Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Without arm man inspires, creates

Vol. 40 No. 7 • FEBRUARY 16, 2011

By George P.Hassett

When Jose Gonzalez constructs kites for his
grandchildren, plays the bongos in his band or
builds furniture, most onlookers focus on something
he doesn't dwell on: he only has one arm.
Gonzalez, a Winter Hill resident, performs a
variety of tasks - from shoveling to driving a stick
shift vehicle - that wouldn't seem possible for a
man born with one arm.He shrugs off the praise
he receives from neighbors and family who tell
him he is inspirational.
“My friend used to say, 'Yo, if you had two arms
maybe you could be mayor or president.' I said,
'if I had two arms maybe I'd be a lazy bum,”Gonzalez
said through an interpreter.
Gonzalez moved to Somerville nine years ago
from his hometown Corasol, Puerto Rico. In
Puerto Rico he said people in the community
hired him to construct miniature replicas of local
landmarks, including the town's oldest barbershop,
and homes. He said he would like to
begin building Somerville landmarks now that
he lives here.
Jasen Sousa, a family advocate with the Community
Action Agency of Somerville, works
with Gonzalez and his family.He said Gonzalez'
artistic drive and creativity are inspiring, especially coming from a man who
the world might view as having less.
“Jose doesn't have all the things many of us were
born with but he does more with less,” Sousa
said. “To have the inspiration to be motivated
and create and not give up on life or be mad at
the world.He wants to create and give back with
his art and his music, even though he had something
taken from him.”
Gonzalez is a skilled bongo player, creating a diverse
range of sounds, from African rhythms to
rock and roll, and he traveled with a band for years
before coming to the United States.
In Gonzalez' hometown, the mayor and local media
recognized him for his art. He said the recognition
feels good but he is not conceited about his
accomplishments. The work he is most proud of,
he said, is the art inspired by the folklores and traditions
of Puerto Rico.
His materials can be whatever falls to hand,
including wood he finds in the trash.He built a
prosthetic arm for himself before he got one
from the doctor.
Gonzalez is the father of six - three grown children
and three young children. Sousa said he is a
devoted father, particularly to his 12-year-old autistic
son. Gonzalez cuts his son's hair and plays the
bongos with him but he says he looks forward to
the free time he has to craft his creations.
“I work anytime of day, whenever I can find the
time,” he said.“It's just another way to relax, entertain
and pass the time.”

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