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In 2006 I had the honor of visiting Don Pedro Mendez Valentin, one of the founders of Los Enchaquetaos in Moca. Don Pedro built a small building in back of his home, which after my first two visits, he took me on a tour of.
It was a small plywood building with a pitched roof, whose stairs led to an interior lined with shelves. On them were objects that he collected for many years– bottles of products bottled in Moca, that included various sodas, liquors and even seltzer water.
Besides bottles, there were paperweights, a barber’s kit, things that he understood had no value for those discarding them, but that had historic value as the material culture of Moca’s past. Times were changing, and he was fascinated by what was left in its wake.
Moca actually had its own soda and seltzer plants, small businesses that older people remembered, but it was Don Pedro who saved the bottle. Labels identified what area of Puerto Rico the bottles were from.
It was not only bottles, but other things that spoke of the past– a carved wooden handle that ended in a long sharp point was actually used to test the curing of bales of tobacco. One poked it in and could tell by the smell of the residue whether a bale was ready or not. Underneath are some of the cast iron weights used in a scale.
The soda bottle is from La Puertorriquena, a plant established in Moca that lasted from 1925-1932. It seems the owner was one FC Benejam, whose name appears on top of the logo. The bottle originally had a plug with a metal wire that sealed it. According to Angel M. San Antonio’s Hojas Historica de Moca (2004, p.127), the company made cola, lemonade, raspberry, vanilla and cream of anise flavored sodas. Among the employees were Esteban Lorenzo Mendez (chemist), Cayo Mendez, Chilo Mendez, Antonio Hernandez Lebron, Pablo Gerena & Polo el de Trevo. Their sodas were popular across the district of Aguadilla. I’m not sure if the Mendez mentioned were related to Don Pedro or not.
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