Legacy Interview – Juanita Valdez-Cox Part 2

Date of Interview: September 20, 2017
Interviewed By: Chuy Ramriez
Posted: May 17, 2021

Chuy:  And so, your dad was the primary bread winner?

Juanita:  Yes.

Chuy:  He was employed full-time by the farmer?

Juanita:  Yes.

Chuy:  And when you talk about irrigating, that means probably that the land was irrigated with…

Juanita:  With those black tubes que regaban el agua.

Chuy:  …probably with water from canals that came from the Rio Grande. When you were born, was the family there already?

Juanita:  Yes, we were living ahí en Rancho Verde. But before my father came to Rancho Verde, he came across in the ‘50’s. He came across as a bracero and he was under contract for a couple of months. Me acuerdo que me dijo que when they crossed, they used to bathe them with a white powder, todo, todo, todo, porque, because they might have, they thought they might have some kind of disease. Y que los tapaban con un polvo blanco and they used to live there en las barracas. And they were there en Progreso for many years.

Chuy:  Sure. As you grew up, did you attend school from that location?

Juanita:  Yes. It was really close because Rancho Verde, it’s still there, Rancho Verde is only like, maybe, a mile from the school.

Chuy:  And that would be Progreso School District?

Juanita:  That would be Progreso. I went there.

Chuy:  And did you graduate?

Juanita:  Well, that was elementary school and then the patron helped my dad get his legal documents…, then we left the ranch and bought a lot en la colonia. It used to be Colonia Seca in Donna.

Chuy:  That’s in North Donna or South Donna?

Juanita:  No, South Donna. And he bought a (residential) lot and then my other uncle who was at the ranch bought a lot next door. Then my other uncle next door, so all of them bought in la Colonia Seca. And then that’s when we started going up north because we could then travel.

Chuy:  Okay. So what year did your dad, you family buy that lot in Colonia Seca?

Juanita:  Colonia Seca was about ’65 because in ’68 (Note: Beulah-1967), cuando pegó Beulah, we were already in West Texas, in Hereford. We were thinning lettuce, the uncles and all of us. And Beulah hit the Valley y no estabamos aquí.

Chuy:  That’s interesting because in that year, we were in Indiana. We were picking tomatoes during Beulah.

Juanita:  Oh, and during Beulah, we were thinning lettuce.

Chuy:  And so…

Juanita:  So in about ’65, they all bought the land there. Pero no tenía agua y no tenia…They were missing a lot of things. That’s when we got involved with Colonia Nueva. No, I mean, Colonias de Valle because they started talking to the people about the need for water.[1]

Chuy:  La Colonia Seca was one of many colonias that had similar conditions.

Juanita:   Right, and then we could afford it because they only asked my dad for…I think it was ten dollars down. And then we would pay, from up north especially, we would pay like fifty dollars a month.

Chuy:  You know, what’s interesting is how everything comes around. Alex Moreno, in his interview in this book, talks about trying to organize colonia folks for self-help projects like bringing water to a colonia.

Juanita:  Well, I think he was involved in Colonia Nueva but I didn’t know that. It was my dad and the uncles who were working with ,,,no sé cómo se llamaba el señor…

Chuy:  Arturo Ramirez?

Juanita:  Arturo Ramirez and Alejandro and there was another young man that came  with them, that had meetings in the colonia. But, Alejandro (Moreno) was part of Colonias del Valle.

Chuy:  Sure, sure. For many years. Did you graduate high school down here?

Juanita:  I went to Donna then, because we bought in Donna.

Chuy:  Donna High School.

Juanita:  They used to send us to what they used to call la escuela de los burros [2] because it was close to Runn. So, they first passed us to Runn. And then I don’t know what happened and they sent us back to Donna Junior High and High School in Donna.  Entonces at Donna, I went to the tenth grade. I didn’t graduate. We went up north to work and so I never caught up. And I didn’t go to school or college until I was…after I was married.

Chuy:  Oh, okay.

Juanita:  Yeah.

Chuy:  So you’ve described for us a situation where your dad comes over to the U.S. He’s undocumented…

Juanita:  Yes.

Chuy:  …and he probably working and probably appreciates having a roof over his head for his family, right?

Juanita:  And we had a house where we didn’t have to pay rent.

Chuy:  But eventually you end up buying a house.

Juanita:  Yes, we did. But that first one was a loaned one from the farmer.

Chuy:  Then your dad puts you folks through school but you’ve got to work, obviously.

Juanita:  Yes, mucho.

Chuy:  And so then, the family joins the migrant stream.

Juanita:  Once we could travel.

Chuy:  And that’s where all the family is able to work the fields together. Correct?

Juanita:  Right.

Chuy:  Did you travel as an extended family group or did you travel with a trucker?

Juanita:  No, actually, my father and his brothers never wanted to go with a crew leader[3] for some reason. We would look for work, once we were there. They did one year. We went to Colorado. It was called Brighton, Colorado, and we went with a company que se llamaba Best Western. And I remember because we went with them year after year, in the sugar beets. The company would send us gas money and then they would deduct it, we would pay once we got there.

Chuy:  So your extended family had a direct relationship with the company rather than having a go-between.

Juanita:  Yes, and again, it was a group of families that went together.

Chuy:  So, at some point, you decide that you want to be an activist, that there is something that you want to contribute to?

____

[1] See future interviews of former State Rep. Alejandro Moreno and former Hidalgo County Judge J. Edgar Ruiz.

[2]  In his interview, Mike Lopez, an early Chicano activist who would serve on the Donna ISD school board also discusses “la escuela de los burros”.

[3] A crew leader functions as an independent contractor/intermediator between a farmer/grower and the work crews.  He typically provides some sort of transportation for his crew.

Juanita Valdez-Cox

To Learn More About Juanita Valdez-Cox

Juanita Valdez-Cox Interview

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PUBLISHER’S NOTICE

The September 2021 edition of IberoAzltan will be our ninth. We had projected publication of six editions which would be focused primarily on an interview project which we began in 2017, called the Chicana/o Legacy Project. The interest in and support for IberoAztlan was Unexpected.

Rather than ceasing publication as originally intended, we are offering to transfer all publisher’s rights, powers, and legal authority to anyone (individually or otherwise) who has the interest and wherewithal to carry on the project.  The purchase price is $1.00, and the consideration and conditions are negotiable.

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