HORTENSIA "PENNY" SANTANA
My name is Hortensia Santana known to many as Penny. I was born in Cataño Puerto Rico on January 11th 1952. We moved to New Jersey, when I was 3 years old and then to New York when I was 9 years old. I am the eldest of six and I have two beautiful daughters and two very handsome grandsons. My oldest daughter Jessica and I currently live in the Bronx with our dog Romeo. We have spent quite a bit of peaceful and quiet times together since the beginning of COVID-19. Listening to songs of worship, coloring, cooking, exercising or just sitting together in thought is how we’ve spent most of our days. Since the pandemic started, calls come in from Y.A.I. Seeing Beyond Disability, Jessica’s speech therapist, and from the Castle Hill Senior Center to check on us. My little sister calls from New Jersey and my daughter from Kentucky. They are constantly checking on both of us and asking how we are holding out. Our response is taking it one day at a time.
Photography has helped me see further than the naked eye and realize that a picture can often say more than a thousand words. While staying home, taking pictures has been kind of fun! Although taking pictures of and in our small enclosed surroundings has been somewhat uncomfortable, it has enlightened me on how to play with photography. Photography as well as any form of art is a form of self-expression and I have definitely enjoyed taking pictures of myself and my family. Especially while trying to keep my daughter Jessica entertained...photography has also made me see life from a different point of view. COVID-19 has taught me to be more patient in everything I do.
Jessica was born at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center (Jacobi) on January 2 1975. She loves all colors but must always match. Her favorite things to do besides Church is dancing and although she cannot enunciate, she can definitely follow a tune. Jessica has a younger sister Jennifer, when they were young they did not get along, today they love and miss each other like never before. They even agree on what's going on in the world today. She loves talking to her nephews Hayden and Ryan and can't wait to see them again.
Jessica, usually has a hard time understanding when things change, but she understood during the COVID-19 pandemic that staying home was something everyone had to do in order to stay safe. She prays often for people to listen and stay home so that we can eventually have our usual fun. Jessica going to her programs, mom at the senior center, visiting Papa (grandfather), shopping, our usual dance nights at the Morris Center and most of all Church. Jessie often expresses her feelings about why people don't listen, they get sick, a lot of people die... “it's not fair!” It's amazing that this beautiful person with what they call learning disabled, has more sense than most people I know. I love listening to her. Born hydrocephalic and not supposed to live past the age of 10, walk or talk… My girl has truly beaten most of the odds and I thank God for this treasure he placed in my life. Today she is 45 years old, helps me around the house and even cares for me when I am sick.
Education is the foundation that our families build for success in life no matter the career. Although I wanted to be a nurse, life led me to an experience I treasure. A child born with disabilities is often hard to handle if we focus on the disabilities. But when you look at the child with love, it is and will forever be a life changing challenge, experience and reward. My daughter and I have always been very close but this pandemic has brought us even closer, more patient, more loving, more giving. I adjusted my career goals and taking care of Jessica, making sure she has all she needs, and making her as happy as possible is my main focus. I wanted to be a nurse, but I have been given the greatest opportunity as a caregiver and mother. Life may have taken normalcy from her but I have tried to give her the best I can. That has made my life, as well as career, the most rewarding.