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May 10, 2024

104x Around the Sun

The frame was produced by the author using AI. The photographs are real.

June 2020, and the world had become dangerous and different. The global pandemic lockdown was in full force and Father-in-Law was turning 100. Like every family, we were coping as best we could with new social constraints – but a 100th birthday was too big a milestone to miss, even as the world slip-slid its way to Hell.

As my Ecuadorian Father-in-Law’s nine children – my long-suffering wife of 40 years and her four sisters and four brothers – began planning a birthday Zoom celebration, I launched an email campaign as my contribution aimed at gaining some public recognition for Father-in-Law’s centenary.

President Obama’s White House, normally one of the easier sources of recognition, was not an option. By long-standing custom, the White House doesn’t honor non-U.S. citizens. Father-in-Law has never given up his Ecuadorian citizenship, although he’s been a U.S. resident for nearly 30 years. (The White House recognizes U.S. citizens for many milestones; check the form.)

The world would have looked and felt very different in Ecuador when Father-in-Law was born in 1920. In November 1920, when Father-in-Law was still swaddled, Italian aviator Elia Liut became the first to fly across the Andes of Ecuador in a Macchi-Henrit HO biplane named Telégrafo (after Ecuador’s leading newspaper, that funded the venture). He was carrying Ecuador’s first bag of Air Mail (more here).

Then, consider the ambiguity of Ecuadorian birthdays of the period, which were marked – not the day of birth – but the day a birth was registered with the government. Because a fee was due, the timing of such matters was sometimes managed. (My wife’s birthday is in October, although her mother recalls her being born in springtime.)

Chillogallo, Ecuador, in 1960 (source: Chillogallo on Facebook).

Father-in-Law’s birth failed to assuage the social climate of his birth nation. Ecuador was gripped in the early 1920s by “depression…. The price of food increased, and exports in general declined. The sucre — the national unit of currency — fell rapidly in value. At the same time, the country’s cacao plantations became infected with a fungus that causes a malformation known as witches’ broom, and production sagged. These crises brought urban discontent, the formation of trade unions in Guayaquil, riots, and massacres by the army. Hundreds died during riots and shootings in November 1922” (Source: Britannica).

But, back to 2020 and my search for recognition.

I reached out to every political and news media outlet I could find: U.S. Federal, State, and Local (Father-in-Law lives to this day with a daughter and her family in Gardena, California). In no order, I contacted:
  • Governor of California Gavin Newsome
  • U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters
  • U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein
  • U.S. Senator Kamala Harris
  • Mayor of Gardena, California, Tasha Cerda, and the Gardena City Council
  • California State Senator Steven Bradford
  • California State Assemblymember Tina McKinnor
  • Al Roker's Today Show segment on NBC
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • Gardena Valley News
  • Torrance Daily Breeze
  • ABC7 News
  • Fox11 News
  • CBS News
  • NBCLA News

Father-in-Law with some of the children in Ambato, Ecuador, in the 1970s. He owned the bus, providing mass transit services to his adopted hometown.

Altogether, I wrote 15 organizations, sharing the following story with each of them:

The family of Luis Enrique Mosquera Cruz asks for greetings to be sent to him for his 100th birthday. Luis Mosquera was born in Chillogallo, Ecuador, on June 21, 1920. 75 years ago, he married Maruja Angela Santos Dello de Mosquera. Luis and Maruja immigrated to the United States in the 1990’s, settling in Los Angeles County, California, where they live today in Gardena. They have nine children: David of Manta, Ecuador; Lucia of El Segundo, California; Marco of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Ivan of Gardena, California; Marina of West Chester, Pennsylvania; Maria Eugenia of Ambato, Ecuador; Ximena of Gardena, California; Mauricio of Simpsonville, South Carolina; and Ana of South Miami, Florida. Luis Enrique has 20 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. Greetings can be sent to him via

My low expectations were validated. I received but one response: Governor Newsom's office asked for more information, which I provided. Then – nada. With politics burdened by issues of national origin and news media concerned with the pandemic, Father-in-Law’s 100th birthday came and went with no outside recognition.

On June 21, 2020, the family Zoom meeting was a happy experience, with attendees from across the U.S., as well as from Canada and Ecuador. Father-in-law, who may not be as sharp as he once was, seemed happy with the attention if puzzled by some of the attendees. “No conozco a los pequeños gringos que corretean por ahí” (“I don't know the little gringos running around there”), as his toddler great-grandchildren chased each other – laughing and giggling – in the backgrounds of various Zoom screens.

Father-in-Law as wiith my wife Marina in 1983. She and I married just five months after meeting and will celebrate our 41st anniversary just three days before Father-in-Law’s birthday.

That was 2020. Four years later, my dreams of grandeur have faded with the pandemic. But Father-in-Law is still with us and fast closing in on his 104th circuit of Sol. My wife, who visited her parents a few weeks ago in California, described him thus.

Mostly he’s fine. He gets out of his chair by himself. He needs help with the bathroom, but gets around the house with his walker. He recognized me as a daughter but couldn’t remember which one. He doesn’t take a single medication. He eats well. He and my mother read the Bible daily and he naps during the day with the TV on or listening to musica folklorica on the radio. At night he calls in his sleep to his mother and father, brothers and sisters.

My wife Marina with her parents in 2022.

Sadly, during my wife's visit to California, Mother-in-Law was diagnosed with cancer. She’s receiving radiation treatments to improve her quality of life but – at 96 years – she is not a candidate for chemotherapy. She and Luis Enrique have now been married for nearly 79 years.

Father-in-Law going to visit his wife Maruja during her hospital stay in 2024. I don’t think the flowers were his idea, but it was still a nice touch.

For #104, there are no plans for an email campaign, at least not at any scale. The world hasn’t become a calmer place than it was in 2020. Instead, I’m posting this blog and will share it with friends, followers, and other contacts just because we think it’s worthy of a few moments of their time.


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