Rebecca: Delma Rivera-Lytle is the daughter of Delma and Dr. Edwin Rivera, two Puerto Ricans who became heroes to a number of Spanish speaking people in the city, from the 1960s onward for their work in the community.
Now, Delma, you were actually born in Harrisburg about four years earlier, you had lived in Puerto Rico as a young child before moving to the area with your family, but before we get into your story, can you talk about your parents, especially for people who might not know everything that they did?
Delma: My parents had a wonderful journey in their life. They met in San Germán, Puerto Rico. It was my mom’s first day of college and she met my father, and they dated all through college.
When my dad graduated he went into the Army, and after he graduated from medical school, he had the opportunity to come to Harrisburg to do his residency, and as you mentioned, that was when I was born, and when he completed that was when we moved back to Puerto Rico.
My father had the opportunity, because he did so well with his class at the residence, to be offered to purchase a doctor’s practice in York. And it was really a leap of faith for them to move to a place where they were not familiar with the weather, the culture, they did speak English, but my mom was hesitant to speak it because she had a thick accent.
They came here not knowing anyone, and that was a real leap of faith. When my father moved here, the doctor that was selling the practice, sent out a notice about the doctor that was coming, and some patients decided to go to another doctor because they did not want to go to a foreigner at that time, which I think is interesting.
And my mom worked at the office, so she always knew all the patients, and it didn’t take very long for them to become real part of the fabric of the community, that people that knew him said this is the most wonderful doctor, and I’m not biased or anything since he was my dad, and it was wonderful.
My mom was afraid that here she was a foreigner, even though she was an American, seen as a foreigner, that she would not be welcomed into the community, and there was an organization of the doctors’ wives, The Medical Auxiliary, that really took my mom under their wing and made her feel welcome.
Often, my dad and my mom said it was because of that group that they stayed, because their long term goal was not to stay here, it was to stay for a couple of years, and go back, but they realized that the educational opportunities were better for us here.