Author: Sylvia Castañeda

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The men from Rancho Chacuiloca knocked on Susana’s door bearing the news of her husband, Santiago. In an attempt to defend his friend from a grave accusation made by the Federales, he received a blow to the head with a .30-30 rifle. It was the 13th of November, 1913, three years into the Mexican Revolution; Zacatecas had become the battlefield between the agraristas – land reformers who believed that the land belonged to those who labored it – and the 34-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. A bloody civil war would last seven more years. At 26, Susana buried her husband and was left alone with her five children. Weeks passed. One morning, Susana left her adobe one-room house to fetch water from a nearby well; she instructed her children to remain, under lock and key. Susana never returned. Doña Petra, Susana’s mother, received word that the soldiers had left the region, but had snatched her, taking her by the waist as she walked home and forcing her onto a horse. Susana’s children were cared for …

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Pórtate Bien

The acceptance letters arrived from five California universities. My mother beamed but I dared not share the news with my father. “You have big dreams,” he would say. “It’s not good to dream big because the disappointment in not achieving those aspirations is going to get the best of you. And what good does a college degree bring to a woman? You will marry – fill your house with children and then what? No college degree needed for that.” I signed my acceptance letter with my mother’s blessing. I left for college without my father’s consent. It was Move-In Day, one week before the Fall Quarter commenced. My mother borrowed the neighbor’s Mustang and drove me to the University of California at Riverside. Freshman and returning students unloaded their belongings at the horseshoe-curb in front of the Aberdeen-Inverness Dormitories. Students were accompanied by their families – setting up their rooms, meeting their roommates, touring the campus, buying textbooks and UCR apparel. My mother had scrounged money to purchase the basics for living in a dorm …

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Bringing Luz

In the 1920’s, Luz Solís was living in San Diego with her husband and their two young children. Luz was raised in Tijuana and had crossed the U.S. – Mexico border daily to attend grade school in San Ysidro. Her husband, Lupe Tirado, was from Sinaloa; a man with limited education and a strong temperament who worked as a cement finisher. Luz was 16 years old when she married him in Tijuana and, as crossing the border was much easier then, they went to live in San Diego. They lived in a rented modest house downtown on Columbia Street near West Market Street. She and her sister, Antonia, were born to Ygnacio Solís & María Cañez, a customs agent at the Tijuana checkpoint and his wife. After she married, Luz frequently visited her parents and sister in Tijuana. When her father died, Luz’s mother and sister moved to Santa Paula, California, north of Los Angeles, where relatives lived. Not long after that, Luz’s mother passed away. Antonia remained in Santa Paula under the care of …