Oral Interview with Amparo Grijalva conducted by Jessica Martinez 04/19/2023.
JM: Please state your name, when you were born, and where you were born?
PG: My name is Pilar Grijalva Junior. I was born in Fabens, Texas, about six miles from here. June 25th, 1956. My parents were Alicia and Pilar Grijalva.
JM: Tell me about your childhood. How was it like growing up in San Elizario?
PG: I have a very unique type of situation because my dad, son of Francisco Grijalva grew up here in San Eli. My grandfather had farms in Mesilla, New Mexico, here in San Elizario, Fabens, Texas, and also in Tornillo. The first years of my life we lived in Mesilla, in one of my grandpa’s farms and my dad managed that farm. I remember traveling back and forth, through New Mexico, and the farm, it seemed like twice a week. My father would come and report to my grandpa. Then after, six years in New Mexico we moved to Tornillo through the farm. The commute from Tornillo to San Eli was nothing because that was almost every other day. In the seventies, after my dad sold the farm in Tornillo, we built this house where I live at now. We helped my dad build it. We moved here and my last three years of high school and right after, we moved to the old house where my dad grew up in. After that, I got married and ended up in Arizona. After twenty years we moved back to El Paso, and I bought the family home from my mother and have been living here since. Growing up, it was always Tornillo, San Eli, back and forth. A lot of people that I knew were from here from San Eli. That is how I ended up back in San Eli after. The house that my dad grew up in is adjacent to this one and has since been sold, not to the family. That is one of the oldest homes here in San Elizario. That was where my great grandfather built the house and my grandfather inherited it, my dad bought it from the family. All this, around here, were farms and that’s how we met a lot of people. How I grew up here in San Eli is that my dad would hire a lot of farm labor locals from San Eli and we grew up with them because we worked the farms along with them. That’s how I ended up here in San Eli. Growing up here, I love telling stories, so growing up here we would work the fields, that was where my dad needed us at. At a very young age we learned to drive the tractor. We learned to drive trucks and just work hard on the farm. I remember at eight nine years old driving the tractors, not being able to reach the clutch on the tractors and not having the strength to push the clutch in. You just had to hang onto the steering wheel and push down and pull the clutch out slowly. I have vivid memories growing up working the tractors here on the farms here in San Eli and in Tornillo. My grandfather died right here where this house is in. He used to work in an alfalfa field. He was lifting bale and he died working. He had a heart attack while lifting bale and he passed away since sixty-four sixty-five. Coming to my grandmother’s house, almost every weekend playing around in this area before it was developed. As far as housing goes, that was just an experience because all the family we would all come together and we would all have big fiestas, Matanzas and all that kinds of stuff here. Funerals, I remember my grandfather was at his funeral vigil. At that time, we used to have the bodies in the homes. My grandfather’s body was here at the house before we took him to the local cemetery to bury him. I tell people I would not trade this growing up on the farm here nor in Tornillo for anything. It's been a beautiful experience growing up in the farm and the surrounding farmers. Religion has always been a major part of our families. I remember that on the day of Saint Isador, which is the date of the farmers, we would get the priests, we would be out in the service or participate in other ways, and we would have tractor parades, which we would go from house to house or farm house to farm house and the priest would bless the homes and celebrate mass at one of the fields or one of the farmer’s homes. That was traditional around here. Serving in both San Eli and Tornillo was a great experience especially in our mission church here in San Eli. That’s how I grew up, a lot of laughter, a lot of parties, not so much parties but just people getting together and experiencing good times here in San Eli.
JM: Do you remember any stories of your family that your parents or grandparents told you of San Eli?
PG: There is a major story here concerning the house that my dad grew up in and the properties surrounding it. Apparently, my stepfather, not my father, my step grandfather, Jesus Cobos, he was the owner of a lot of the farms. My grandfather, Francisco Grijalva, my marriage inherited Jesus Cobos’, adopted my grandmother Anita and her mother, that’s how we got into this family farming business. Apparently, when Cobos died he did not have any banks or there was no record of him depositing money in banks and stuff. He was very wealthy. In one of the windows in the church in San Elizario, he paid for it, it’s the first window to the left in the mission church and it has his name on it. Mr. Cobos and my great grandfather, step great grandfather, when he died, apparently there was no money found and all his farm equipment is still here, the house is still here, but the treasure that goes within our family legend, the treasure, they never found it. A part of the story is that he buried it. My grandfather apparently looked for it and didn’t find it. I remember my dad looking for it almost to an obsession and he never found it. Around here in this area there is a treasure that my great grandfather Jesus Cobos left behind. Nobody has ever found it, but he did not leave too much money on hand. For treasure hunters that maybe a good find. When were young, my dad was very involved in the church, and he would volunteer us to go and help paint the church, sweep the grounds, or do whatever we had to do at the mission. We would again, hear a lot of the stories. One of the ones that the parish secretary told me when I first got here for the second time in 1996 is when we came back to San Eli. She used to say that, right there next to the mission, towards Socorro Road is a old cemetery. When they transferred the bodies from this old cemetery to the new cemetery which is on Thompson Road. She used to tell me that her relatives told her that when this happened, I don’t know what year it happened, but when they transferred some of these bodies back to the new cemetery that some of the caskets had opened, these pine boxes and they had opened. Inside the caskets, this is what her relatives told her, they would find scratch marks inside the coffins from people waking up during, after they were buried, and the relatives claim they could see the nail marks in the coffins as they woke up while they were already buried in the grave. I’ve always found that very interesting. Right now, that plot of land we don’t use it. It has a memorial plot of land where our cemetery used to be because not everybody decided to move their loved ones to the new cemetery, that’s a very interesting story. Like I said, a lot of the workers that my dad hired were locals, so we had, Chavoy Martinez worked for my dad a long time. The Perez’s worked for my dad for a long time. Chavoy was a very funny man, a very sharp guy. He used to tell us stories like, “You know that house over there, there’s Martians in there. Little green men,” he used to say. I don’t know where those legends came from, but he used to tell us about that. When we would chop cotton around this area right here, Mr. Perez had some apple trees in his yard, and we would sneak off and steal his apples. We were young and it was like we would play, we had all of our buddies and we all chopped cotton in the fields, but when we had a chance, we would go and steal his apples. He would be upset that we would steal his apples. I think they were Chinese apples, what do you call them? I forget the name. Anyways, other stories from San Eli, we used to come here and like I said, we spent a lot of time here in San Eli. In fact, we actually grew up here, living maybe in Tornillo, during my childhood years. We would come here on Sundays to watch baseball, the baseball players played baseball, people like Augustin Pallan. I remember that name because he was a local baseball favorite. I don’t remember the names of a lot of them, but it was a big thing to come to the park Sunday afternoons and watch them play ball. San Eli has always, like any other town, always had lot of talent as far as baseball, music even priests and deacons would produce in San Eli that I remember. As far as religion, everything revolved around religion and the mission church. Other stories, hmm? One of the legends around here is that rebote, which is a handball court. All the local men would play rebote, the Juarez family owned the rebote. They, everybody around here played rebote, which was handball. As kids, we used to play after the farm. My father would always slip by and have a cold beer and he would also play rebote. They would ask us to shine the rebote ball. We got shinova, they were made out of leather, it’s a little bit smaller than a little league ball, they were made of leather and we would shine them and they would hit it against the wall. At the end of the matches, their hands were swollen from hitting the ball so much. Tony Soto, which recently passed away, had an eye that was injured, so he always had an eye that looked the other way while playing rebote. We grew up with rebote. Every time we were in San Eli, after a long day work, my dad would go to the rebote and we would have coke and potato chips and hot sauce. My dad would have his cold beers and play rebote for the evening until my mom came to pick us up. Stories from San Eli, of course we have the historical settings, as far as Billy the Kid stuff, and the Salt Wars, and the wild west type town that San Eli was or still is. Since then, we have seen a lot of people in the area from El Paso, away from the big cities. In the seventies, my dad started developing his plot of land and sold it. As a matter of fact, my dad had a colonia. This area was deemed a colonia by the government. Of course, my dad got in trouble because he didn’t follow all the laws and regulations concerning land development. Since then, this house is the only house that belongs to Grijalva family that was orginal to the original families’, Grijalva families in San elizario. Other stories? Hmm. I just remember the hard work that the people did around here were. How they made a living working in the farms. Everybody, Ms. Perez, she was knowing for having thirteen or fourteen children, maybe more, I don’t remember. They were good friends of ours and she was known for making the biggest and tasties tortillas in San Eli. Of course, she made a lot of tortillas because a lot of the members in her family were male and worked on the farms. San Eli has always been a very veteran military town if you want to put it that way because we don’t forget our veterans. The church is decorated and dedicated to the veterans when it was remodeled in 1942. You’ll see a tribute of the veterans and the people who helped remodel the church put the names of the veterans on the back of the church. For the veterans, San Eli doesn’t forget their military service veterans.
JM: When you say “we” do you mean you and your siblings? Did you have any siblings? Or you and your friends?
PG: “We” I mean me, my siblings, my cousins, friends that grew up here in San Eli and people that worked for my dad who were also friend, but they were our age, a lot of them were. We were friends with them.
JM: Where did you go to school? How was it like?
PG: I went to school in Tornillo for eleven years of my life. We were working there mainly because that was where my grandfather had his farm at, one of his farms. My dad managed that farm in Tornillo. Then, after eleven years, from first grade to eleven, we moved back to San Elizario and we started building this house where I live at now. Then, in the meantime, we lived in the old house where my dad grew up in. So we lived there while we built this house. San Eli, at that time, did not have a high school. They started a high school in seventy-two, seventy-three. I was already a senior so I could not come to San Eli high school. I had to go to Clint high school. I graduated from Clint my last year because San Eli did not have a high school. We commuted back and forth when were building this house from Tornillo to San Eli. My final year I could not finish in tornillo, I had to graduate from Clint because San Eli did not have a high school. What was the question?
JM: If you remember Mr. Alarcon from school or anywhere from town?
PG: The Alarcon family has always been well-known here in these parts. Everybody around here is related. Mr. Alarcon, no I can't say that I remember him. A lot of students would talk about their teachers. I can't remember their names, but most of my schooling was in Tornillo. We knew a lot of the priests at the time because we were here every weekend, so we were involved in the church. My family and the Alarcones, like around here, everyone is interrelated. My cousins from my mom’s side were Alarcon here in San Eli. Direct relation to the Alarcones, was the superintendent of the San Eli schools. As far as me being directly involved in that, no I wasn’t.
JM: You mentioned your father had you volunteer in the church, what did you do there?
PG: That one was very vivid memories. I would say it was around 1971, 1970, my dad paid us to paint the church. There was part of people that helped us in the farm also helped us paint the church. At that time, there was no scaffoldings, so we painted it the best way that we know how. I remember Mike Rivera, may he rest in peace, worked with us in the farm with his cousin Charlie and Freddy. They were all related. We were painting the church and we were painting the outside. Mike, he was fearless, and I remember him running up and down and kind of mocking us, “Hey check it out, check it out.” He wasn’t scared of heights. We were hanging for our dear lives, and we were painting the steeple and that part of the church. That time, it was a project, and my dad did get paid for painting the church. It was about seventy, around then at that time. I was maybe fourteen years old at that time. During the fiesta, we would have two fiestas. We would have it November 27, which was the actual date of San Elizario. We would have made fiesta for San Ididro. During the fiestas, my dad, at that time, was chairman of the fiestas, and so I was working. He would send me in the church van and he would say, “Hey go pick-up this and go pick-up that. Go to downtown,” so I would go pick-up a lot of the supplies that we needed for the fiesta. He always helped in the church and whatever committee he was involved in to either help put the puestos together or help get stuff from the city to bring over here to set up the fiesta. One year, my dad was a welder by trade, also a farmer, but he worked as a utility welder at night and then he would work the farm during the day. One year they had this big project building puestos for the fiestas made out of pipe and so we built them all right here in this property. People would come and we would cut the pipe and weld it and make the permanent puestos for the fiesta. We would put them into the ground every year and then store them in church grounds until the next fiesta came around and put them back in place. We would help with the building and maintenance of these puestos that we built for the church. Of course after I came back from Arizona, those puestos were not existent anymore after twenty years. That was part of the stuff that we volunteered for in the church.
JM: Tell me more about the community. How were the people with each other in San Eli?
PG: The community is very united in the sense that everybody knows everybody here and then everybody is related to somebody here. I always tell people that San Eli is the Garden of Eden of this part of the world. Everywhere you go and you mention San Eli, “Oh yeah, I have a relative there.” Somebody always has something to say about San Eli. The people here we always really got along. During the fiestas we had these fights that would brew up between different families or different communities. Fabens came over and had a fight with San Eli or Clint and San Eli would have a fight. Those were just things that came up during the fiestas when people would start of course drinking and then get a little violent. For the most part, San Eli has always been very peaceful. Everybody was always known by their family that they came from. My dad would mention the family names, “Oh yeah, that’s Madrid,” “Oh yeah, that Montez,” “Oh yeah, that’s Loya,” “Oh yeah, those are the Alarcon.” Everybody was known by the families they came from. Then, to get down to the specifics, you’d mention them by name but a lot of times it was by their family name. We were always welcomed and welcoming. We were always peaceful, so we got along with everybody here in San Eli as we were growing up. There was never any division among us and anybody here in San Eli. I would like to think that we were remembered by the old timers as, especially my dad. My dad was a very caring person, he hired anyone that needed work in his farms, and helped them to achieve their goals. That was always important in our family. As far as the community goes, everybody got along with everybody. If anybody had any issues it was between the parents. We were working one of the fields here in San Eli one year and one of the neighbor kids decided to, from his horse shoot at us with a bb gun while we were working the fields. After my dad came in, we told him about it, and he was very upset. He didn’t go speak to the kid, he went straight to the parent’s house and took his bb gun away and busted in front of his parent’s and said, “Don’t you ever let your kid do this again.” It was rough when it came to that, discipline and stuff, but I can't consider them enemies. We were just mischievous and did crazy things then. Everything was settled mainly through the families. “Tell Martinez’s son, he’s out of line.” That’s how I saw the community in San Eli and that’s how my dad dealt with a lot of stuff. It was by family and not so much individual.
JM: They kept each other accountable.
PG: Yes, it did keep everybody accountable. It was embarrassing to the family if somebody put in a complaint, not a complaint since nothing was formal, but if somebody's dad came to your house and suspected you of something, “Whose family do you come from?” To me, it was more about the reputation on the family instead on the individual. You didn’t want to do anything to hurt the reputation of the family. That’s the way I saw it. That kept us in line because everybody knew everybody. If you did something wrong like when we stole Mr. Perez’s applies, he never complained to my father. He knew who we were, he knew we were mischievous, but if he really wanted to make a deal about it, he would come and talk to our dad, he wouldn’t talk to us about it. Everything was, the way I saw it, was manly keeping the family name, keeping in line your integrity.
JM: Since we are talking about the community, who are some memorable people that come to mind?
PG: In San Eli, to me, they were mainly the farmers that my dad used to talk about. The Perez, big family, beautiful family, very nice people. As a matter of fact, my aunt, Abigail Perez married my uncle, my mom’s brother. The Perez, the Martinez. Lazaro Martinez was known as the local veterinarian. He worked at one of the local feedlots. Whenever any of the farmers had problems with their animals, they would call Lazaro and he was a long standing member here in San Eli. Chavoy, from that same family, the Martinez family, very well-known family. We had the Alarcon of course was well-known family. Loyas, Lorenzo Loyas was known as the maranero because had a lot of pigs. If you wanted a pig, go to Mr. Lorenzo Loya and you can have a pig for Christmas or whatever. Mendoza. One of the biggest farmers here was Rafael Gonzalez, employer of a lot of people her in San Eli. He was well-known for a lot of the land he owned and stuff. We had people like Mr. Maenez who worked for Rafael Gonzalez. Zunigas. Madrid. Montez. Juarez. We just knew them all through their families and we hung around with the kids. Guerras. Sotos. Almanzars. All those families were part of the original families here in San Eli. It was all just trying to keep up a good reputation.
JM: Since you said that your father, your father’s workers came to mind. What did your father grow in his farm?
PG: A lot of was cotton. When my father grew up, my father had a thing about not eating too much turkey and wearing jeans. My father would wear slacks while he worked on the tractor on the farm. He said all his life he grew up with turkey and poultry and wearing jeans. When he grew up and could afford some things, he wore slacks and wouldn’t eat poultry products because that’s what he grew up with. Part of the land around here while my dad was growing up, there was a lot of fruit trees, they grew potatoes, they grew chili, they grew a lot of tomatoes. Sometimes in this history, I don’t know when, a lot turned into cotton because of the government subsidies, so a lot of the people started planting cotton. A lot of fruit trees and staples that were grown then turned to cotton because of the government subsidies and the need for cotton. My dad grew mainly cotton and alfalfa. We used to pick bales, as soon as we learned to pick them up, we used to pick bales. We would sell them to local dairies, hay bales, so it was mainly alfalfa and hay, every now and then we would grow maybe barley or oats. Then depending on what was going to be on the market the following year, but cotton always took the main road in everything, so it was mainly cotton.
JM: Did you have any animals?
PG: Oh yes, all the farm animals. We had chickens, we had calves, milking cows. My brothers and I would play races as to how fast we could milk a cow because it was all done by hand. Before we went to school, we would have to feed the animals. When we came back from school, we would have to feed them again. Sometimes, if you weren’t careful and if you were in a hurry, and you’d put your school shoes on, you would be the rest of the day smelling the stuff from the bottom of your foot because you went out in your school shoes to feed the cows because you got up late. That’s how we grew up, with a lot of animals. Another interesting thing, there was some wildlife here too. Part of the challenge here, in the summers when we wouldn’t have much to do, or after working the farm or whatever, we would knock down the hornet’s nest and then run like crazy because they sting and would hurt you, painful. If we saw a hornet’s nest we were like, “Okay let’s go knock it down and see what happens.” There was more open fields, so there was, I don’t remember seeing any rattle snakes here but bugs and all of that, we grow up with. Just like growing up in a farm, mice, roaches, yes, that’s all typical of growing up on a farm.
JM: You mentioned San Eli was very veteran military, how was the town during World War II?
PG: I was post-war. I have an uncle, Antonio H. Grijalva, my dad’s brother, and he lost his life in World War II. Like I said, San Eli has always been supportive and fond of their heroes especially those who have lost their lives. I do remember that my grandmother never really recovered one hundred percent of the death of her son. She used to love to paint, she painted some murals inside the house, the old house to relieve her pain from the death of my uncle, Antonio. Military was a way out of the hard life of farming for a lot of the people here. My grandfather, he was all work in the farm, no college, you’re going to work on the farm, you’re going to manage my farms, and that’s it. A lot of the people’s way out was through the military. Of course, too many of them, paid the ultimate price for it. Yes, post-war, no. San Eli remembers their veterans.
JM: What are some good memories of San Eli? This is really the last question, anything else, that maybe I have missed, that I forgot to ask that you want to say?
PG: I think a lot of it, to me, a lot of the good memories was just the people. Everywhere you went, you were known, and you were respected. That attitude kind of kept everybody in line because you simply wanted to be respected, you wanted to be a good person. My biggest memories of course were working on the farm, coming to grandma and grandpa’s house and playing on the spinning wheel. They had this spinning wheel that had this big round stone wheel on it. I don’t know what they used it for. We used to come and visit, and we would sit on it and sharpen pieces of metal as we turned the petals on it. The houses, most of them made out of adobe, so most of them the had left over mescla, lime-stone type mix from the homes. We used to play with that stuff that would get hard like a rock and just play. Big memories that I had, we had a party at my grandfather’s house. The comida, the food, the elotes, we would pick fruits straight from the field. We had a big olla, as a matter of fact I still have it, and we would fill it up with elotes and water and boil the elotes. We would have mole or chicken or carnitas. Kill the pig and then the party. I remember those big gathering and the food and everything we ate, and the family, coming together as a family and a community. That’s my biggest memories, having fun in the midst of a hard life because it wasn’t easy especially at a young age. We didn’t have a lot of the funds, even playing sports, for us as farmers, we didn’t have that luxury especially in the summers because we had to work. Asking our parents for money, my dad never really paid us for working in the farm, but we always had everything that we needed. Whenever we started dating, he was like, “There’s the car, there’s the gas, just be careful.” “Always go to church first and then go out and be careful.” Those are my best and fondest memories, family and health. Family works together. Other stuff in San Eli, I was mainly working these fields around here that are all covered with houses now. Being on the tractor, plowing, being on it all day from sunrise to sundown and it gives you a lot of mental therapy stuff, to really think about stuff, being on that tractor all day. To me, it was very therapeutical living and growing in the farm. That experience, I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.
JM: Did you meet your wife in San Eli?
PG: No, she’s from Socorro. It was a blind date. I was real good friends with Larry Mainez, his dad worked for Rafael Gonzalez. Rafael Gonzalez was a land employer here because of the farms. He had a friend that he wanted to go out with, but his friend told him that she wouldn’t go out with him unless he finds a date for her friend. That’s how I met my wife. She’s from Socorro. When we came back from Arizona, my mother and my youngest sister were the only ones living here in this house. It was in dire need of repair. My mother has another house in Clint. It was in dire need of repair here and when we came from Arizona. my mom said, “You guys can stay here with your family.” Eventually, I ended up purchasing this house from my mother. Both me and my wife settled here. She’s from Socorro. I met her on a blind date here in San Eli while we lived in the old while we were constructing this one.
JM: It actually came to mind, what did your mom do, if you and your father were out in the fields?
PG: My mother, as we were growing gup, both my mom and dad always worked. My mom more seasonal even in Mesilla when we lived over there. In Tornillo, she mainly worked in the cotton gin as a scale master. She would weigh the cotton trailers as they came in to have the cotton gin. After that, she ended up working here in San Eli, at the school, as a nutritionist. All her career in San Eli she was a nutritionist and managed the school cafeteria. At the end, she was the cafeteria manager for the school cafeterias here in San Elizario. She made a career cooking. In our family all of us cooked, boys and girls, even our nephews and nieces. One of the biggest things about getting together is of course food and who prepares it and how we prepare it. One of the things we still do is pit barbecue and I mean the real pit barbecue. This is passed on from my dad and grandparents. We have a pit underground and we burn it and put embers in it till the wood turns to coal. Most of the time, we like to use pecan wood, then we wrap the meat in foil and we burn fire sacks, and wire it all together, and we bury the meat and the coals, and then seal it. Then the next day, we go out and take it out of the pit and the meat is the best thing you’ve ever tasted. That’s one of things that was handed down through all the families, is food, what we prepared. My mother, she was a cook, and then a cafeteria manager in San Elizario. Unfortunately, and it is part of my family history, my dad died from Sorosis, alcohol. Because of that my mother and father were separated. That’s how I ended up in this house. My mother moved back to Clint and my had been deceased. He died in 1993 while I was in Arizona. When I came back, I bought this house from my mom and then she moved to her house in Clint. That’s what my mom did, she always worked and kept the house too. I remember her at that time, there was black and white
TV, or even color tv, but it was TV and radio. My mom would put the radio on loud, La Rancherita, Mexican station. I’d listen to her rancheritas and she would sing all day and clean the house. Then, go to work at night. I really don’t know how she did it and then get up in the morning and then off we go again, clean the house. Everybody had their chores, and everybody had something to do. We learned to wash dishes at a very young age. We learned to cook at a young age. My mom would make cheese out of the cows that we milked. She was always cooking. She would make pan de levadura, the most delicious bread you’d ever tasted. She was an excellent cook. Other than working the house, there was eight of us in in the family. This happened in Tornillo but it was my dad who grew up in San Eli and it was his religious upbringing that helped here. While we were in Tornillo, it was far away from El Paso. My mom had Rh negative blood for pregnant people, it was not a good thing. When we were in Tornillo, my sister Magdalen was born and then after that my brother John was born. John was born very ill. All my sisters were seven months, premature. They all lived. My mom lost four children: Gregory, Lawrence, John was the last one, Christopher. When we were in Tornillo, my mom had John. John got very sick and my mom did too that night. My dad put us all in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a picture of the Sacred Heart, and put us all in prayer in the middle of the night and asked God to take care of us when we were in Tornillo, leaving the family behind, so he can go assist my mom and my brother John at the hospital. To me, that was a sign of strength of my dad’s faith. He left us in the farm. The following day he came back and he said that John had passed. Those examples of faith in the family, to me, were fundamental and central to who now I am now, as a dad, as a person. It has a profound impact on who you are formed to me. Of course that is passed down form my grandparents and our upbringing, and how we grew up. That’s how my mom was, a very faithful person. My dad, very faithful too, pero did what he wanted to do. My mom, she also died from sorosis, not because she drank too much but because of some of the medication she was taking, had an effect on her liver. My dad, yes, he got into financial problems, especially during the development of his land here in San Eli, and that’s not what drove him to drinking, but it did not help the situation, so he ended up dying from sorosis.
JM: Faith and community, I think that’s beautiful growing up with both of those. Like you said, have made you who you are today.
PG: Yes, especially in small towns. These small towns do have an effect because everybody knows everybody, and you can't hide who you are. It does keep you accountable in a certain way. Especially when your parents back you up. I remember one incident when we came back to San Eli, to live here, I had to go to school in Clint. Clint was a little different than Tornillo. I had a lot of friends here established because I grew up here, weekends or whenever we were here. I couldn’t understand and I didn’t know about discrimination and prejudice. In Tornillo, yes all the teachers were white teachers, even here in San Eli, all the teachers, from what I understand. I can say that about Tornillo, all of them white teaching Mexican children, or Mexican American, Hispanic, however you want to label, about something they knew nothing about, about our culture and who we were. I noticed that when I started going to school in Clint, discrimination. In the seventies, that was the time of Viva La Raza and MEChA and Chicano Movement, I was not heavily involved in it but I could understand the cause, so I was always speaking up which got me into trouble. When I went to Clint, this is where backing up by your parents goes, when I was in Clint, they told us to cut our hair and I spoke up and I was grabbed by a white teacher, by the collar, pushed up against the wall, and he told me, “You will cut your hair or you are expelled.” I opted to be expelled. When I got home, my father walked in and said, “What are you doing here, shouldn’t you be in school?” This is my senior year and I told him, “Yeah dad, they kicked me out.” He said, “I bet I know why, you were either smoking or don’t you think it would be easier for you to cut your hair instead of going through all this trouble?” He was upset, he was mad at me. I told him, “Yeah dad, but you’ve never laid a hand on me especially because I wouldn’t cut my hair.” He looked at me with these angry eyes and he told me, “What are you trying to tell me?” I said, “This teacher grabbed me from my collar and threw me against the wall because I wouldn’t cut my hair.” That was the end of the conversation with me and immediately he took off to school and he wanted some answers. That was a very controversial time, long hair and all that, but for me it was a proud moment in life to know that my dad, especially at that time with violent teachers, to back me up. I was just like “that’s my dad.” So yeah, that’s a little story in the difference in cultures. San Eli was, I don’t know if they had those kind of problems here, but Clint did. Clint was on that side of the fence if you want to put it that way. San Eli, I think, was more cultural as far as the Hispanic culture goes.
JM: A proud moment for your dad there.
PG: For me, it really does. He went as far as the school board and told them, and that teacher wasn’t there anymore. Of course, I wasn’t there anymore because I graduate from high school. He was, when it came to his children, no you didn’t mess with his children, he would let you know. My dad never laid his hand on us, it was just by lecturing us, it was enough to make us cry. He would lecture you until he made you cry. The strongest man that I knew, my biggest idol, the man that seemed like he was going to live forever, and I don’t mind sharing this, was done by a disease called alcoholism. That’s what alcohol does. He was my idol. He was the strongest man that I ever knew. Alcohol made him, makes us weak. Eventually that’s how he died.
JM: I’m sorry. Thank you for sharing with us.