Juanita Valdez-Cox Tape 1
Chuy: Today is September 20, 2017, and we’re here in San Juan, Texas and we’re chatting with Juanita Valdez-Cox. Juanita. I just got an invitation from LUPE, your organization, L-U-P-E, for your third Bi-annual Gala. You are going to be honoring two people there.
Juanita: Yes, exactly. David Hall from Texas Rural Legal Aid. David has spent his life, as you know, he started with United Farm Workers so he’ll be honored for all his work. And then also Ed Krueger, Reverend Krueger, who started back in 1965 with the Rio Grande melon strikers, supporting them whichever way he could. Both older and we want to make sure that folks that attend the gala, not only them, but we’re announcing it also. so folks know the work that they did and appreciate those who came before us and are working toward social justice.
Chuy: Well, you couldn’t have chosen any better honorees than those two gentlemen. I know them well.
Juanita: Great work.
Chuy: As a matter of fact, Reverend Krueger was one of the first people that I met when I was a high school kid.
Juanita: ¿De veras?
Chuy: Yeah, because he goes way, way back.
Juanita: Yes. He’s a lot older now.
Chuy: So, I’m going to ask you your age because I think it’s important for the reader to know, how long we’ve been around. So, as we sit here today. How old are you?
Juanita: Okay, sure. I just turned seventy on March the 22nd of this past year. Actually, this year.
Chuy: Tell us a little bit a where you grew up here in South Texas.
Juanita: I grew up in, it was called Rancho Verde, which is about a mile from the Mexican border in Nuevo Progreso, really close to Relampago. So, I went to school there in Progreso.
Chuy: Was it a rancho in the old style or was it a colonia?
Juanita: No, a total rancho. El patron se llamaba Paul Gillian y él es el que ocupó a mi papa. Oh, I’m speaking Spanish.
Chuy: That’s all right. You can mix it up. I prefer English, but you can mix it up.
Juanita: I mix it up. I’m very comfortable mixing it up. Paul Gillian was the owner of Rancho Verde. I don’t know if he named it or we named it, but we were a couple, three families that lived in this ranch. And there was a packing shed right on the ranch. He owned land all over. He hired my dad when my dad was undocumented so my dad worked for him for many, many, many years.
Chuy: Okay, so he was a farmer right near the border. What kinds of agricultural products did he grow?
Juanita: All kinds of vegetables. He didn’t have any citrus. Mainly, vegetables. I remember he had lots of carrots. He also had cotton. I remember my dad because my dad used to run the cotton machines. They were cotton machines to get the cotton. He was also the irrigator for this ranch, tambien. He worked at night.
Chuy: So the families who lived on the farmer’s property worked for the farmer? Men, women and children?
Juanita: Not all of us. Only the men. My mom and my older brother would work with a troquero picking cotton. They would come and pick them up every morning. I remember the pito. They were honking to get them out to get on the trucks to go pick cotton.
Chuy: So the families that were living there, were the heads of the households of those three households, were they all undocumented?
Juanita: No, actually one of them baptized me, mi madrina, named Socorro Zamarrón, I don’t know if they were citizens, but they were here legally. Only my dad and one of my uncles who lived on the ranch were undocumented.