers and sisters is apparent in the words she chooses to describe their lives. Her deep appreciation and respect for her oldest sister Laura, “her second mother”, is evident and lovingly presented as the one who “sees with her heart”. Evocative descriptions of Crestone, of the picturesque and beautiful Puerto Rico locales, and most especially, her inclusion of the Chango (Grackle}, the “black prince” of Naranjito, enliven the text and provide a tangible, real world context for the spiritual pilgrimage. I also felt at home with her discussion of Spanish and U.S. cultural differences and the challenges and rewards of being able to function well in both cultures. I know well what it takes. In Search, like the journey itself, is a labor of love. One can only imagine the pain and emotional toll it took to write it. It is also a gift to the reader, now and for generations to come. I could not help but identify with the story, as it touched my own, and brought out tears and deep seated grief which I had suppressed. As such, it provides an opening for readers to have a conversation with their own families. We can discuss its content with our kin to help us remember our own history. Young men, especially, can develop greater awareness of their treatment of women. Rivera Mckinley examines her journey from Naranjito and Catholic teachings to Crestone and Buddhism. It has taken a lot of work. She grew academically and spiritually, on knowing herself and on making changes; from Catholicism to Buddhism, finally reconciling them and finding longed for inner peace in the process. Her self- awareness, openness to experience and generosity of spirit is a notable achievement, one we can learn from. Congratulations, my friend, and thank you. Maria Diaz Montgomery, Retired Principal, Takoma Park Middle School, Montgomery County, Maryland ~ Maria Montgomery, Amazon

ByAmazon Customeron January 5, 2016 A strong sentiment for the island they felt they loved and appreciated. Being a descendant of parents who emigrated from Puerto Rico to New York City in the late 1940's seeking economic prosperity for themselves and their children but with a strong sentiment for the island they felt they loved and appreciated, a sentiment that was instilled in myself and in most of my family living in New York City, I approached the reading of the book In Search of the Luminous Heart from the Mountains of Naranjito Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado written by Victoria Rivera McKinley with the thought that the book would reinforce this sentiment. I must say that it most certainly did, but not for the reasons for which I had thought it would. I found that my romanticized notions of the islanders' experiences needed much readjustment. I feel that the book raised many questions in my mind which need further scrutiny on my part; questions which are important for my own growth as well as for the edification of my own descendants and for the lives that each of us will touch going forward. ~ Gloria Ortiz, Amazon

Unconditional Faith and Redemption January 5, 2016 I thought to write the definitive review on Victoria's book, but having read the other reviews I was struck by their excellence and comprehensive nature. Victoria's memoir may be seen from a spiritual perspective, one of identity and assimilation, a rise from great poverty(of economic resources, not spiritual, familial, and cultural ones), a person's struggle to achieve belongingness and relatedness to family and to the world, the healing power of love and forgiveness, the necessity of suffering in achieving wisdom and self-knowledge. The work of achieving spiritual development, wisdom and also a loving and healthy family is never finished and one must be open to revision and openness to change of opinion, relatedness, thought and identity. The luminous heart, i.e. the soul, is always open to revision and change, for love, meaning and identity, in this often brutally punishing world, may only be maintained by a willingness to encounter all its reality, dialogue in its own language with understanding, and profoundly reconcile with its being in a caritative act of love. For it is faith, unconditional faith (not hope, for our desires, and thoughts of what is or may be good, are often never realized but faith is eternal) which enables us to sense the presence of the One Supreme, and the possibility of redemption. This is the nature and thread of what Victoria illustrates in her memoir. Another aspect of the memoir which I found invaluable was the description of life In Puerto Rico, still in the grips of the Depression after WWII, and how the "ordinary" people managed this in "extraordinary" ways, in solidarity and relatedness. Much of this has vanished(though not altogether) from Puerto Rico and these United States and it is good that we remember. John A. Munoz, Ph.D. ~ John Munoz, PhD, Amzon

This is a wonderful memoir that illuminates the life journey of ten siblings ... ByDara McKinleyon January 5, 2016 Format: Paperback This is a wonderful memoir that illuminates the life journey of ten siblings born in the impoverished mountains of Puerto Rico due to a patriarchal and capitalistic societal structure. From the very beginning you are drawn into their valuable perspective as they traverse hardships and maintain a deeply loving core despite their harsh reality. Sharing the same quest to improve their circumstances, each has a unique path that makes this book page turner. A great read on both a soul and anthropological level. ~ Dara Mckinley, Amazon

Victoria Rivera McKinely managed to do the impossible. With much time and much effort, she did something we all long to do but never take the time to do - retrace the steps of time. After separating herself from her Puerto Rican family of farmers to come to New York and establish herself a well known psychotherapist, she went back to tribute the family never truly got to know. A strong woman near retirement goes back to Puerto Rico to study her family's past and not only that. She even writes a book in her second learned language telling us all about the wonderfully different and beautiful characters that make up her family. Victoria gives hope to anyone new to America - you don't have to lose touch with where you come from to make it here. She gives hope to anyone who wants to rekindle family relations with long lost relatives, or even relatives that just seem too different culturally to ever understand. She found a new direction not only in America as a psychotherapist, but also religiously. Her new religion was frowned upon by relatives taking a toll on Victoria and her relations with family. Thankfully, Victoria shows us through her peaceful way of thinking, where she looks only for the heart of her family and others, that her differences with her family were possible to overcome. She shows us that there is a luminous heart in us all. ~ Nicole Suozzo, Amazon

"In Search of the Luminous Heart: From the Mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado" is a must read for all - especially for Hispanics - because it is our story, a story of the human condition from the almost insurmountable challenges to merely survive to the great triumphs of the human heart. This is a story we can all relate to - I found myself reliving much of my own family's history, but most importantly, I found that it opened my heart - what a gift! ~ Maria Vargas, Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: "In Search of the Luminous Heart: From the Mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado" begins with her family's origins as tenant farmers in the mountains of Puerto Rico at the turn of the nineteenth century, as Victoria Rivera Mckinley leads her readers through dramatic and painful events, which in spite of psychological explanations, add up to experiences that are much larger. Against a historical backdrop of Puerto Rico's changing culture, "In Search of the Luminous Heart" shows how a family of ten children survive and learn to look out for one another. "In Search of the Luminous Heart" is a success story, but not simply because the author leaves Puerto Rico and becomes a psychotherapist in America. Rivera McKinley offers an extraordinary perspective that finds truth in how each person lives experience in his or her own way. Her own journey ends in the Rocky Mountains, where Buddhist teachings offer her a spiritual and philosophical framework with which to understand her life. "In Search of the Luminous Heart" is a deep and unusual look at adversity and belies terms like "dysfunctional" for family. Here, generosity of spirit is the key to survival. The family endures by using intelligence, compassion, and accepting lives that have the real taste of tears, blood, songs, and prayers. Critique: An absolutely absorbing read from first page to last, "In Search of the Luminous Heart: From the Mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado" is an exceptionally well written memoir that is as informative and thoughtful as it is inherently fascinating and ultimately inspiring. Very highly recommended for community and academic library biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "In Search of the Luminous Heart" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.99). Helen Dumont Reviewer ~ Helen Dumont, Midwest Book Review

This book changed my life By magdalena rivera on August 28, 2015 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase After reading this book I felt compelled to call the author, my paternal aunt, Victoria, and thank her for this magnificent legacy she worked so hard to provide for her family and those in search of the essential component in the seed of life, 'the luminous heart ’. My father, Albert, recounted many times throughout the years of the hardships of his youth, giving us lifetime lessons on how to love, forgive and survive. But, the descriptions in this book are so vivid that his story came alive and I took a plunge in history and was absorbed and could actually feel the pain he and his brothers and sisters endured. Everything I lived as a child came into perspective and slowly I could feel the open wounds healing, and the love and respect for my family grew even stronger. At first I felt as if we were all thrown together in a dark room and everyone was naked, but once everything came out in the open, and we got over the shame of our iniquities, the healing process began and there was light. My love and compassion growing, I realized that things had to be exactly as they were so we could become who we are today. We can now deal openly with the shadows left behind by the hardships and grief of our past, seeing things more conscientiously, mercifully and forgiving. May we take down, as seen in this story, the walls that divide us, the boundaries and oceans between us, as we reach out and become ONE WITH ALL. I believe everyone who wants to become a safe driver in life, taking the road that flows with ease under the light of the open, vulnerable, yet luminous heart, will benefit and relate somehow to the characters in this book. Here are lessons about overcoming hardships, redemption, hope, and the magic love can work in the midst of chaos. This memoir gave me wings to rise above my fears as I face all obstacles coming my way. If my dad and his family endured so much, survived and overcame, I know I can do the same. Thank you, Victoria! I cannot thank you enough. This book has ignited a transformation in my own spirit, and I promise to share this story with my children and grandchildren. This narrative will not die! Your pain and struggles will not be in vane! It is our life lesson! It will be told and passed on from generation to generation and be a threshold for stronger, resilient, and more loving families. ~ Magdalena Rivera, Amazon

Blessed to know the story of those before say thank you for your sacrifices of which we now benefit from. By David Rivera on September 9, 2015 Format: Paperback I've always wondered about the saying "history repeats itself". It' is something that I've thought about, and the "why" that always accompanied my curiosity of this statement. Reading this book written by my Aunt Victoria has shed light on many aspects of why, even generations later, the history of my ancestors still reside in me. Some aspects about myself that I love and other aspects that in the past, I resented for lack of understanding and can now say, have learned to transcend through the awareness of such things such as this book. I am filled with a sense of pride knowing my families past, the struggles they encountered, all for the betterment of those family members to follow. As long as we pay attention to those before us, learn from them, and are in constant search for the luminated heart inside all of us then the heart which connects us all sees only ONE. Thank you Aunt Vicky for sharing the story I would have never known without you following your life long pursuit. I can only hope to follow your example and go for my dreams with the same tenacity as you have. It is also my hope that others will dive in to learn that your story is so much like many out in the world trying to find peace in themselves. May they take this journey with you and see how it relates to those who are also in search of that place inside that knows only unity, the lost loving child within us all. I thank you and I love you. ~ David Rivera, Amazon

Everyday Grace By Alma I McKinley on July 4, 2015 Format: Paperback My mother set out to record the family history for the all the siblings, cousins, grandchildren now and still to come. So that we will always know our roots. The string that weaves throughout this book and connects all the characters is spirituality. It tells us how ten siblings and two parents with strong roots in Catholicism each found their own way to acknowledge the spirit within themselves and to best honor the Grace of God that exists everywhere. For some this was a challenge, others failed miserably at times, while still others still rose to the occasion as if they were more angel than human. Regardless of how you do it, the point is that by virtue of being born and living you are doing it everyday. And everyday grace is how we make our lives mean something no matter what's happening. My mom tells stories about days where finding grace would seem beyond, beyond, beyond impossible, but in hindsight there is always a lesson, a gift, a healing. This book delivered a lot of healing for our family. I'm so thankful to have a mother that survived the poverty she was born into, came to New York City and was kissed by the Divine in such a way that her path lead her to write her and her family's very heartbreaking story. ~ Alma Mckinley, Amazon

There is so much to learn by turning these remarkable pages By wallis on July 19, 2015 Format: Paperback When I had Victoria as a student in my memoir class at Sarah Lawrence I felt goosebumps as she read out her first assignment. Her determination shone. She was over seventy and was writing in her second language. She had carried the story as a passion for decades and now she would put her memories on paper. Many were excruciating and sometimes, as she read to the class, tears flooded from her. From the beginning she showed the courage to touch her reality without romanticizing it, nor pretending that it could have been otherwise. The life she had lived growing up in Puerto Rico was the life that many people who were tenant farmers with large families lived. Violence, hunger, but also days of natural beauty, sacrificing for each other and finding ways to get an education. What a reader will find in this singular book is a voice that crackles with intelligence and a willingness to search. This is so far from the American memoir about a walk from poverty to success. This book is about becoming human, seeing more deeply, finding, beneath appearances, the spiritual energies that existed in her family and ultimately enabled her to understand her life and other lives on journeys. She depicts her family's epic history and tells the individual stories of her siblings as well as her own. The stories reflect a culture, a time, and specific and vivid characters, whom we will come to recognize and care about. A reader will feel lifted by having kept company with such a luminous heart. A reader will be inspired by having read Victoria Rivera McKinley's story. ~ Wallis Wilde-Menozzy, Amazon

Victoria Rivera-Mckinley's journey from her home in the mountains of Puerto Rico among nine siblings and tenant farmer parents links her firmly to the earth: the harsh realities of poverty, violence, and for survival, a reliance on hard work and strength intrinsic in her family's beings. Her stories alone would be reason enough to read the book. But her search for meaning does not end with a reductive conclusion, once she has changed cultures and has acquired a profession and psychological language to explain human behavior. Rather her journey leads her to address her longing for deeper connections to her people and the primordial beauty of her childhood. This powerful book is a tapestry of a life, a family, two cultures and its weaving is a spiritual picture of our basic origins, when light shows us the way home.      ~ Wallis Wilde-Menozzi

At first glance, Victoria Rivera MacKinley’s memoire simply recalls experiences of a single life. But as we read into it, we realize it is telling a story of what spirituality is actually like, as lived by individual people in the modern world.Victoria is true a searcher, “on the way” to use a Zen phrase, seeking the meaning of her life in the largest possible terms, in the world that we all now live in. She begins her life with deep roots in her natal family and her native Puerto Rico, held in the strong embrace of a traditional Roman Catholic faith. But as we see in Victoria’s reflections, that was only a beginning. Like so many today, for Victoria the answers suggested by home and hearth, by the very nature of their inherent limitations in an ever changing and expanding world, catapult her out into a long, individual, and lonely spiritual search. They motivated Victoria, like so many others today, to ask the deepest and most fundamental questions: who am I? why am I here? How am I to fulfill the deepest purpose of my life? How shall I find ultimate meaning? With the exception of the venerable indigenous traditions, all of the great religions of the world are now more or less “organized religions.” This means they have institutions and bureaucracies as well as rules and regulations, procedures and protocols that the faithful can follow. They possess leaderships, hierarchies, and authorized priesthoods who stand between the faithful and the sacred transcendent and meditate to the rest of us the reality and salvation we seek. The organized religions such as Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam, Protestantism, and so on provide dependable homes for the spiritual aspirations and devotion of billions of people. For many, many of us this is a blessing which is received with immense gratitude. Many people, much of the time can find what they need within these great religious institutions and can live out lives of meaning, purpose, and peace because of them. But there are certain times in history when the institutions seem to become tired, when as much as they free the human spirit, they also limit and inhibit it. Jesus himself lived at such a time and so did the Buddha. We ourselves also live in such a period today. All of the organized religions seem to feel hesitation at how quickly the world is changing; they seem unsure how to free themselves enough to address the needs of the actual people in their churches, temples, and synagogues. There is much falling back on the past and many attempts to resurrect past answers to new problems. But, not surprisingly, such an approach isn’t really working for anyone. At such times, while the great majority of adherents continue to follow the status quo although not always entirely happy with it, there are a few brave souls, and Victoria is one of them, who set out to see whether there might not be more to life than what received tradition has bequeathed to them. Victoria’s memoire calls for our attention on several levels. Right off, of course, we meet a person of profound spiritual inspiration who seeks, above all, the direct and personal experience, in her own life, of the highest spiritual realities. She is not content to receive what she longs for to come second hand, mediated through other people, external institutions, or any other outside influence. I think here of Jesus’ message that “the kingdom of God is already right here within you; you just need to see it!” He was warning his followers away from the formalism and ritualism of the Judaism of his day and calling them to their own personal, saving experience of the holy. Victoria is also a person living on the front edge of the wave, living into the future in a most important way. She intuits that the deepest spiritual truths, realities, and experiences available to the human person are not the possession of any one religion or religious tradition. This is surely something quite new in human history. She is as much at ease in the tradition she has lately been exploring to much depth, the meditative lineage of Buddhism, as she is with her tradition of origin, Roman Catholicism. And she should be equally easy with each because both of them seek to open our eyes to what is most profound, powerful, and meaningful in the universe. Moreover, she sees that it is not likely that there are two different “ultimate realities” in all the realms of being. There can be only one and, she also understands, that any tradition stands or falls by its ability to open the gate to the direct experience of that ultimacy. Victoria is, obviously, telling her own story. It is interesting that in the world’s great religions, and particularly in Christianity and Buddhism which are particularly important to Victoria, stories of Jesus and stories of the Buddha are the earliest “literature.” This points to the fact that human, spiritual stories are, from a certain point of view more profound, more true, and more revelatory than abstract doctrines or ideas. For religion is always about human life; as St. Frances of Assisi knew very well, religion only lives within each actual, concrete human existence; it has no life anywhere else. More than this, it is only through actually living one’s actual life, that the spiritual journey can be made, that ultimate transformation can occur, and that one can arrive at a place of ultimate spiritual fulfillment. In telling her own story, Victoria expresses the deep respect for her own person, for her life as she has lived it, and for what her life has actually been without which no authentic spiritual journey is possible. Victoria’s memoire is a testament to her spiritual journey, an evocation of the spiritual challenges so many of us face today, and a declaration of courage of an adventurous spirit who seeks in her own experience—and not just for herself but for all of us--the ultimate answers to life’s deepest questions. Reginald A. Ray, Spiritual Director Dharma Ocean Foundation Crestone, Colorado ~ Reginald Ray, PhD, Spiritual Director Dharma Ocean Foundation Crestone, Colorad

An amazing story, epic in scope, of a family’s struggles through poverty and dispersion from Puerto Rico to the US mainland. It is the story of a people caught in the impersonal forces of history, economics, culture and heredity. Victoria ‘reclaims’ four generations of her family offering their individual stories through the insightful lenses of a sociologist, the softening lenses of a poet and the compassionate lenses of a daughter and sister. Laugh and cry with her as she courageously faces her most private emotions. This story will resonate with anyone who has ever faced what may seem insurmountable obstacles. ~ Sylvia M. Montero, Human Resources professional & author of Make It Your Business, 2011

This is an inspired work by a Puerto Rican woman who has lived through the experiences and suffering of her people. This work will motivate, teach and encourage others to break through barriers and find the courage to realize their dreams. This is a complex weaving of a story which starts at the beginning of the twentieth century in a small, poor, rural town, Naranjito, situated in the northwest mountains of Puerto Rico and finds its way to the mystic mountains of Crestone Colorado. Reading this epic story, we come to know in detail the culture, religious beliefs and values, economic, social and psychological development, customs and traditions of Puerto Rico in those times, such as Christmas celebrations, Three Kings Day, wedding feasts and practices, cock-fighting and others. These have much in common with celebrations in other Latin American countries. In an open and clear way, the author recounts dramatic and impactful life-changing events for herself and her family. Events that were wrenching, some sublime, and some that were amusing, all narrated with great mastery. This is a life full of struggle against adversity to achieve personal growth and finally professional prowess as a psychotherapist with a private practice in New York City. A life tinged with intense moments of confusion and darkness. But by good fortune, almost a miracle, a light of hope emerges in that darkness. We see how Emerita (Sor Rosa), the second oldest sister, embraces the most sublime love which may exist. Her love one of total surrender to a life of humanitarian labor and brimming with joy. Rosa shines as an inspiring light, a guide to her family and all the lives touched by her. It is this inspiration that leads the author to explore new paths that help her overcome religious conflicts and prejudices and that eventually heal her soul. Traveling different paths, Victoria discovers the importance of maintaining an open heart that does not judge but that appreciates the path corresponding to each who seeks enlightenment and goodness. In this and in only this manner she finds the way to the luminous heart. ~ Esther Irizarry-Vasquez, Director of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico Libraries, 1995-2009

This memoir is a collection of stories from ancestors and siblings, told through the truthful lens of the author that spans more than a century and includes two culturally diverse countries. Her large family, rooted in a small town in PR, was scarcely supported by her father’s efforts as a farmer, which were further weakened by his alcoholism.The author is intent on discovering the forces that operated to support her kin’s survival. She undertakes an honest review of their defects and virtues, finding underneath all their flaws their human heart. This is a prevailing theme of the narrative, which focuses on seeing and understanding the light and goodness in human nature, capable of transforming destructive forces and avoiding potential catastrophes. In this narrative, women and faith play a very significant role in combating poverty, crusading for education, and supporting one another to give meaning to and improving their lives. This book flows fluently and pleasantly, deserving a prompt translation to Spanish, the language of the author’s birth place and of her people. ~ Gabriela Mora,PhD, author

Victoria Rivera McKinley
Victoria Rivera McKinley Victoria Rivera McKinley is a 73-year-old Puerto Rican mother of two married daughters. She is a practicing psychotherapist in NYC. From her...
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