"My Grandparents"

Mische Technique on canvas

30" x 40", 2008


My grandfather, Ramon Tió Lapuente was of Cuban ancestry, a descendant of the Tió family in Spain. The book written by Hector G. Brea Tió, “La Familia Tió en el Caribe, Origenes y Procedencia” (“The Tió Family in the Caribbean, Origins”) trace the family name back to its roots in Spain.

My grandfather established himself in The Dominican Republic were he met my grandmother. He was a freemason and I used the picture of him featured in the book as a reference to portray him wearing his garments as a freemason, (Link).  He died on his late eighties when I was around 14 years old and ever since my memory of him has been fading away. I don’t remember much of him except that he was much beloved and well respected by many people. He worked with iron and made elaborate fences, tables, chairs, and many other objects that where all over both their house and my parent’s. Every time I crossed a room running I would crash my barefoot with the leg of a chair or a table which of course contributed to my dislike of iron furniture since that early age.

My grandmother, Soledad Rivera de Tió was a lot younger than him and in order to paint them together I had to portray her as she looked when my grandfather was alive. She died at the age of 97 a few years ago, still a very energetic woman possessing a quite strong personality. She was the oldest in her family and  was used to give orders to everyone and everyone did her bid as “Dońa Sol” ordered …this, naturally sometimes brought some strong confrontations between her and me but after all she was a good soul and we got along well…most of the times.

I will never forget when I moved to the apartment on the first floor of the house while she was living on the second floor she would hit the concrete floor with the walking stick right on top of my bedroom at 6:30 every morning with such a force that I would wake up abruptly. She was my alarm clock and after showering and getting dressed I would go out to the patio where in a basket hanging from the second floor’s balcony was a thermos with my coffee.

My grandmother was devout catholic and had an altar in one of the rooms with statues of saints and one of Jesus carrying the cross. Sometimes people would come to her in search of spiritual guidance and she would disappear into to the altar with the person and mysteriously somehow always found the help she was looking for. This was something that was done in strict privacy and since as a teenager I was against the worship of religious imagery and of the catholic religion in general I had no interest in finding out whatever she did in her altar.

When I started working on her portrait I wanted to know more about this side of her and a close friend told me that his mother was one of the people that used to see my grandmother many years ago in search of this kind of help. I went to see my friend’s mother and asked her about how my grandmother helped people and she said: “Dońa Sol didn’t perform any rituals, she was a very spiritual person that could feel and see things; she was a medium”.




 Copyright © by Miguel Tió