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A Journey Through Time: San Pedro 1930s

October 29th, 2014 at 12:59 am

I was born right when the Great Depression was reaching its worst.  We didn’t feel it, though, down here San Pedro.  Most of had nothing or very little, we all farmed and soon as you were big enough to hold a tool or peel back a corn husk, you were put to work.  Corn was one of the biggest crops for years because it usually weathered cold spells and you could usually get about four reaps a year on it. 

(Red Cross photo 1930)



I was born when things weren’t too bad in America.  We rented a farm house where corn was grown twice a year and the fields were turned over during winter because it was much too cold for planting.  There was dairy farm up the road, and a little further, a pig farm. 


We always killed a…puerco…what’d you call it?—a hog—on holidays.  That was tradition.  In the winter, its blood was cooked with spices or herbs and everybody drank it for a kind medicine or tonic. 


I see….


Don’t give me that wide-eyed school girl look.  Just in case it crossed your mind, we aren’t vampiros, lobos, brujos or any other weird-o things in your imagination.  Look into your family and see what home-remedies they might have used.  How about that castor oil they used for ‘bout everything? I don’t need to tell what it does to your insides.


They did use that to treat nearly everything back in the 30s.  You’re right.  I remember hearing about it.  But—about the brujo part of it---


--Along with medicines, a raw egg, prayer to Guadalupe and a glass of water by the bed at night got rid of all of those other mental problems and bad dreams.  We didn’t have flu shots then, and no one went to the dentist or the doctor.  You got a tooth-ache, they stuffed a wad of cotton in your mouth soaked in clove oil. All the folks every place else in the world during the Depression missed all of the conveniences they once could afford.  We never missed what we didn’t have.


While we didn’t starve when I was small, we did have a hard time making ends meet.  We had two gardens on each side of the house and grew different fruits and vegetables.  We canned a lot of food and put it up for the winter.  I didn’t have to do any heavy work, but I did break green beans for supper.  Imagine…had we grown up together, we could have had both corn and beans for supper. 


I like that idea, but I’m still not believin’ you’d like my era. 


I would have; I feel like I belong here.


One thing you’re forgetting.  Other people would give us a real hard time because we would have been from different places. They wouldn’t approve of us being together.


I would be willing to take that chance, but it was never written that way.  I wish I understood what my connection was to you, all of the places you’ve been, spirit, and the time period you lived.


I told you not to go looking for yourself in my yearbooks, in Brownsville, in Bryan, or the train station.  You won’t see yourself in any of those places. 


Will I understand someday?—Will I know what it all means some day? 


Not in life, you won’t.  If you had all the answers, you couldn’t be at peace and live the life you have now.  Some things are secrets for our own good, you got that?


I suppose so.


Things from a long time ago are shadows of what’s done.  The road ahead is made of the same materials—it’s what hasn’t yet been done.  People spend most of their ‘nows’ in either yesterday or tomorrow.


Yes, they do.  We’re always holding on to that wonderfully delicious moment of happiness, or anxiously awaiting what is to come. On the darker side of it, we may relive the same nightmare again and again, and fear what is to come that the same nightmare lies before us.


In my world, we travel between the two by remembering or by looking ahead.  Some things are hard to visit because we want to stay forever in the moment and never go forward.


Can you take me to the place in your life which was one of the happiest memories?—Something you haven’t yet shared with me yet.


I can’t take you back that far. I might not be able to bring you back.  Better not chance it.


I’m willing to take the risk for what I may learn.


Don’t rate your life so cheap.  You might find it comes in handy to talk to people on the earth.

I have a better idea.  I can show you. Take my hands and look into river next to us. It holds all the memories of everyone here.


I see a woman with dark skin and eyes, black hair swept back. She’s wearing a navy-blue house dress and standing over a wood stove; something’s boiling in a metal pot.  It’s hot out and the steam is causing her to perspire even more and she mops her forehead with a white handkerchief.  I see a young girl and two boys with her. The girl is trying help, but the boys look as if they’re waiting to eat whatever’s in the pot.  The woman smiles and I can see she has the same arch to her eyebrows as you.  Her dark eyes light up and I know she loves these children, but the older boy is her favorite. I can feel it; I can sense it, but I don’t know how. She’s putting her hands on each of his cheeks and kisses the top of his head.  The smaller boy looks dismayed as he tugs at her dress. 

I’m outside of the house now.  It’s a gray stucco house and has a blanket over the doorway.  A man is sitting on a wood bench reading a newspaper.  There’s a big white envelope tucked in his shirt-pocket.  It’s too big for the pocket, but he’s stuffed it in there anyway.  It must be something very important.  I know this man; I’ve seen him before.  He’s you father.  The woman inside must be your mother. That was you she kissed on top of the head.  Oh, my gosh--you’re so adorable!


That’s enough moosh. Let’s not get all sappy. 


That was a beautiful memory.  Thank you for showing me this; I’ll keep it with me always. 


It was a summer on a Sunday afternoon.  Papi was home that day, and everyone was happy.  The envelope in his pocket was some money he saved to pay tax on the land.  We had the farm tax relief law back then, and the tax wasn’t as much as it had been before.  He was very proud he could pay it.

I remember sitting on that bench outside with him.  Everything was real quiet back then. I was nine years old at this time. The year was nineteen thirty nine.  The war was just around the corner, then.  Papi was never drafted because he had a heart condition.  He worked on the farm and drove rich snooty people around in their cars for extra money.  Even though the Depression hit hard, some people around town always found a way to profit and have money at that time.  They lived through the worst years, and nothing seemed to keep them down.  Back then people didn’t funnel drugs.  They smuggled goods across the border. 


Somehow, I can feel the emotions you felt back then.  It’s like I’m in that atmosphere.  It seems like so much happiness. I just don’t have the words to fully describe what I’m experiencing.  It’s like this high or wave of energy, emotions, all wrapped in this wonderful time of long ago. 


Our time together is over for now. 


I don’t want to go….


The next time we’ll visit the old country.


I look forward to it, spirit.  I have so much to share and so little time to write it all down.