My mother Maria was born in 1933 in El Rancho Libertda in Zacatecas, MX, and later lived in Emiliano Zapata, Zacatecas and somewhere in Mexicali before they moved to Los Angeles, CA and finally to Pico Rivera, CA. I had the good fortune to find an old family photo of my mother and her family which included 2 brothers and 3 sisters, she being 2nd to the youngest. It’s one of those antique photos where they dressed the men in a charro hat with a gun at their side. A strolling photographer took the photo.
My mother looked like a model when she was in her teens. She could have been an actress with her rosy cheeks and long gleaming wavy black hair. None of the models and actress in the 50’s had anything on her. Her own life could be a movie or T.V. series in itself. She also has a beautiful voice. I would love to get with any Hispanic movie producer to tell her story. Yet all that beauty hides her lack of a childhood education and painful marriage.
My mother spoke of her 3rd grade education coming to a halt because of a school scandal. One day the teacher took the kids out into the playground and he had the boys and girls in two different lines. He was quizzing them to hand out prizes to those who answered correctly to his questions. One parent passing by asked one of the kids what was happening and they made up a lie that the teacher was marrying the boys with the girls. Like a teacher has the authority to do this. The confused parent then went and told many other parents in town and soon little by little, they came to ask permission for their child to be excused for the day. They even went as far as telling their child to come out of class through a window, this was my mother’s recollection of that day.
Overwhelmed, by how many parents were asking for their children, the teacher was investigated by the local government as to his actions on the playground that day. Due to the ridiculous story the parents were claiming, the government closed the school for seven years. They told the parents they had to hire a teacher and pay for their salary and expenses if they wanted the school to be in operation. Well that didn’t happen and so my mother never went back to school to finish her education.
My mother also spoke about her childhood in how her sisters, cousins and herself, used to play with rag dolls and laugh throughout the night. They would get a scolding for not going to sleep and not letting others sleep. They were taught at an early age to work on household chores like cleaning, washing clothes in the riverbed, taking lunch to the hungry men working in the fields, and helping with the meals.
As my mother and her sisters got older and were able to attend local festivities, people would come over and ask their father’s permission for them to attend. They would pick them up and walk them home. When they were old enough to attend on their own, their friends or cousins would come and pick them up and walk them home. At one of these parties is where she met my father but also had many other admirers. Yet my father was her first love. Thank goodness they weren’t related, because we had family in almost every corner as I came to find out in my visit in 2001, or at least I think they’re not. The jury is still out on that one. Someone said they might be related, but not by blood.
Her teenage years flew by with giggles and house work, with flirtations, sweet nothing notes and her everyday adventures with her family and teenage life. One year it rained so hard for several days in the town of Emiliano Zapata and my grandfather had to cross the river with my mother and the donkeys that my grandfather owned. They were heading home and my mother was riding the donkey. My grandfather thought it was safe to pass the river and on they went until the donkey was swept off his feet with my mother on top of him. Till this day she is afraid of water and never learned to swim. She also has nightmares from the trauma of this event.
Nevertheless, this isn’t the only trauma in her life that haunts her. My mother ended up marrying her first love, (my father), despite the red flags of her new mother-in-law. Before her marriage, she had a brightness and a giggle in her soul. She would say that she was marrying my dad not his mom and nothing was going to take away her smile. How could they, she was on cloud nine. Well little that she knew, my dad was a big mama’s boy. My grandmother dictated where and when and she would say how far to jump and my mom had to jump and ask how high.
On their first day of being married, my grandmother ordered my mother to kill one of the chickens and defeather it and make a Mexican dish called Pipian. From that day, there were many orders and my mother was wondering what she got herself into. I’m not sure why my father was her only mama’s boy, because my uncles and aunts didn’t let their mom run their marriages. I was told that my grandmother despised my mother because she wanted my father to marry someone else. Well my grandmother had her ways of dealing with situations, like paying others to do witchcraft and voodoo dolls to people, especially my mother. I even think she did a voodoo doll on my father so he can give her all the authority of my mother and my siblings. My grandmother was in control of my mother while my father was in the United States working. It was easy for my father being born in Bakersfield, to go in and out of MX; even if his visits where far and few. I know there is truth to my grandmother’s mayhem because I was told my grandfather found a bunch of voodoo dolls in the garden and my mother’s life was a living hell living with her.
My father would send money to his mother instead of his wife and she did a good job controlling every dime and nickel. She controlled everything she and my siblings had to eat or not eat; every piece of clothing on their backs. My mother had to walk on eggshells around my grandma for several years. Even purchasing things at the local market was controlled by my grandmother. She told the clerk not to give my mother anything on credit. Furthermore, if my mother threatened to leave my father, my grandmother would give her a song and dance about taking her children away. Well with her tail between her legs, my mother stood in the marriage despite living with the wicked witch of MX. La Llorna didn’t have anything on my grandmother. My mother even had her visits to her own mother controlled by the troll. My mother tells me other traumatic tales such as when the dog ate the dinner while my grandmother was in town. She escaped punishment by the help of sending her mother a note advising her of the situation and her mom literally ran to the market to buy fresh meat so my mom wouldn’t be in the dog house, worse than she was.
My mother told me one time that a few of the local men where shooting into the house and throwing rocks into the window looking for my uncle for something stupid he had done. Her tales she tells still to this day are with tears in her eyes and a broken heart from living with my grandmother and having a loveless marriage. Her life story could be a telenovela in itself.
My father brought my mother to the states only because my uncles’ wife had died and he needed a babysitter. Life wasn’t always roses here in the states either without my grandmothers main control, yet from far away, the voodoo dolls and spells still had a hold on my mother’s life.
Fast forward living in one house with my other uncles and aunts in Los Angeles, my family finally moved to Pico Rivera where I was born and raised. My dad and uncles had their own businesses making clothing for women. This is where my father fell in love with one of the ladies that sewed for him. From there on, she had her hooks on him until one year my mother finally got fed up with it. I remember that day she finally told him basically it was us or his new family. Yes, he had 3 other children from his
new fling. I met two of them around the late 1980’s at a department store I was working at as a cashier. I quickly found out that my dad was their dad. It was no surprise because I knew my father had other family, but nevertheless, it was a very emotional encounter that I had to leave in tears no doubt. I always wondered if my father loved them more than us. You see, we never had a relationship with our father, well my sisters and I didn’t because he was one of those Mexican machos that only wanted sons. Thank God I was the youngest of all my sisters because he was very strict with them.
My mother managed to keep us afloat with all the bills because of my sisters and brothers, despite that she never acquired a job other than helping my father and doing some babysitting gigs. One remark I heard that one of my uncles said, was that at least we were older and we were able to work and put food on the table. He wasn’t the only one that approved of my father’s extra marital affair, my other aunts and uncles seem to be cozy with his new family as well.
Although my mother had only a third-grade education, she is wise, loving, caring and she would give you the shirt off her back. She is fragile at her age of 83; short but picosa (hot tempered). She has the biggest heart and I feel bad that of all people, she had the life she did. I love her with all my heart. Her years are finally catching up to her as I watched her get up and walk across the kitchen with her baby steps and grey hair. She says that when I was a little girl, I would tell her that when I grew up, I was going to be the mom and take care of her and she was going to be the baby. The roles are reversing and I hope one day someone will take care of me as we do her.
I also wish that one day I had come home from middle school and met my grandmother (the troll), and that I should have asked her why? Why did she treat my mother like a piece of dirt instead of embracing her? I was even sorry that she was my grandmother. It was like meeting an ice cube; a loveless grandmother with ice for a heart. I was also sorry that God chose my dad to be our dad. Thank God for my Godfather that lived next door to us. He was more of a father to me than my own dad. I think my mother was grateful for that as well.