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Interview with: Rachel Tamayo
Interviewed by: Thomas Krinick ; Marilyn Reinhart
Date: April 6, 1983
Archive Number: OH 305
TK: 00:04 This is an April 6th, 1983 oral history interview with Mrs. Rachel Tamayo of Houston, Texas. Interviewers are Tom Krinick (?) and Marilyn Reinhart. Ms. Tamayo, let’s start out by asking you this. Where do you live presently in Houston?
RT: On Everett Street, that’s the northeast, very close to downtown, close to Holcombe Street.
TK: In the north side?
RT: Oh, yes. The north side.
TK: Where were you born?
RT: Here in Houston, Texas on Center Street right behind Mrs. Reyes family’s business place, and they used to live there too. They had a—first it used to be a grocery store and then a restaurant. There was like a little back alley and Center Street runs like—Washington Street. It was right behind—
TK: That was Mr. Malessio Gomez’s—
RT: Malessio Gomez. He’s dead now and his wife, she’s dead too, Mary, her sister. She has a sister in St. Paul, Minnesota. That’s Elvira. I was born on 1708 Center Street, January the 19th, 1922.
TK: What were your parents—what was your father engaged in here?
RT: My father used to work for the railroad, for the Southern Pacific, also Mr. Malessio Gomez. They were very good friends, and Mr. Gomez had a little band. He was a musician and very often he used to take his group to my house, and my mother used to cook a lot of food, and they used to have a lot of people. My family was well known for having a lot of parties, birthday parties and a bunch of kids, a bunch of people and some people used to come by (unintelligible-Spanish) from Magnolia to the bayou, right here where it’s Ella Landing (?) right now to go to my house to spend Sunday there. We were not rich, but we sure had a good time, lot of love, lot of good friends.
TK: 02:56 What was your father’s name? And mother’s name?
RT: My father’s name was John. My mother’s name was Rosario, like Rosa—
RT: No, no, no. Tamayo is my married name. My father’s last name was Guevara like Che Guevara. Like Che Guevara. It’s Guevara. My mother’s name is Rosario.
MR: How do you spell that, the last name?
RT: Guevara? That’s G-U-E-V-A-R-A.
TK: Did you go to—were you raised there in that house there for a while, or did you all live there for a while?
RT: Yes, and then we moved to Washington Street. I think it was the 2000 block Washington somewhere. But then the Depression came, and then we all moved to Mexico. So I myself lived there about 15 years, and then I came with Stella’s family. The Gomez’s, they used to take vacation every year. They used to go two weeks to Mexico, and they used to visit us and stay there one or two days every year, and they used to tell my mother “Let me take one of your girls over there to Houston.” We wanted to come back, but we didn’t come back until—you know—until of course I came by myself, but my family stayed there. Now my father and my mother are dead and my sister and a brother. I just have a brother over there.
TK: Had your parents—
RT: I lived in Maderna (?).
TK: Had your parents originally been from Mexico? Were they from Mexico originally?
RT: Yes, they were.
TK: 04:59 What state of Mexico?
RT: My mother was from the little state of Michoacan and this—not too far from where—Guadalajara and my father is from the state of Guanajuato. It’s next to central Mexico.
TK: Did they ever tell you why they’d come to the United States originally? What had brought them to Houston to begin with?
RT: Well, my father came many times before he brought the whole family, and he just came to know this country and he liked it, but he used to work and then just go every year, and my mother had to stay with some relatives, and then she wanted to come too so he brought her I think—I’m not too sure, but I think it was 1916, something like that. When my mother came with my father, he had three children by then and we were eight.
TK: Oh, I see.
RT: Four were born in Mexico and four here. I’m the only girl living, and my brother still lives over in Mexico.
TK: Had your father come to work here on the railroad? Was that his primary job when he got here that you know of?
RT: Yes, because he said at first he started working in some—on the railroad but in (s/l the later) and then he moved here to Houston.
TK: Did he ever say why he decided to bring the family?
RT: Because my mother didn’t want to stay over there by herself with relatives. You know, they didn’t let her go out because she was very young, and it’s not the same, having children, not a husband, having a husband far away. So for better or worse she wanted to be with him.
TK: And so he went back there and got her?
RT: She said, “Either you take me with you now, or I’ll go back to my daddy.” You know, he had a ranch. So he just brought her with the kids.
MR: Now, you think that was about 1916?
RT: Yes, I’m not too sure, but it was around that time.
TK: 07:35 Why did—why did he—had any of your brothers and sisters gone to school in the United States?
RT: Yes, I did too.
TK: Oh, you did?
TK: Before you went back to Mexico?
RT: Yes, because you see, I was born in ’22, and I think we went to Mexico in ’33. My sisters, they were going to Dow School. You know where that is?
TK: Yes, ma’am. It’s up in the Sixth Ward. I was there.
RT: Down the police station, that way.
TK: It is. It’s still a very nice looking school. It’s there in the Sixth Ward, isn’t it?
RT: Somewhere there, but we went to school.
TK: How many years did you attend Dow School before you went to Mexico? Do you remember?
RT: Not too many. I must have been in the third or first grade from when we went to Mexico.
TK: So when you went to Mexico, you spoke both English and Spanish, right? I mean, had you learned both languages by then?
RT: Yes, my mother used to speak Spanish at home and I went to school—I was the only one of the family of the girls because I had a younger brother and baby sister, but she died when she was a baby. My brother, my youngest brother, went to school over there too and in three years I finished elementary school. All I needed was how to pronounce everything in Spanish. I knew—I could think—I knew everything, the answers, in English, but I couldn’t translate to the teachers because I had other teachers in that school and where I went it was a very small town, something like a village. So they only had one school, elementary school. No high school, no junior high, so all the teachers, you went to one room and they took me and they just gave me—because they wanted to know if I knew how to write, and they liked my handwriting. I used to write different then from the way they used to write over there because at that time, most of the students, they used to write sideways or very small letters, and I was used to the way they were writing here in school. 10:09 They wanted to know if I knew everything. I think they were testing me to pass me because they used to go to school nine straight months, and you had the same teacher all the time. They only had one book. The teacher had the book. She used to write it on the blackboard. We had to copy it. But I did finish that elementary school in less than three years. Then we moved to north of town, and I took typing and shorthand, but in school, I learned how to read Italian and Latin which is similar to Spanish.
TK: In Mexico you learned—
RT: In Mexico in that town, in that little bitty town.
TK: Why did your father—had your father lost his job here?
TK: Why did he—
RT: He got panicked. He said a lot of people were committing suicide because they were losing their jobs. It was not like this depression where you had welfare, you had a lot of help from a lot of people, and the government helps now with a lot of people. I don’t hear them complaining, but at that time, there was nothing. Nobody would give you anything. You had no place to go, just soup lines, and he had a house over there, so we didn’t suffer for food or anything, but it was just a change of scenery from a big city to move to a little bitty town. We never liked it over there.
TK: You never did?
RT: So we moved to a better place, another town, which is a very nice city right now where my brother lives, (s/l Moramauron) and we always said that we were going to come back to Houston. He sold the house. He had a lot of animals, and we just went over towards the same place. We never made it to Houston until Stella’s family—you know—they encouraged me to come and stay with them for a while.
TK: So your father actually quit his job with the railroad to go to Mexico, right?
RT: Yes, because he said that things were looking bad here. He didn’t want anything to happen to any of us. To me, it would have been better if he would have stayed like a lot of people did.
TK: 12:38 Who made the decision to go? Did he make the decision?
RT: He did.
TK: What were your mother’s sentiments about that? Do you remember her—?
RT: Well, my mother used to—she didn’t want to go, but at that time, a wife had to do what the husband said. Not anymore, I think, and my brother had a big brother. He was about 20 years old. He used to work at the American Can Company, so we were not that poor to go to Mexico. My mother had two cows. They were the only people that had cows in that area. We had two cows and chickens.
TK: There on Center, right?
RT: On Center. We were the only ones with cows, so we had eggs and milk but—anyway—
TK: Did your father like it in the United States?
RT: Very much.
TK: He did.
RT: And my brother cried when we moved to Mexico because he said he didn’t like it over there.
TK: He was already 20 years old.
RT: Twenty, but he had to do what my father said, like I said, at that time. Not anymore. I have three sons, and they don’t do what I say. They’re married anyway. But that’s the way things used to be then.
MR: Did anybody encourage your father to—
RT: To go?
MR: —go back to Mexico? Did he talk to anyone—
RT: No, on the contrary. They wanted him to stay, to face things like everybody else, but he said that a lot of people were committing suicide, and he didn’t want to see things like that. But he made his decision.
TK: 14:33 At that particular time, like in Magnolia Park, some people were going—getting together and going back to Mexico. Did you all ever see any of those people? Or did you just go alone by yourselves?
RT: No, we went by ourselves, and since my father used to work for the railroad, he didn’t have to pay for moving his furniture because we took part of the furniture and dishes and things like that. I don’t know how far—it was free from Houston to the border or I don’t—the rest of the way. I was too young to know all that.
MR: So he had a pass or something—
RT: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). So I don’t know if it was just valid here in the United States or all the way to Mexico, but my brother took his pool table. He had a little pool table. We had a Victrola, those high Victrola—crank. Well, in that little town, we were the only one that had that type of Victrola.
TK: What was the name of the town that you went to?
RT: Abasolo. Have you ever heard about the Mexican George Washington?
TK: Uh-hunh (negative).
RT: It’s a priest, Hidalgo?
TK: Hidalgo, yes. Sure.
RT: Well, he had that church in that little town. That’s the priest that had that little town, but at the time of the revolution he was in another town, this one called Dolores Hidalgo. But I went to the place where he was born. From the school they took us on a little trip when I was in school. And my mother took that sewing machine, Singer sewing machine, and of course, a lot of things, beds and all of that. So I’m sure the railroad paid for some of that to go.
TK: Where did you father work at when he got to the little town? What was his—what did he do?
RT: Well, he painted houses. Of course, it was different then. The materials something like this—you know—not wood. Not all wood inside of the house and outside, like in California.
TK: 16:53 It was kind of a stucco.
RT: Yeah, uh-hunh (affirmative).
TK: And that’s what he did there. He did not work on the railroad there?
RT: Oh, no. The railroad was too far from that little town, and I don’t think he wanted to work with the railroad over there.
TK: You said that you all actually had a house—he had a house there, is that right? He owned a house.
RT: Yes. Years before we came he had that little house. Then when we went to live over there, my brother—of course, he was already grown—and some other relatives, they helped to build another room and corrals for the animals because he brought animals, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys.
TK: What did you all do with your mother’s two cows? Did you all leave them here?
RT: I think we sold them, but sometimes I talk to some people that remember my family. If I just tell them about the cows, they know where I live by the cows.
MR: When you came back to Houston with the Reyes family, did you have to show your birth certificate or—
RT: Well, that’s another thing that something funny happened. My father was a very—he used to take care of all his papers very carefully, but somehow they didn’t register me because I was born when it was too cold in January. They registered my sister’s in between, but not me, and one time that I was already coming with Stella’s parents, I had packed my clothes and everything, ready to come, and then they said “All she needs is a birth certificate.” So my daddy had a tube—you know—like aluminum tube with a bunch of papers. He couldn’t find it, and my mother said “Maybe you didn’t register her. So I guess we have to another year until we go back.” Then Stella is the one that wound up—my godmother, she still lives in Houston and her brother. They were my godparents. So they—so she registered.
TK: And then she brought this paper back to Mexico?
RT: No, they took it to Mary. She sent it. I’m not sure, but anyway, the following year, when her parents went over there, I already had it so that’s all I needed to pack.
MR: 19:36 So they had to go to quite a bit of trouble and had contacted your godparents and—
RT: Well, they still live here, so it was easy. You know, it was too bad when they moved out of town.
TK: How many—were all eight of you kids in Mexico there at that time?
RT: No. You see, before my mother came here, she had lost one child. There were four born in Mexico, but she came only with three and then one died here. A truck ran over him somewhere in the neighborhood.
TK: Was he a little child at the time?
RT: Yes, he was five years old.
TK: And then were the other four children then born here before you all went back or—
TK: They lived here. When in Mexico—how did your brothers and sisters respond to living in Mexico?
RT: Not too good because—well, I was—like I said—I was around 11, something like that and then my little brother, he was about five and a year and a half little sister but she died a baby. There was an epidemic over there, typhoid, so she died then, and my brother died years later of something else, of a heart attack. But he went to school there too. Well, he didn’t—he didn’t care much about it. A little—you can just move and then get adjusted. I didn’t mind it much because I went to school, and I made friends, but I still didn’t like it. They didn’t have any movies, they didn’t have any parks. There was nothing there for recreation. It was just a little town.
TK: You missed what you had had in the United States or what—
RT: I did, somehow. But my sisters did miss it more because they were older than me, just a little bit more.
TK: What about your brother, your 20-year-old brother. Did he miss it quite a bit?
RT: He did. He used to cry all the time. That’s the one that still lives in Mexico.
TK: 22:08 Well, what changed his mind do you think to stay in Mexico?
RT: The way we were raised, we had to do what our parents used to tell us, just like my mother said we’re going. We didn’t want to go. We had to go. He would have been somebody else if—well, I don’t go, you can’t go. I wish he would have stayed. Now, I say that, but he didn’t want to disobey my father so he just—we all went.
MR: And he had been born in Mexico?
RT: Yes. Yes, he was born there.
TK: Do you think that your parents would have been better off had they stayed here?
RT: Oh, yeah, just like a lot of people. I see many of their friends—you know—and they used to tell them they should have stayed, and my father didn’t think. He got scared or something and just took off.
TK: Did—were there any other people from Houston that you all knew that moved back to that little town, or did you all know anybody else in the area?
RT: Not to that town. I had some friends that they were friends of my family and friends of ours when we were young. And as a matter of fact, one of them—two of them—they lived close to Mrs. Gomez’s house. They went to Mexico, but they went to another state and then they came back just a very few years—they didn’t stay too long over there, and they live here.
TK: Do you remember their names? What—
RT: Yes. One of them is Dolores Lara and her sister’s first name is Angela, and her last name is Ventura.
TK: And they’re both still living?
RT: They’re both still living, and they have the mother that brought—the mother living. She’s 86 or 88 years old.
TK: Still going strong, huh?
RT: Still going.
MR: 24:25 And they went back during the Depression also and then came back to Houston?
RT: They came back, but they didn’t stay too long, but they came back and another sister, she’s married but 24:36 (unintelligible) family.
TK: So you stayed from—you stayed how many years in Mexico?
RT: From ’33 to ’49.
TK: Sixteen years?
RT: About sixteen years.
TK: Did you lose much of your English when you went back?
RT: I think I lost a lot because studying so much in Spanish and Latin that they tried to teach you on account of religion. See, they were very religious at that time. So the prayer books in church, they had a lot of Latin so it’s easy to learn Latin if you know Spanish. My sister’s, they used to talk in English all the time. Sometimes they didn’t want my mother to understand something, boyfriends or something, but my father, my father was a very intelligent person. He could hold a newspaper in his hand in English, and he could read it to you like if it was written in Spanish, that fast and that good. He was a very intelligent person just like his father. Very intelligent.
MR: It’s hard to think in another language.
RT: He knew a lot about life. He used to tell me about television before I knew there was television, about people going to the moon. I didn’t believe all those things. I thought my daddy was just telling me stories—you know—to go to bed early, but I don’t know how he knew all that.
TK: Was he an educated man?
RT: Self-educated because he didn’t go to school over there. His father was a professor, an accountant for a big hacienda in Mexico and used to have a lot of jobs in that place, like a judge. But my father just had what all the kids had there, just like an elementary school, but he taught himself to read, multiply, a lot of things. He knew too much. He tried to better himself all the time.
TK: 27:14 Did he—okay, when you came back to the United States in ’49, what did you do? Where did you go?
RT: To this family’s house, the Cadeza family, yes, because they invited us to come live over there. But then I met my husband, and I got married.
TK: Here in Houston?
TK: Where was he living?
RT: Here in Houston. He was—as a matter of fact, Stella’s sister introduced me to my husband. She said, “You two are going to (s/l get with me.)” I don’t want to get married, I think, but we did.
TK: Was he—where was he working at that time?
RT: He was working in a painting body shop. He still does. He likes it.
TK: Over in the Sixth Ward area or—
RT: Well, first he used to work right there in the neighborhood where we live now. Then he moved to Franklin Street and then he moved. He was over in Austin, in downtown with—that place is closed. And then he worked many years at the A&B Motor Company, and now he’s working again in the neighborhood with a friend. He works short hours, so he comes home for lunch. He likes it there. But he’s originally from San Antonio. He’s never been to Mexico. I mean, to live. Just for a visit.
TK: As a tourist, yes, but not as a—
RT: He was born in San Antonio.
MR: The friends that you mentioned who you said had also gone back to Mexico, have you ever talked with them about what their experiences were?
RT: Not much because we just talk on the phone. Let’s see, last time I saw this girl Dolores is just about two months ago at the wedding, and her mother and—but like I said, they lived very close to Stella. Somehow they didn’t know but they lived—now they know about each other because I told him. “You two live very close to each other. Do you see each other very often?” They said no.
TK: 29:41 They live in Magnolia Park now?
RT: Well, you know where Stella lives? That’s Wooding.
TK: On Wooding.
RT: Yeah. Now, let’s see, there’s Harrisburg, Wooding and Della Street, right across here from that Franklin School. Is that—
TK: That’s Magnolia.
RT: Seventy-sixth Street? Some street. I don’t have my address book, but I think that’s the one.
MR: What was Mrs. Reyes family name?
TK: Mr.—did you ever know Mr. Gomez’s attitude towards people going back to Mexico? What did he think of that?
RT: Well, he said that it was better to stay here, better for the whole family, for the kids to have better education, better living, but he used to help a lot of people in Mexico and (s/l like north San Antonio). He used to support some school or something like that, a bunch of kids. He used to send them gifts and buy clothing, something like that. He used to donate a lot of money in the state of San Luis Potosi, but I don’t remember the town. It was a little town. Every year they used to go there. They used to help a lot of poor people in Mexico.
TK: He was fairly well known here in Houston as well.
RT: Very well known. As a matter of fact, one of his daughters—I think the one that lives in Minnesota—she was one of the first beauty queens of some club somewhere.
TK: The fiestas patrias at that time. (tape ends 31:31)
RT: (00:03 new tape begins) Well, that sister—the one that lives in Minnesota—she’s the godmother of my brother or my brother was the godfather of one of her sons that died not long ago. I think he was a godfather of Rudy, I think. Is there a Rudy?
TK: Did you find it difficult to kind of get back in the groove of things when you got back here?
RT: Yes, because I always used to pray. I said, “Oh, I wish I could go back to Houston before I die. I want to see how Houston looks because it changes so much every year.” That’s the part that I know that I missed in that time while I was there. During the war, people were more aware of the war here than in Mexico, just what we used to read in the papers, see in the movies—you know—news. But here, they really went through the war. There was a difference. Some—like the music—my husband has a bunch of records and says “This was famous” and “So and so was famous.” Well, I don’t know. I don’t know who—I just used to hear so and so, but there’s a lot of things that I did miss. But I still—I’m just glad that I came back. I would like to come back.
TK: How long did it take you really to get settled back down when you got back here? I mean—you know—to get back in the groove of things so to speak?
RT: Oh, about three years because I started remembering English, everything, but I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t make myself talk. I could think, I could understand, I could read in my mind, everything. But I could not tell somebody something in English. It had to be in Spanish. Then I took a job at the hospital, at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and I told them that I wanted to work someplace where I didn’t have to talk, like sterilizing gowns, something for the doctor because I knew that type of work because I worked in Mexico City in the maternity hospital. So I knew how to do most of the things, sterilize instruments and clothes and everything and help deliver babies. I said, “I don’t want to talk.” If you want to work, you have to talk. So I started reading comic books, and I read a lot every day. I read different kinds of books to learn more every day, and if I don’t understand one word I get my dictionary.
MR: Now, when you went to work, you—
RT: I was kind of bashful.
TK: What did you—you said you worked in Mexico City in the maternity—
TK: 03:26 What had you—where had you worked in Mexico? Where did you have your—
RT: It was just in one place in the maternity, Catholic hospital.
TK: Had your parents taken you there or—
RT: No, I went there. I had a son there, and I lived there. I wasn’t married at the time. It was a place for unwed mothers, but I chose to learn how to be a nurse, and they helped me. So I worked there without salary, just for room and board, but I got good training. So I have a son that was born in Mexico.
TK: Did he remain there, or did he come back here with you?
RT: He lived here but then there was another problem to bring him here over because—
TK: His mother was an American citizen though, right? I mean—
RT: Uh-hunh (affirmative). But you see, at that time, when I came with Stella’s family, my mother was very sick with cancer, and the doctor told my mother—they told the whole family—that it was better for me to leave my son with her. At that time, I was already back with them because I just stayed two years over there, and my mother died in ’52, but they said “Leave the baby with your mother because she’s very attached to the baby, and she’s going to die, and you’re young and you can wait. You can come back next year and stay here or take him where you live. Whatever you want to do, but leave that baby here.” So I left him there, but when she died, I brought him over. People tell you all sorts of stories. You see, I didn’t want to register him because I was so ignorant at the time, so scared. They told me, “If you register your baby as a Mexican citizen, you can’t take him to Houston.” I used to tell everybody all the time, I said—we left in 1933. I was coming back. I said, “I’m going to take my son over there” and they said, “No, no, no. Don’t register him, just take him because you’re an American citizen.” So I believed them. Then in 1952 I went to see the American consul in another state in Guadalajara. He told me “You don’t have to worry about a thing. With the birth certificate you can cross the border, and then he’s an American citizen.” I said, “How can that be? Is it that easy?” He said, “Yes.” So by that time, since I was already married, he said, “If you want to you can take your son to a lawyer, and your husband can adopt him and make it more legal.” So we went to see the lawyer and then a friend of my husband—I forgot his name—a judge, he said, “No. You’re going to make a mistake. He’s too young. Wait until he grows up a little bit and let him get to know your husband and see if he wants to be adopted.” He said, “A lot of people, they make the mistake and just about the small kids—they grow up hating the stepfather.” So my husband adopted him but then he went to the service. He’s a very intelligent person, my son, and he was an A student in school. He won two scholarships. He has his Master’s, and he’s a CPA for (s/l gulf) and he goes to Panama, Columbia, some Latin countries to work for (s/l gulf) because there’s only two persons that know Spanish that work for (s/l gulf) that can travel there.
MR: 07:45 How old was he when you brought him back to Houston?
RT: Well, he was about six years old because he was born in 1946, and my mother died in 1952. That’s when I went to bring him, in ’52.
TK: Where did your father pass away? Where and when did your father pass away?
RT: My father died over there in Irapuato about eight years ago. He was close to 90.
TK: Is that the town you all moved to after you all moved from the small town?
TK: What was the town’s name again?
RT: The first one or the second one?
TK: Second one.
RT: It’s well known for the strawberries.
MR: Before your family went to Mexico, do you remember any of your neighbors or any other children whose families were having a really hard time? Maybe they lost their job or—
RT: No, but there’s still one person, he’s a grown up person—I mean older than me—he was a good friend of my brother, but I don’t know his address. He remembers a lot of people, and I have a cousin here that he remembers a lot of people that knew my family.
MR: What is his name?
RT: Joe Guevara. Same name. Where I was born—
TK: 09:20 And he’s living here—Joe Guevara’s living here?
RT: He did go to Mexico, but I’m not sure how long he stayed there. They came back right away too.
TK: Was he older or younger than you?
RT: He’s older, little bit older. He lives at 3902 Robertson Street, right across the street from Luis Caldon (?) on the north side.
TK: How many finally—of the kids—finally came back and how many stayed? Your oldest brother stayed there, right?
RT: Yes, I’m the only one that came with this family. So when I came, by that time, I already had—I just had a brother and a sister left because one of my sister’s had died a few years before and my brother—no, not brother, because my brother died in 1952, four weeks before my mother died he died. It was a terrible situation.
TK: But Joe—your brother Joe—had come back to the United States just a little bit before you had, right?
RT: He’s a cousin.
TK: Oh, he’s a cousin. Pardon me, I’m sorry.
RT: He’s a cousin. No, my brother still lives in Mexico.
TK: Okay, I’ll get it straight in a second. That’s all right. But he—I see.
RT: I had that cousin.
TK: Joe Guevara, okay, he was a cousin. Did he go back with you all the first time?
RT: No, no. He didn’t go with us. He went with his mother and his stepfather.
TK: Had they been living in Houston too?
RT: Oh, yes.
TK: 11:02 I see.
RT: His real father died when he was young, and then my aunt got married again, and he had his people in Mexico so they went there, and she didn’t like it, and she came back with him and another daughter that she had by this second marriage. But he’s been here for many, many years.
TK: Why didn’t your father ever come back?
RT: Well, by that time he already had a little business. He had a grocery store and then he said he was getting older, and he didn’t want to come back, having a bunch of relatives there. And then he just got used to being over there again.
TK: And your mother felt the same way?
RT: No, but my mother couldn’t say anything. My mother, always in her mind, she would come back. She was very obedient and quiet. She never had fights. She never had a cuss word with my daddy. They never had fights like other people that argue nowadays, shout at each other. Nothing like that.
TK: They never argued.
RT: If they did, we never knew. No.
MR: So they had four children that were born in the United States—
RT: And four in Mexico.
MR: And you’re the only one—
MR: Here, who came—
RT: And the only female living because my brother, the first one they had, he still lives. He’ll be 78 this coming August. They left and came back, but I don’t know how many.
TK: You think a lot of people did leave and then came back.
RT: 13:00 I’m pretty sure. You know, like these girls that lived across from Stella and my cousin. There has to be more people than that, maybe they moved to another state someplace, but I don’t know.
TK: What state in Mexico was that little town that Hidalgo was from?
TK: It was from Guanajuato.
RT: Guanajuato. There’s a trail 150 miles from here because Guanajuato’s 1200 miles from here. It was about 40-50 miles from there, maybe less than that. That’s where we used to—I think that’s where he was baptized too.
TK: So you all had gone back to his original home in Mexico when you all went?
RT: To my father? Yes. Not my mother, but my—
TK: Not your mother but your father’s home.
RT: My mother was from another state. But since he had a lot of relatives there they said “Don’t go, don’t go. You have a family.” Anyway—
TK: They didn’t want you to come back to the United States?
RT: Not in 1949 because by then—well, I wasn’t a child, but when we first left and wanted to come back two and three years later, yes, they stopped my father. They wanted him to stay there.
TK: You started wanting to come back almost—well, real soon.
RT: Right away because I didn’t like the town. There were no—nothing, but there was nothing I could do. I was too young.
TK: But when you got ready to come back—when you came back in ’49 they didn’t try to stop you?
RT: No. I just didn’t want to leave my baby there with my mother, but everybody said to leave him there and go back so I just went back.
TK: 15:10 When you all—do you remember crossing the bridge going back to Mexico in ’33?
TK: Do you remember that at all?
RT: No, because I think the passenger—by train—didn’t it—didn’t the train used to go across Mexico? Because we went by train most of the way. It was a long trip, but it was by train. We went by train.
MR: Did you travel by automobile or by train when you came back—when you came to Houston with—
RT: In a car.
MR: In a car?
RT: Yeah, at this time we had a car.
MR: And when you came through, you just showed them the—
RT: The birth certificate.
MR: The birth certificate, and they just let you go right on.
RT: Uh-hunh (affirmative) because at that time a lot of people didn’t register their families. I have a cousin that she just got registered about four years ago, and she’s been living in California since 1950. But they just didn’t—(talking at the same time) Well, I was born at home, and the doctor didn’t get there in time. But still, I think the doctor’s, they used to report all the births and somehow—I think because of the snow, a lot of snow and all that—they didn’t care much about registering nobody. It depends on when you’re born. I’m just glad I came back.
TK: Do you have questions for her? I have no further questions. I think we’ve covered the subject pretty well. I’d like to thank you very much Ms. Tamayo, and if we have any further questions, can we call on you?
TK: I appreciate it. It was very interesting.
RT: 17:10 To me, it’s just like a dream coming back again, you know? It’s just like if you leave Houston right now, go up to somewhere in the mountains, come back 10-12 years back, you’re still looking around and seeing what you missed, what was going on while you were out. It’s just a feeling, like a dream, and you wake up and something is different. I like to come to town. I enjoy seeing the buildings going up, not very much—like some of the people, because I don’t like these plain buildings going up. I like architecture, like this building, the floors, just like in Mexico, things like that, the window, nothing plain. But still, it’s a great city to live.
TK: Had Houston changed a great deal when you came back in ’49?
RT: Oh, yes it has, and I liked to see the downtown. I mean, there’s more places to see, to go, but I always like the downtown. I always liked to see it all the time. I enjoy it. And so it’s been many years ago, hospital, Saint Joseph? I was just talking, different stories, before going home because I lived very close to town. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that area. You know where the railroad is right there?
TK: That’s Everett?
TK: Oh, yeah, very familiar with that area.
RT: There’s a new big warehouse there, Universal?
TK: I don’t believe I’ve seen that.
RT: It’s on Burnett.
MR: Is that Everett where Mr. Casas—
TK: Opened a store?
MR: 1717 Everett? Do you know where that is, 1717 Everett?
RT: I know the address, but I don’t think I know this family.
MR: His name was Bartolomeo Casas and he—during the Depression he helped organize a club that raised money so that people could return to Mexico.
RT: 19:20 Oh.
TK: Did you ever hear anybody talking like that back in those days in the 30’s? Anybody ever come around or anything like—
RT: To help other people?
TK: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
RT: No, but just did this—Stella’s father, since he always had money, he helped a lot of people here and in Mexico. That was his—I guess he lived the whole year for that trip, just to go to that place and do some good for somebody because they treated him like a king, sit him in a special chair and his wife and they had dances to honor him just like a very important person, which I’m sure he was—anyway—more over there because he sent that much money. Of course, he helped here—a lot of people—too.
TK: Was he—would you kind of consider him a leader in the community here?
RT: Yes, he was. Yes, he was because I hear a lot of people talking about him. My husband knew them before I did too in this time before we met—you know—in the time before I came in 1949, and he said that they had the first Mexican restaurant, and there were a lot of people that used to stop there for supper after going to a dance. So they had a lot of good business, and they met a lot of people, and they used to have meetings. They used to belong to a lot of clubs, and I know they had a lot of friends. I don’t know if—
TK: Makes me want to stay.
RT: I don’t know if Estella has shown you some pictures of fiestas, parties they used to have there at the restaurant, and like I said, her sister, the one that lives in Minnesota, she was a beauty queen. She had a daughter that she was running for beauty queen here too in 19—after the war. They used to show me a lot of pictures, and the name of the store before the restaurant was La Nationale.
TK: La Nationale.
RT: Yeah. My brother and sister’s, they used to go there and sweep the store because they used to tell them “If you find some money, it’s yours.” They were right there, cleaning, stocking up the store. You know kids. But anyway, a lot of fun.
TK: 22:27 What is the term for—and I’m going to mispronounce this—but have you ever heard this term before, repatriacion? Was that the name of the whole process of somebody going back, repatriation to Mexico?
RT: Yes, I did, but I don’t know how that works, if the government sends them back or they go back in groups.
TK: I don’t—that’s what I’d like to know. Did your father consider himself part of that repatriacion?
RT: No, he just took off. He just took off, made up his mind and said we’re going to starve here. There’s no work and people are losing their homes. They’re losing everything. We better go where we have a house and see what we can do over there.
TK: That’s an interesting differentiation there, voluntary people, a person who voluntarily left.
RT: We just took off. I mean, we didn’t—it didn’t take him too long to think. He was still working. He didn’t even—was laid off or anything. He just—maybe just woke up one day and said let’s go and we go. That’s the way he took off.
MR: He certainly must have been frightened.
RT: Yes, he was.
TK: To be able to—
MR: To do that. Yes, that’s something—an important step.
RT: Yes, he was, like my brother had to lose his job, take off like that.
MR: Well, it was bad times for everybody.
RT: Yeah, not like right now. I know there’s a lot of people without work, but there’s a lot of help right now, and if somebody can’t live right now because they want to live too good, new cars, new this and that, I mean, they give up something, they can make it. (tape ends 24:41)