The Abuela Chronicles: A Girl More Famous Than the Circus

Abuela Rigo lived a life full of adventures and hardships. She loved and fought for what she believed in and for those she loved the most. Her stories growing up very rich (and then very poor) in Puerto Rico are the stuff of legends, and I'll try to share them- and her- with you. Welcome to The Abuela Chronicles.


The family had finally moved to their new home in the outskirts of the town of Caguas. The sprawling estate of over 50 acres was precisely what Mamá wanted: sturdy, roomy and just the place they needed to settle into now that Pepe, her husband, didn't need to travel as much to oversee tobacco plantations. Caguas was also the town where both Mamá and Papá were from, so there were plenty of familiar faces to welcome them and their children. To eight year old Rigo, this was the most amazing place she'd ever been to, complete with a brand new puppet theater, a store that sold every kind of luxury item (from canned fruit to Victrolas) and even a park where kids played pelota or baseball. But as if that was not enough excitement, Rigo found out that el circo was coming to town!The circus came to townThe circus came to town

The day finally arrived for the circus to parade down Caguas's main street; what an incredible sight! There were acrobats in shiny costumes and clowns with painted faces making funny noises. There were lions, tigers, monkeys and even elephants doing tricks at their masters' commands. She followed the parade all the way to the open space the circus people would use to set up their tents and get ready for the show. As luck would have it, a tent with some of the show's animals had been placed just behind Rigo's house. The little girl could barely shut her eyes that night knowing there were monkeys sleeping in her backyard!

Read about Rigo's extraordinary birth in "The Lizard and the Shoebox"

Rigo's cousins came the next day to see how close el circo was to her house, but with the stern warning from their parents to not even think about stepping into the encampment. All were playing when they heard screams coming from the big tent: "Fight, fight, fight!" The kids took off running to see what was going on, but Rigo decided to cut through the tents to get there faster. She had just stepped into the monkeys' open canopy when all of a sudden she felt something heavy jump on her. Rigo had startled a mama monkey who was feeding her baby and now saw her as a threat. The attack was swift and severe. The monkey began to bite her, and scratch her incessantly while wrapping her tail around the girl's neck. Rigo's screams for help, and the animal's screeches were so loud that they stopped thAbuela Rigo circa 1977Abuela Rigo circa 1977e fight and its spectators in their tracks. Then, they heard a loud voice: "The mama monkey is eating Don Pepe's daughter up!" The entire camp ran to the canopy with cries of "get the tamer!", "get a doctor!", "get Don Pepe!"

The monkey put up a fight, but the tamer was finally able to yank Rigo, now unconscious, out of her clutches. He took the listless girl in his arms, ran quickly into the house (with what seemed like the entire town following him) and placed her on the first surface he saw- the kitchen table. Under Papá and Mamá's watchful eyes, the town's doctor began to care for the girl, but Little Rigo was unresponsive. People continued to gather outside quietly waiting for news while whispering prayers. Suddenly, there are coughing and gasping sounds followed by cries of "where's my Mama?" The town irrupted in joyful shouts now knowing that Don Pepe's daughter was not going to die!

Soon, newspaper reporters, photographers, businessmen and politicians paraded down the streets asking questions. And no, they didn't want to see the big show; they wanted to know where Don Pepe's house was to meet the girl who fought with the circus monkey and lived to tell about it.

And like abuela used to say, "Un día de estos se van a acordar de mí." (You'll remember me one of these days.)

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Find the entire series of "The Abuela Chronicles" here:

The Lizard in the Shoebox

The Trouble with Papá's Siesta

A Girl More Famous Than the Circus

Rich at Last