Sunday, January 6, 2008

a dreamer from the past: part I

Photo: The Dream #1

This post will be the first in a series that in which I will be telling stories about a 84 1/2 year old man who was a DREAMER in 1940. It's about my Dad. For years I have been thinking of writing a book about his life, or making a film documentary where he describes his experiences in Texas from the 1930s to the present. The book or film never seemed to happen. There was always something I had to write that took preference.

Today, as he was telling me one of his stories I realized that I could write about him on the blog. His story is relevant because he crossed into the United States from Mexico as an infant without documents and did not regularize until he was drafted into the Army in 1944 (where they automatically made him a citizen, thank goodness - since he was on his way to the Pacific theater).

I will begin with a brief description of who he is. He was born in Saltillo, Coahuila in 1923 - Moved with his parents to Laredo, Texas six months later. There was no ICE at the time, so his maternal grandfather (who was a naturalized U.S. citizen) spoke with the guard at the border a few minutes; gave the man a little money (less than $5.00, but my Dad sometimes says it was only 50 cents).

He grew up in Laredo and was drafted when he was still in high school. He was older than other students because he had to sit out one year to work and one year due to tuberculosis.

Jose was involved in the invasion of Luzon (he calls it the liberation of Luzon) in the Philippines. Luckily he had no injuries, except a burst ear drum that he did not report. He never made it above Private First Class, because he kept getting demoted every time he left the base without permission, which he did often. He says he remembers Manila very well.

He returned two years later, went to mortuary college, married my mother and by 1950 he was running a funeral home in Rosenberg, Texas. With a high school education, a year of technical college, and a gift for language (he was fluently bi-lingual) he eventually took the role of patron of the Mexican-Americans in the county. No he wasn't a patron like the godfather - no crime (I think) was involved. However, he helped people out when they got into trouble with the law, helped with problems that occurred when people made big purchases or had gotten on the wrong side of their boss.

Photo: M.T. Hernandez
Title: Dream #1, Madrid 2007 © all rights reserved

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