The Journey Continues: Cinco de Mayo and migrant work
My journey this week brings me to Cinco de Mayo. My attention focuses on the culture and heritage of local Spanish-speaking families, especially the older generation who traveled to West Texas as migrants where the labor from their hands and backs pulled cotton in the fall.
Years ago, having a haircut at Silva’s Barber Shop in Staples, we talked about the cotton harvest in the 1950s and he mentioned Miguel Alonzo, Jr., a “Troquero” (Contractor) in Lockhart who had provided transportation for many folks around this area who had picked cotton where I grew up in Fisher County. I made haste to meet Mr. Alonzo, Jr. . His is one of multiple interviews I conducted in English with men and women who trusted me enough to share their stories. A common lament I heard was, “My grandkids have absolutely no idea what it was like to pull bolls in West Texas — it was something else.” I was talking to people who worked in fields as young adults prior to the “cotton stripper” which brought life change in the method of harvesting cotton around 1960. Remember, someone 20 years old then is 81 years old in 2021. Knowing “Old people die, and young people forget,” I always wonder, if an old person’s obituary has a Hispanic surname, if I had missed an opportunity to capture their story, because of my desire to share their history.
We forget the costs to agricultural workers when contracted migrants were the driving force behind Texas’s booming King Cotton culture. May I give a ‘shout-out’ to Francisco ‘Frank’ Contreras, Texas educator and respected friend, who told me that after months gone from San Marcos, “Coming home (from the migrant harvest) is very important to a Hispanic’s heart.”
I met Contreras through Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos after their opening in 2010 at 211 Lee Street. Their mission is to keep the Hispanic traditions, skills and memories alive for all of us in San Marcos. And Cinco de Mayo is an important date used to share respect and pride in the brave young Mexican soldiers that won the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, against the French Empire who wanted control of Mexico. All over the USA, Hispanic communities celebrate heritage this date. Call Ms. Gloria Salazar, program director, email@example.com or call 512-878-0640 to learn about Cinco with Centro on May 5 for this year. At Centro, there is a current study for a display of migrant artifacts in one of their rooms.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” Joshua 1:9, a guiding verse from God.
I welcome anyone to call or text me at 512-216-9519, email: mrsjudylanning@gmail. com to talk about your journey to the cotton fields of west Texas long ago.