Paquita Poza was a free spirit, a strong, independent woman who began her life at a time and place where that was not the norm. Born Fanny de Jesus Jaramillo, March 14, 1927 in Guática, Colombia to a devoutly Catholic family, from the beginning she did not accept teachings unquestioningly. She said she remembered wondering when she was very young and obliged to go to confession, “I’m only five. What could I have done that I need to confess?” Though deeply spiritual, she would always bridle at anything that did not jibe with her belief in a loving and kind God.
A young woman of great beauty, she could have traded on her looks to secure position and wealth; she resisted that path and instead moved to the U.S. to strike out on her own. In a story she would tell her granddaughter Rebecca years later, she recalled her first few weeks living in Florida. She described stepping out of a women’s clothes store wearing a new pair of slacks, lighting up a cigarette and walking down the street in broad daylight saying, “I felt 10 feet tall.” While extremely mild by today’s standards, every part of this scenario was essentially forbidden for a woman of good standing in 1940/50’s Colombia.
She went on to teach herself English, becoming so proficient she obtained a position as secretary to the editor in chief of a magazine based in Manhattan. This is where she would meet her husband, Hernán Poza. He would recommend the name “Paquita” which he felt better suited her.
Widowed at the age of 39, Paquita became a single mother at a time when this was fairly uncommon. She worked full-time as a legal secretary to provide for her daughters, managing to never miss a school play or concert.
A voracious reader, she especially loved history, biographies and texts about spirituality in both English and Spanish. She would regularly share what she read with her daughters. Rather than being didactic, these sharings were the basis for wide ranging conversations her daughters would go on to realize most parents did not have with their children. Aside from encouraging independent thinking, these discussions also served to instill an interest in higher learning in both of them. Paquita was proud of their academic achievements through college and graduate studies.
In 1985 Paquita had the opportunity to retire early and move to North Carolina to be near her eldest daughter Esther and see her two granddaughters grow up. Now also known as “Nana”, on a lark Paquita decided to take a part-time job working for the national AIDS hotline. Rising through the ranks to become a full-time supervisor, making presentations at conferences across the country, this would prove to be the most stimulating, positively challenging and fulfilling job of her career.
It wasn’t until 1992 that Paquita truly retired, moving to Emerald Isle with her sister Rosa where she finally learned to relax. Taking up painting at a local community college, she not only became an accomplished artist but made friends with fellow painters. They had movie nights and lunches and blueberry picking excursions – simple pleasures her daughters were glad to see her able to enjoy.
At 80, Paquita welcomed the birth of her grandson, Alejandro Hernán, as she had the births of her two granddaughters, Rebecca Pilar and Natalie Rose, with great love and joy. She is survived by them and their parents, Inés and César Poza and Esther Poza and John Buckwalter as well as by her sister Maria De la Torre, nephews Avelino and Joaquín Sousa-Poza and extended beloved family. She was preceded in death by less than 2 months by her sister Rosa and previously by brothers Marco, Julio and Gerardo.
Esther and Ines wish to extend their love and thanks to family for the stories they’ve shared since their mother’s passing about how her strength and determination has served to inspire and sustain them. Special thanks also to the staff at Carrilon Assisted Living for their very caring support in our mom’s final days.