KCET Departures asks, "What's your or your family's Los Angeles arrival story?"
Today, we hear from Gabrielle Garcia, a participant in the Summer Intern Program at The Studio for Southern California History. The Studio is located in Chinatown.
"I was born from a seed.
"A seed that grew into a double-edged sword, born to two hardworking and humorous Mexicans who coincidentally were both brought up in the same city, Durango, in the same town, Gomez Palacio, in very different ways.
"However, both didn't meet ever, until finding each other in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, California.
"My father is a Bee Gees, Monkees, Beatles, disco-freak with a little bit of classic rock mixed in him. He's a nerd, a dweeb, a dork, adorning wide-rimmed glasses and a scruffy beard. His dark face and small eyes make others mistake him for Filipino, although, to me, he is a potato, since he's so whitewashed it amazes me now.
"He grew up in Gomez Palacio, with two other brothers and two other sisters. They lived poor, but happy. My grandfather was like a comedian, or so my dad says. He recalls one night when my grandmother was away, and my grandfather had to feed the children. So he scratched his heavy head, and put a glass bottle of milk on top of a pan and heated it up - 'til it exploded.
"He fell in love with my grandmother in high school. My grandmother would often tell me how they would climb the chain-link fence to spend time together. My grandpa was poor, and my grandmother had a wealthy father, but she left her family to be with my grandfather.
"My dad was a city rat, skinny-dipping in the dirty blue river, and smoking in the cold gray alleys, but he was a dreamer. He ran away at seventeen to come to Los Angeles and become an engineer. He took a work visa, and traveled over, but stayed 'til he became a citizen. On the year he arrived, he found out my grandfather had passed away, forever reminding him of the choice he made to leave. He has since traveled back, but I can imagine the memories that lay untouched in Gomez.
"My mother is a lion. Born the eldest of seventeen children, with four deaths as infants, and my uncle's murder at sixteen, my mother was a leader in the corporation - a.k.a. her family.
"She was raised on a farm, called Las Palmitas, but often traveled to Gomez Palacio to go to school while living with her cousins. At seven she was already taking care of the other children, and animals.
"To me, my mother is a saint, never getting into trouble. She talks about trying to work in a bar at fourteen, about how men always tried to get her to fall in love, and she didn't know anything about puberty, or sex, till it happened I guess. HA! My grandmother was fifteen when my grandfather (on my mom's side) took her away to have his babies. He was already married, but I guess the other wife, just went away. That's how things were back then, dirty, illegitimate.
"My mother often traveled to El Paso, through Juarez, using a cousin's passport. She often got caught, but back then in the early eighties, they let her go. And she would just keep on going back the next morning to work in house cleaning, and to visit the local nuns that she met.
"One night, one of her rebellious cousins convinced my mother to let my aunt come to Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, with lies of work there. My mother allowed it to happen 'til she was pestered to get her back, when my aunt was seventeen and my mother was twenty-four. She went to Los Angeles and got her back - put her on an El Paso bus - but stayed. She made friends with the women that gave my aunt a job as a caretaker, she's since been working with their family for more than twenty years.
"My mother and father both went to the Salvation Army, which was a continuation school, since they both needed high school credits. They miraculously ended up in the same school. One day my dad tried hitting on my mom when he saw her in a yellow dress - he asked her to marry him, he says he just wanted to get laid.
"Anyway, my mother never really paid attention to him 'til they both found out they were from the same city, Gomez Palacio. Now living in Lincoln Heights, a couple blocks away from the Salvation Army, my parents raised my brother and I in the same town they met.
"Bada bing bada boom, I was born after my one brother, from a seed. A seed that has cultivated the same land, Lincoln Heights for seventeen years now."
-- Gabrielle Garcia
(as emailed to Jeremy Rosenberg)
- Departures References:
- Departures: Chinatown -- Where The Studio for Southern California History is located
- Mapping Lincoln Heights
- Rosa's Lincoln Heights
- Departures: LA River -- City Councilmember Ed Reyes, who is from Lincoln Heights
- Departures: Youth Voices
- Arrival Stories
- View the Complete Archive
Photo: Courtesy Gabrielle Garcia
*Jeremy Rosenberg has written for The Studio for Southern California History and is working on another project there as well.
This post originally appeared under the headline, "Arrival Story: Gabrielle Garcia"