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Interview with: Augustin
Date: February 24th, 1983
I: 00:03 This is a February 24th, 1983 oral history interview about the repatriation process with Mr. Augustin Villagomez, Magnolia Park. What’s the address here Mr. Villagomez?
I: Yes, here.
AV: Seventy-six forty-one.
AV: Avenue F.
I: Yes sir. What—what I’m—what we’re interested in, Mr. Villagomez, is as I said, the repatriacion process.
AV: Well, during the Depression, the jobs here, work, was so scarce. (00:52 tape stops and restarts)
I: I wanted to—
AV: Henshaw Building’s where we went and get the—
I: The Henshaw Building.
AV: Henshaw Building. This where now Jones Hall stands.
I: The social workers you said—now, what was that again about the social workers?
I: The social workers. They’d come out here?
AV: Yeah, they walked the streets every day looking for people, sick people or hungry.
I: 01:22 Back in the 30’s?
AV: Yeah, yeah, oh yeah. Hadn’t been for that there would have been a lot of dead people, but they were looking for sick people, take them to the hospital, hungry, everybody would be given whatever they need. Clothes, many times, shoes, and of course, eats. Once they put them on the list for groceries, well, you were there until you find something to do.
I: Did you have to go down there to get on the list?
AV: That’s right. No. No, no. You get it—you get your name from the social workers here and tell us to go over there and be over there then. When you go over there, they already got it down the list. “You be over there Monday,” they told me. Others say “You be there Tuesday.” All the week, all the time it was full of people picking up their groceries.
I: Everybody had their day of the week that they had to go down there.
AV: They wouldn’t deliver any, but you get yours and bring it home the best way you can.
I: What—what—where were you living? What was the address again that you were living at at that time?
AV: Seventy-five thirty-nine Avenue I.
I: Avenue I.
AV: Where now De Zavala Park stands.
I: There in Magnolia? Here in Magnolia?
AV: Oh yeah, yes. Three blocks from here. Yeah.
I: Were there—were there a lot of people here in Magnolia getting food down there?
AV: Well, a good many of them, but the 30’s, it was pretty crowded. Well, not crowded, but pretty well settled. In the 18’s, like I said, when we got here, there were very few houses, very few. One here, then two blocks without any, another one yonder. But it built up rather quick.
I: Do you remember the names of those women down there at the Henshaw Building?
AV: 04:04 I’ve been trying to tell you that. I can tell you another thing. Mrs. Patey, (?) might have been Patty, I don’t know because that happened not during the Depression. Let me take you back to the 18—to the 20’s. I went to work at veteran hospital that came back from the First World War that was on the west end of Houston, and that was the best job I had for many years. They would pay me a hundred dollars a month, board and room, and my boss was Miss Patty or Patey.
I: What year—what year was this? What years was this?
AV: This was in 1920.
I: Before you got married?
AV: I was still single. That’s where I got my money to get married.
I: I see.
AV: And—let me see. I was an order—you know—cleaning up—
AV: Uh-hunh (affirmative). They had big order in fireman, no gas in those days anywhere in Houston. They had big heaters on the recreation rooms for the soldiers. I had to keep the fire going with wood, and I had to keep the place clean. They had a big—an old sofa like that around the wall, no chair, and dance floor, piano, and one morning, I got up to bed and ate breakfast and went to work. As I walked into the hall, I saw something laying on one of the sofas, an envelope. It was open. It was a letter in it, and it was 19 dollars and 64 cents in it. It was pretty lucky day for me, but I just got it and put it in my pocket, and I went to the boss, the head nurse, Miss Patty. “Good morning Augustin. What’s new?” I don’t know how I did it. I hadn’t been here but a few months, few years, few months. Maybe two years. I wasn’t able to speak English, but I told her “Good morning. Here.” “What you got?” “This,” and I show her the envelope. “Where did you get it?” “At the hall.” “Well, put it in your pocket. If anybody asks you for it, tell them to identify it. If not, it’s yours.” “Okay,” so I put it in my pocket. I had one suit of clothes there I had tailor made and put it in my inside pocket. So, when I receive my pay, one hundred dollars a month, whatever I get, I decide to go to city. My god, that envelope that had been in my pocket, I didn’t wear my suit. I was working. It was hanging up there (clears throat) until I came to the border. I forget what for. Maybe to—because I didn’t have passport then. Whatever it was, I felt at something in my coat pocket. I had my suit then, and I found nineteen dollars and sixty-four cents. Whew! It was a week’s wages. Boy, I had enough money to pay the fare to Morelia and back. It was a lot of money in those days. She said but don’t—don’t talk to nobody. Anyone ask you, tell them to identify it. If they don’t, nobody asked. People there, no one.
I: 10:41 Why didn’t you all get married in Morelia? Why did you decide to bring—you all decide to come back up here and get married?
AV: Because my mother-in-law wouldn’t let us. She just wouldn’t.
I: She didn’t like you or what?
AV: For some reason or another she never did like me. So, I told my wife, I said “Honey, you see I’ve tried twice to ask for you, for your hand, but your mother don’t let us get married, so what are we going to do?” I wrote to her, I say “If you really want to get married, marry me, I can go and you come over with me.” We married right here, as soon as we could here, and that’s the picture that you got because her mother never did like me.
I: What was her name?
AV: Whose name?
I: Your wife’s name. What was her—
AV: My wife?
AV: Anavelia. Anavelia Rivera (?).
I: Who were the other two people in the picture? The other two people in the picture.
AV: Oh, those are witness.
I: Who were they—
AV: I had four, you notice, because before I get married, my sister had got married here probably a year before me, and they were witness for me and they told me, they said “We’ll be your witness when you get married.” Thank you. Days went by, finally I came in with my bride, and they live in Houston, I believe. They wasn’t living near us, and so another couple that was living near us from Morelia also, our age, I asked them to be our witness, and they agreed. And I never thought of those that they had told me, and they came up on the day of the wedding. That’s why there are four. I told you we were going to be your witness. Well, I’m sorry.
I: 13:25 What are their names? Are they the ones in the picture?
AV: Yes. One of them was Francisco Parassa (?) and Refucio de Lasposa (?). The wife, her family name, I don’t know. He was Francisco, and she was Refucio and the other two was Pantaleone Espinosa (?) and Nicolasa (?). That’s the name of my witness.
I: During the Depression, did you have your kids in school? Where did they go to school during the Depression?
AV: Right here, the church.
I: At the church school?
AV: Seven—no, Azalea. Seventy-six and K, right here.
I: Did they—I’ll get that. Did they—did the—did you have to pay any money to put them—keep them in school, or not?
AV: Yes. They didn’t—they were going to have a price set for you can go pay whatever you can. I never was able to pay the fee, so my wife give two, three dollars a month, whether it was one, two or three. When we had more, we give more. But that—
I: How many—how many children did you have during the Depression? I mean, did you—when you went back to Mexico, how many children did you have at that time?
AV: 15:19 Let me see. It was 1928. I had three.
I: You already had three.
AV: A boy—I mean, a girl, which is the oldest, boy and a girl. Three.
I: And you took all three of them back to—
AV: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I wouldn’t leave none of them. None.
I: They were—they were little though, weren’t they? Were they pretty small?
AV: Yeah. Yeah, they were still—the oldest was—was about maybe seven or eight. Of course, my kids, they were two year apart, one from another, and I was married in 1921.
I: Could you tell—when you went back there in 1930 to Morelia, could you tell a difference from having lived up here and going back there? Was it different when you went—
AV: Well, the—the way the conditions were here, I didn’t. It was just as bad as it was over there.
I: Were you—did you see—I mean, but as far as living in the United States, I mean—
AV: Oh, no, no. That’s—of course, there’s a lot—lots of difference. That’s why—mostly why I came back, because the house was in the center of the block, don’t have but one way out to the street or to the back if you have a backyard. So, oh, everything was all right ‘cause we lived two blocks away from the main plaza, and we would take them out and they like it. But as soon as the sun go out, we had one drop light in the house. When they put it out, it was as dark as you can possibly make it, and they didn’t like that.
I: The kids—
AV: They start to (crying noise).
I: The kids would cry?
AV: Yeah. “What’s the matter?” “I don’t like it here. I don’t like it here.” So, that had a lot to do with us—
I: With you coming back.
AV: —to make us come back. (17:43 tape stops and restarts) —were mostly brought us back.
I: The kids didn’t like it in the house?
AV: No. They like it in the day time. I put them in school and after school we would take them to the park. We living right near a park and so everything was beautiful, but at night they started crying. They never made it, so we—
I: How did—were you—did the people treat you pretty well in Morelia?
AV: 18:14 Of course, yeah, yeah. Yeah, the treatment is real well, real good. Even today, the people are easygoing, friendly. My wife, she go out. People look—call her on the phone from yonder.
I: To here?
AV: Yeah. She had made a lot of friends in Morelia and Japon and Leon and Guadalajara and Monterrey, of course, just her hometown. So, she loves to go to—to go down south. And since we—well, thank god, able to do it. What is the word I want? You enjoy life. We don’t have no reason why we have to have a big money or properties to will to anyone. So, of course, she got brothers, only brothers, but she want them—she got them pretty well taken care of. She build a nice house for her sister that was not yet married. (19:48 tape stops and restarts)
I: And you had a son? A son—a son was born there in Mexico? You said—
AV: A son?
I: Yes. You had a boy born—
AV: During the time that we were there my boy was born, which is the second of the family. His name was Ramon Villagomez and I had a kind of hard time during the Depression because he was a boy that was always worrying about how to help me. So, he wanted to go to those CCC camps. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, where the government would gather a bunch of boys and send them off to work in different places, and he went to enlist to go there. But they told him no, this only for natives and he was born in Mexico. So he says—he came nearly crying and said, “Dad,” he said, “They don’t want me in the CCC camp because I was born in Mexico, and if you would be citizen they would take me,” and I was then already attending night school for the purpose. So, I told the teacher, and she gave me a letter stating that I was studying for citizenship and that letter help him to be taken.
I: What year was he born?
I: Yes, what year was he born?
AV: In 1924.
I: 22:02 He was born in 1924.
AV: Uh-hunh (affirmative), in Mexico, and he left here at age 16, but in three months time he had a heart attack and died at camp. They sent him to me just like another soldier or government employee and buried with all the honors with a flag, and that’s why he’s not in the picture. This picture was taken 1957 and he die in 1941.
I: He died in ’41.
AV: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
I: When did you become a citizen? When did you get your citizenship papers?
AV: Nineteen forty-one or forty.
I: Nineteen forty.
AV: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Took me five years.
I: Took you five years.
AV: Because I didn’t want to go—you know—a number of boys go over there and they say go back to school. Go back to school. “Mr. Villagomez, you can make it now.” “No, I don’t want to be sent back” so I hang on. The boy was already enjoying my citizenship so I don’t want to be—and finally said “I’m going to put you in this” because I had two receptions during the year every six months. So, I’m going to put you in the next one. Put me in there, and lucky, I got it without too much—it’s only three questions they ask you and you have to study 500 of them, like she told me, and there be only a few, very few question, but you don’t know which ones they’re going—lucky I got the three first ones I got answered. But you got to go a lot of—through a lot of hard work. You have to know what’s the duty of the policemen, who put the policemen there, and who put the mayor in the government. You got to know a lot of things about the history, even geography, points like that that you’re not acquainted to, so you have to study ‘cause she said “You don’t know which ones you’re going to get so you better go through them all all the time.” And fortunately I made it in there on my first try. (25:10 tape stops and restarts) I had been going there. Left me alone certain—just for a night. She said “Mr. Villagomez.” “Yes ma’am.” “Come here for your ticket.” I went. She said “I see you always have a hard time to receive what we give you. Well, you shouldn’t do it. Everybody has the same condition as you are. But I tell you one thing that I learn. Do you know where the Lone Star Cement Plant is?” I said “Well, I have an idea.” I didn’t know but I knew it was off (s/l the airport) here. “Well, be there Monday morning” and it was Monday. Tomorrow morning, it was Monday when I was up there. “Be there tomorrow morning. They’re going to hire people.” At five o’clock I started working. It’s right there on Manchester, and when I came there there were about 300 people already, and I got there at 5:30.
I: 26:42 A lot of Mexican people?
AV: A lot of Mexican people, and at seven o’clock a big tall fella and a mean, mean gringo come out. “Hey, you want to work?” “Yes sir.” “What’s your name?” They’re talking very—“Okay. Step over.” He goes “You want to work?”
I: He was looking you all over?
AV: Yeah, he looked a whole bunch before he pick another one. It took him 30 minutes to pick out 20 men, but I was lucky to be in it.
I: You were—you were picked—
AV: Yeah, I was. It was the 29th of April, 1934. So, when you have 20 men, he said “That’s all I need.” A lot of us left, and he took us to a doctor’s office. The doctors check us and took us to the main office, and there were guards. It was the last day of April, 1934. So, they went—the people, the hard work was 7 to 3:30, but instead of seven we went to work at nine, so we worked six hours and here—you know—Mexican people might be empty belly, but they’re joyous on the holidays. You know, the Cinco de Febrero—I mean, Cinco de Mayo—is a Mexican holiday, and we already celebrate right here where the park is now. And the company was paying every fifth and twenty of the month, twice a month. So, on the fifth, I came home with my first check, two dollars and thirty-two cents. Something like that. Well, that was 40 hours or eight hours at thirty-eight cents an hour. So, it wasn’t three dollars, less than three dollars, and I came home—you know—happy. Tired as hell but the job was hard, breaking concrete by hand. And—
I: With a hammer? With a hammer?
AV: It was a sledge hammer.
I: A sledge hammer.
AV: 30:07 But there wasn’t really—it was no concrete on the floor. It was concrete that had just stuck to the silos where they start as cement and it sticks, but the crust was that—that thick and that’s what we were doing, hanging on the rope.
I: Hanging on a rope?
AV: Hanging on a rope with a long bar about from here to the door with one hand and the sledge hammer in the other 30:44 (unintelligible)
I: To hit it.
AV: To bang it, you know. And the rope would give you this, so it—
I: You’d go back and forth on the rope.
AV: Yeah, and we worked in there for six months. We cleaned up 19 silos. They were 30 feet around, 60 feet high. Well, the big silos, they put a scaffold, but the narrow ones, which were a good many of them, we had to be lowered down on the rope. But anyway, I came home, my check, and I was happy. I told my wife “Honey, we’re going to Cinco de Mayo.” She thought I was loco. “No, Nina, we got money. But we need it for the—to enjoy ourself. Come on, let’s go to Cinco de Mayo.” So, we came. It was across the street, and you enjoyed those two dollars and some odd cents. I have already for—(tape ends 32:12) (new tape starts 00:03) Daily wages was 40—38 cents an hour, eight hours, 38 cents an hour, so at the end of the week of 40 hours and we got I believe somewhere about 15—it wasn’t 16 dollars. So, we enjoyed the first check and kept on working. From then on, I work with the company for 33 years. I wouldn’t quit no matter what. There was nowhere else to go.
I: When you went to—when you went to Mexico in 1930, what made you decide to go to—I mean, did somebody tell you about going back or did you just think up this yourself?
AV: I just—I just didn’t know what to do because here there was nothing to get. Nothing.
I: How were you treated when you went back to Mexico? What—
AV: Very nice. If it hadn’t been for that policeman that was at the border, I wouldn’t be here probably.
I: What happened?
AV: 01:29 Because when we came across, we were wetbacks. They cross us there. The coyotes cross us at Rio Grande for three dollars apiece.
I: When was this? When—that was—
AV: That was 1918.
I: That was 1918.
AV: And all of us were—at that time I wasn’t married yet. I came with my mother and my father and my brothers, myself. There was a dozen of us. My grandpa also, my daddy’s father, and they cross us, the river, for three dollars apiece. Dollars.
I: You all wouldn’t go across the regular bridge? You all didn’t go across that?
AV: We didn’t know. We didn’t even know that there was such a thing as what they call now “Del Norte,” United States. So, we just had never heard of it. We lived 1,000 miles from the border.
I: In Morelia, Michoacán.
AV: Well, it’s not 1,000, but it’s pretty close. And when we left Morelia, my dad didn’t know where we were coming to. He just wanted to get out of Morelia. So, we caught the first train. There were no train, regular train. Maybe a month go by before train go by. We hopped on and came to Laredo and the man, the conductor would ask us “Where you going?” “Where are you going?” “Well, I’m going to Monterrey.” “Let’s go to Monterrey.” What would that be, I don’t know. Nobody asked. We sat and train moves, say “Where you going?” “Where you going?” said “I’m going to Laredo.” “Well, let’s go to Laredo.” And we came to Laredo, say “Now I’m going back.” I said “You can go. We’re going to stay.” Didn’t know where we were at.
I: How old were you at that time in 1918? How—
I: You were 17 when you came.
AV: I was going to be 17. We came—I was going to be 17 in March, in May, and it was March when they closed the border. So, therefore, my English, it is so broken, so bad, because I never had a chance to go to school. Not here or in Mexico either. When my dad moved from the farm to Morelia I was already eight. So, he put us in a school right away and went through first grade, one year, and began the second year and then the revolution started and the school closed for many years.
I: 04:57 What was the revolution like there in Morelia? Was it bad?
AV: It’s an awful thing. You don’t know which way to move because you see soldiers and go by, and they always come back and then they (s/l bang you up) into the towns and all, the rebels, to run the government out. And there was many times nothing to eat, and the worst thing they did do, many times they cut the water off. If the supply was away from the city, just shut the water off and there you are.
I: No water.
AV: So, that was the reason that my dad, as soon as he sold the house—we had a little house over there—we moved out of there. Not knowing where we were going or where we were going to. So, I didn’t have one year of schooling in the first grade over there, and here I was too big already to go to school and there were no schools around in Magnolia then ‘cause there were no Magnolia. It was pretty with one house here and another one two blocks away. It was just beginning to settle. The company has—Magnolia Park Land and Trust Company is the one that opened it. So, we came through to the railroad, and there were no need of passports at those days, but we didn’t know even what the passport was. We learned it later. So, I came in 1920. I went to see my sweetheart. I had left her over there and came back and saw the railroad again. I didn’t know. I work awhile. In those days was 25 cents an hour. That’s a mighty good job.
I: In Mexico?
AV: Right here. Here was a plant that make fertilizer. They were paying 17 and a half cents an hour and it—the money was going long way but we didn’t have no money. We didn’t have no money. So, I went back again to Mexico in 1920. For—yeah. My baby girl was one year old.
I: You married the girl in Mexico and she—
AV: No, I brought her here. You know it.
I: 08:23 That’s right. She came up here.
AV: I went to pick her up and brought her here.
I: And where you all got married here in—at Our Lady—
AV: In Guadeloupe church. You remember when you run that—
I: On the—yes.
AV: I have a daughter 08:37 (unintelligible) and I was—when the telephone rung you say “Hello?” “Good morning, daddy. How you feel?” “Fine. How about you?” “Pretty good.” “So, you watching television?” She said “Well, yes.” “Put to channel 13. It’s a nice program on it.” I said “Put to 13.” There I was. “What?!” I told my wife “Look where I’m at.” So, I brought in and married in Guadeloupe Church and when the baby was a year old, it was almost two years later, we went to Mexico to visit her mother because her mother was still mad at me and her too. She never did answer a letter in two years, so we went. On the way back—we just went for a visit—on the way back, I bought my passport right there in Laredo. Said “Where you going?” I said “I’m going to Houston.” “Are you going to stay?” “I live there.” “Oh, okay. What’s your name?” “Augustin Villagomez.” What’s your wife’s name?” “Anavelia Rivera.” “Eight dollars please.” Four dollars for the—those were the passports that were given to you right there, just like you buy a ticket for the picture show. And of course, we stayed right here, but the situation was awfully hard.
I: Were you—you were working, then you came back and what job did you work at then after 1925? Where did you work?
AV: I work—in 1920, my daddy and I went to work with Rice Institute as dishwashers, but that job only last nine months of the year during school. The rest of the year, we go and look for another job, and if we were without a job, the following year we go back. And then we work for the Houston Country Club (s/l here in seven) off Harrisburg. There we work a few years, probably six years, seven, because that’s where I—I was laid off because the Depression was already here. And—but I had my passports already, a couple little pieces of paper. Magnolia already a school, put up a school building here on 75th and I. It was a big building, of course, my wife always sent our children to Catholic school, which already was in Avenue K. Then they started to give night classes for adults, grown people, so we went there. I went there as many times as possible. Sometimes for different reason I tried to go to school at old Houston—Houston High. It was on Caroline—Capital when I worked at the plant. No, I wasn’t at the plant yet, no. I don’t know where I was working, but I worked—in those days worked seven to five in the evening. I’d be running, coming in here, wash and sometime I’d even eat to run to hurry to 13:34 (unintelligible) to catch the street car to go to school. Many—most every time I was able to go I was late. So, I had to give it up because they brought it here. It was a few nights. I had a better chance here and so the schooling I had, it was not—
I: 13:59 What did—what did you learn there? What did they teach you there at that school here?
AV: Well, you’d be surprised. The main purpose of the school was to train us in what we need to get our citizenship, American citizenship, which I have. Very proud of it and very old because we use it a lot. We go to Mexico and now, we catching up with lost time. So, we’re going to Mexico every two months or three. No, more than that, and sometimes twice a month. And my picture, here it is, the—(15:03 tape stops and restarts)
I: After you were laid off—after you were laid off at the Houston Country Club, that’s when you decided to go to—back to Mexico?
AV: Yeah, because there was nothing to do here and—
I: You took the train from here—
AV: To Brownsville.
I: To Brownsville.
AV: And I didn’t pay just from there to there because I had a friend working at the Southern Pacific Railroad and he had a pass. He said “Here, use mine. We’re the same age, no picture.” And the same age, same wives, so he loaned me his passport and his railroad pass. So, it didn’t cost me nothing from here to Brownsville, but it wasn’t the same way when I came back. I had to pay the whole way.
I: Where did you go from Brownsville then? And then from Brownsville how did you go?
AV: Direct into Morelia.
I: On a train?
AV: On the train. There was no other way then.
I: 16:20 What did you do when you got to Morelia?
AV: I start looking for a job, and I found me one after maybe a couple of weeks as a watchman in a doctor’s office. But it wasn’t enough to live on. There was nothing else to take so I took it for maybe a month or two because at the end of three months since I started from the day we left, we were back at the end of three months.
I: What months did you go? Do you remember the months?
AV: No. The month? No.
I: Was it in the summer or the—
AV: No, no, no. No, it was—let me see. Oh, yes. Yes it was. See this—
I: But you were—you took that job in Morelia as a watchman?
AV: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
I: And what happened?
AV: Well, after I saw it was so—so little what I was making that my wife started to push me to come back before our money ran out, which it was very lucky that we still had enough to make it all the way to Houston. We probably never did have enough, but we did make it. I forgot how, but we made it.
I: Did you live with your relatives there in Morelia when you were there or—I mean—you know—when you all went back? Or did you all stay at a—
AV: No, I rented a house.
I: You rented a house.
AV: For five dollars a month, but it was rent and it was money that wasn’t making—I forgot what I was getting paid for the watchman job, but it wasn’t much. So, when the wife saw that she said “Let’s go back. We’re just kind of not going to be able to make it here.”
I: And when you came back and you crossed the—you crossed the river, you had your passports with you?
AV: 18:36 Oh, yeah. We had it then. We had it because the passports we got in 1924.
I: And you used that one to get back across?
AV: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Oh, but before—when I went back through Brownsville, the officer at the border—because I was gone. I took my trunk and everything we own.
I: Everything you own.
AV: Yeah, which wasn’t much, but we took it. And this was kind of an old man. He— (s/l from the bus). They speak Spanish all along the border. Keep going back home. They’re all “What are you going to do over there?” “I don’t know.” And the truck was moving slowly to cross near the border. He say “Wait, wait.” Almost to the line that divided Mexico from the United States which is in the middle of the bridge. He—the man that was driving stopped. He say “Give me your passport to put the seal on it. Maybe you need it. If I don’t put the seal, you never was able to come back.” So, I gave it to him and (unintelligible) going through there in such a way. Put it back in my pocket. Hadn’t been for that I wouldn’t be here.
I: Do you think that happened to other people where they just didn’t even put that seal on there?
AV: I kind of think so because he told me. He said “If I don’t put the seal on, you can’t come back.” I was very fortunate. That old man followed me halfway to the center of the bridge.
I: Do you think he knew you were going to come back?
AV: Yeah. Yeah, he knew probably how many people go and come right back for the same reason as probably what they did—and the—and these were these—I hear them also somewhere around Brownsville. I mean, not the 21:29 (unintelligible) on the other side, near the border.
I: Did you go there at all?
AV: No, no. I didn’t go anywhere. I just went to the railroad station, hop on the train and off to Morelia.
I: Were there other people here in Magnolia who got the same idea you did in say 1930 and went back?
AV: 21:52 Many. I don’t know now whether there’s anyone alive but a good many of us did.
I: They just decided on their own to—
AV: Well, many of them went and some of them made it because they had either land to work on over there, but I didn’t have anything and those that didn’t have, we had to come back. There was not nothing else to do. Came back and—because it was real hard here, but like I said, the government was feeding us.
I: When did you start getting the government food? What year?
AV: It was probably 1932 or ’33 because I didn’t stay on the role very long by the time that that lady fortunately landed that job for me. Oh, they told me that it was going to be and I finally got it. That was the end of it.
I: When you got back here to Houston though, what did you do? When you and your wife and children came back here from Mexico and got in your house, what did you do then?
AV: Well, I just look and look but there were nothing, so I would go back to the Houston Country Club where I used to work in the kitchen to carry for the golfers, carry their—
I: Oh, caddy.
AV: And they would pay 75 cents for 18 holes. So, that kind of helped us quite a bit, and since I had worked there a few years, I knew a lot of the people there and sometimes on Saturday or Sunday I’d pick up three dollars. That carried me along a little while and keep looking on Monday, but on Saturday I would go right there, sit there and wait. Someone hire me. There was a bunch of boys and grown men to do the same job. There was nothing else and, well, it might be because they knew me and that’s where I would get me a few dollars because—how much is a few?
I: Two or three dollars.
AV: No. It’s no more than three, no less than five.
I: So it’s three—three to four dollars.
AV: 24:51 We—(s/l I saw it in the paper).
I: That’s a few.
AV: No less than three, no more than five. So—
I: You looked, though, for another job on Monday and—
AV: Yeah. If I find something I’ll—but if I didn’t, on Saturday I’d be over there at six in the morning, hoping and waiting and sometimes I had a chance to go out to the course twice in a day and then make three dollars. That was a lot of money. Maybe—not always happen, but one on Saturday, one on Sunday, I got a dollar and a half.
I: But your first job after that though was with the cement company huh?
AV: That’s when I got my first job, after the Depression.
I: When did you—did you know that Mr. Ramon Batetta? (?)
AV: Now, I want to explain you that. I did. I didn’t know him. I saw him. I didn’t have nothing—I didn’t even say hello to him. I said look because this happen 10 years ago.
I: Oh, oh, I see. This was later, much later that you ran into—
AV: Yeah, I mix this. I told—
I: Oh, I see.
AV: —Maria, my sister that, but that’s way—
I: Oh, I see. You didn’t know him here back during the 30’s though, did you?
AV: No, no, no.
I: He was—
AV: No, no.
I: He was here in Houston though—you know—in the 30’s during the Depression.
AV: 26:40 Who?
I: Ramon Batetta. There was a Ramon Batetta here in those days too.
AV: Do you know that?
I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
AV: Well, must have been the daddy.
I: Daddy. But this other Ramon Batetta you saw 10 years ago?
AV: No, no. Not 10 years ago, 40 years ago or more because this happened—see, I’ll soon be 13 years married to my wife and when we saw him, she was with me. So, this was no more than 10 years back. See, one of my daughters belongs to the Black and White Club for years, and they celebrate the 16th of September here, and the president of Mexico sends representatives to celebrate this wherever there’s a lot of Mexican people. And my daughter invited us to go with her and that’s where I saw him. As a matter of fact, he was a visitor invited to represent the president and that’s when I saw—talked to my sister about him, but that happened 10 years ago. Well, this one now that we’re talking about is 50 years ago.
I: You didn’t see that one then? That other one?
I: That other one, you didn’t see that other one though in the—
AV: Well, if it’s the same one, he’s got to be much older than I am now. It’s probably his son, but I didn’t see—I didn’t hear anything. I just mixed—during the conversation that I had with my sister.
I: Did you—back during the Depression, did they have very many Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis celebrations here in Magnolia Park?
AV: No. I never missed one.
I: Always had them.
AV: Always have Cinco de Mayo and the Seis September.
I: 29:02 Even with the bad economics.
AV: That’s right. Every—we had it in an empty lot where there’s—the schoolhouse is now, De Zavala School, but one quarter of the block was empty and that’s what we used to celebrate.
I: Who put them on? Who did that? Who did the—
AV: The community. It was always—we have a—what you call—not a union but a leader—leaders in the community to tend to that and they talk about celebrating Cinco de Mayo and the Seis September and go around and come on, help, and we put up stands and dance and everything.
I: Were you the only one of your family who went back to Mexico in 1930? Your brothers didn’t go, did they?
AV: No. Nobody did except me.
I: What did—
AV: My brother, my oldest brother, did go to Mexico. He meant to stay, but he went to Mexico City, but he couldn’t make it so he had to come back, the same like I did. But this had been—has been to Mexico as visitors, not with intention to stay.
I: But he went back at that time. What was his name? What was your brother’s—
AV: Aurelio. My brother’s?
AV: Aurelio Villagomez.
I: When did he leave? When did he go that time?
AV: Oh, it was somewhere I believe in the 50’s.
I: Oh, he went back later.
AV: Oh yes.
I: 30:58 Not during the 30’s.
AV: No. No, he went in the 50’s. As a matter of fact, he went to visit his wife’s people, and they ask him to stay, but he didn’t make it so he had to come back.
I: What did—let me go to the next side. (tape ends 31:24) (new tape starts 00:02) When you decided to go back in 19—you know—in the—in 1930, did you talk it over with your mother and father? Did you talk to them about it?
AV: No. I don’t know why, but I don’t remember talk to anyone except my dad and my mother. Well, they said, “If you want to go, I don’t know what you’re going to do.” But they never said don’t go so I talked to my wife—I talked to my wife first, and she wanted to go ‘cause she hadn’t seen her mother for two years or heard from her so we went. But the biggest discussion was with her, with my wife. To my dad and mother, I told them that we are going but I didn’t ask them or they didn’t tell me what you going to do or anything at all that I remember. Yes, when we went it was May ’21, ‘22. May in early ’24 is when we went.
I: That first—that first time.
AV: Because my oldest daughter is—was one year 01:56 (unintelligible) we landed in Morelia. There were no cars or taxis. There were horse-drawn buggies.
I: Did you like Morelia? Did you—
AV: I love it and my wife loved San Bernardo. Oh, she—we been there several times. I made a mistake, same mistake, ‘cause she’s from Monterrey and early when I was—married her, I told her, I said “Have you been to Morelia?” She said “No, I haven’t.” I said “Let’s go.” “All right, let’s go.” Oh, she went crazy about it. So, the following day, the following year, not even a year, we went back again to Monterrey, and she told her mother and sister how pretty it was over there. She said “Let’s go. Let’s all go,” and we took them with us. My mother-in-law loved the place. She would walk back and forth even though it’s kind of steep—you know—sitting on top of the hill. Not too big a hill, but still, you had to walk like this. She went the whole way. She kept on going, walking all the time. We spent two or three days. We took her two or three times. She died four years ago, but she was very happy when we were out. Yes, we went to Morelia, we went to (s/l Campturapan) and my wife and I, we’ve been going to many, many places. Lucky that she works hard and we get to travel. We got English Monday. Yes, she loves out there. It’s a long drive. When I drive, I went a few times in my car, but I mean, 20 hours drive from here to Morelia.
I: 04:27 When you went back in—when you came back to Houston, the economy here in Magnolia was still bad off.
AV: Still bad, yeah. I only stayed over three months, so it hadn’t changed a bit for the next two years.
I: When did it start getting better here in Magnolia?
AV: For me, 1934 and I believe for several others because it began to—jobs began to come up. But me, it got better because I got my job and there was a little more things to do. I don’t know how or where, but it began to get better because you couldn’t see so many people as you did before. Salud.
I: (Spanish-s/l Amor y dinero) (laughter) Mr. Villagomez, I have no other questions to ask you about that. I really appreciate—this has been a great interview.
AV: Have you gone pass it through a screen?
I: Maybe not the screen but there may be a story written about it, and when it hits, I’m going to give you a copy of it.
AV: Well, whenever you have a chance. (tape ends 06:15)