MY MOTHER'S PAGE
JUANA PETRONA OCHOA LOPEZ FELICIANO SANTOS
Where shall I start. Well, I guess I can take the, somewhat over
simplified, advice of a Monarch from a strange land. A young girl, named
Alice, was required to explain her presence in this land without a visa,
to the King and the very impulsive Queen. Alice, not being street wise, confessed
that she didn't know where to start. The Queen demanded harsh punishment
for what she interpreted as arrogance; but the wiser, more patient King,
in his King Solomon-like wisdom, calmly advised, "begin at the beginning
; continue `till you reach the end ; then
Not much is known about mom's earlier years, since she rarely spoke about them, or perhaps she was rarely asked. The following information was siphoned from various legal documents found among mom's papers.
BORN: 03:00am, April 29, 1908 in the City of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, C.A.
PARENTS: Adan Ochoa and Aurelia Lopez (not sure who Amelia Lopez is or if Aurelia and Amelia are one and the same person)
GRANDPARENTS:(Paternal) Francisco Ochoa and Maria Antonia Sauceda
WITNESSES: To the filing of the Birth Certificate on May 5 1908 at 03:PM; Simon Padilla Miralda, Municipal Secretary, and Adan Ochoa, Father.
ALSO PRESENT: Federico Licona, and Paulina Gelaya, witnesses? (not sure of their role in this event)
ARRIVAL: Juana Feliciano arrived in the United States through the port of Brooklyn New York , under the name of Petrona Lopez, on Aug. 22 1925, on the vessel CHOLUTECA, of the steam ship line, UNITED STATES FRUIT COMPANY, as a passenger in the 2nd cabin (second class) on a passport (not a stowaway, seaman or crewman). Examined by United States Immigration Officers at New York City. The person in the United States to whom she was reportedly coming was Raimunda Lardizabal of New York City. Other travel companions were Petrona Garcia, and Julia Lardizabal (friends)
NOTE: The arrival info was supplied from earlier naturalization papers filled out for her by Pastor Feliciano Sr., husband, of Madison Ave, NYC in 1925.
Application: For naturalization, Dec. 12 1960, under the name of Juana Santos, married to Cruz Santos, at the time residing at City Terrace Dr. Los Angeles, CA. (2nd application).
DECEASED: December 1989 (several days before Christmas)
Who in blazes was Cruz Santos? At the time, we were living on Fox Street, Bronx, NY. Santos was one of mom's neighborhood friends. Back in the early 1950's, after mom broke up with William Bracero, George's father, mom started palling around with Cruz Santos. One day, mom came home with Cruz and announced that she just got married at City hall. The first thing Cruz did, before even sitting down, was to head for the bathroom, where he stayed for what seemed like hours. When he came out, he was stinko-plastered and reeked like a bar room floor after a bottle smashing brawl. In fact, he looked like he WAS the bar room floor; drunk as a skunk! Mom took one look at him and said, "no .. no.. you got to get out", or words to that effect. She escorted him to the door and closed it after him. That was the last time I saw him. Mom knew he drank, but so did ALL the men in the neighborhood. Mom apparently didn't realize just how much of an alcoholic he really was! Or, maybe she thought she could change him. This was an impulsive thing she did! I really think she wanted to make a sacrifice to help this man! But that scene probably convinced her that he was hopeless. On their wedding day?.. before even greeting the family? .. getting drunk like that? .. NO WAY JOSE!
On the surface, it appears that mom did things without thinking and made bad mistakes, but it was more than that! Mom has always had a special place in her heart for alcoholics, believing them to have an affliction, and believing that these men were good at heart. She was always treated with utmost respect by them, and they always bent over backwards to help her!
It seems that mom was 17 when she arrived in the US on a "banana boat". Raymond recalls mom describing the banana stalks and the tarantula spiders that were crawling over the fruit. Her parents had "sold" her to a Jewish family as a house servant. I guess she was like an "indentured servant." Pop somehow rescued her from that situation.
Another glimpse into moms past, supplied by Vickie (Rachels daughter) - as a young girl, mom used to take food prepared by her mother to her fathers work site for all the workers. One day, her father introduced her to another worker as her future husband. At another time, mom ran away from home on horseback to another town with an aunt. She was brought back. Whether or not these two incidents were related is unknown, nor is it known if either of these situations had anything to do with her coming to the United States.
Rachel was not the first born, as most of us thought! There was a son who died at child birth, or very soon there after. Raymond doesn't know if this son ever had a name. I have just the vaguest recollection of this being mentioned many years ago. This means that mom actually had 12 children; non of them twins! Lordy do!
Why did Pat, Carlos Caesar and I (and later David, Ben, Naomi, and Moses) have to go away to a boarding home?
This was the 1930's! The time of the Great Depression, which lasted into the early 1940's! 20 cents an hour was a good salary at the time, if you were lucky enough to get one. Pop worked with the WPA, a government agency designed to put people to work, and as a musician, bringing home pennies. Mom cooked up "Pasteles" and "Panela" (Panarela?) and sold them at pop's job and at his social club, bringing home extra pennies. Even Raymond, at age 9-12 years old, contributed to the family income, as a shoe shine boy. The fact that he could contribute and was able to help around the house may have been the reason why he didn't go to the boarding home.
So what happened? Mom was hit by a bus. This started her bad health which plagued her all her life. She wouldn't go to the hospital because she would lose a large part of the family income. She felt she had to keep working to survive! She could not, however, cope with raising a large family, also with only a two bedroom apartment, there really wasnt enough room for all of us.
Three bedroom apartments were rare if they existed at all. In fact, apartments were so scarce that many landlords would take empty apartments and convert them into several small rooms and rent the rooms as separate units making a KILLING!. On the other hand, a renter who was moving would "sell" the apartment to another renter for as much as $2000 (in later years).
Anyway, the bus company came around and offered mom $25 for her injury, which pop insisted she accept. Years later, when I heard about this, I was incensed at pop for selling out so cheap! In retrospect, I think she could have gotten at least 10 times that much. Let me quickly point out this fact. You have to consider the times! That $25 in today's money would be the equivalent of perhaps $2,500. When you look at it that way, it doesn't seem quite as bad, but it was still a colossal rip-off.
There's a lot more to be said about this era, but I'll save it for Raymond's narrative. Let me just point out a couple of benefits to being in the boarding home that should not be lightly dismissed!
1. It greatly eased the family's financial burden. We had 3 nutritious meals a day, never having to go to bed hungry; good clothes that fit, shoes without holes, unlimited health care; a bed of our own; excellent education, and spiritual guidance. (The latter, I could have used a lot less of.) At home, mom would buy our clothes at the Salvation Army, or what was called the "Cheapy - Cheapy" or "Pachi-Pachi". I have recently been informed that this was merely the store owners broken English for Cheap and Patches. They were often faded, worn out and with unmatched buttons. New clothes were a rarity for us!
2. It provided us with a safe, comfortable surrounding, free of the dangers of the city streets, with its street gangs and illicit drugs. A testimonial to this benefit is the fact that Raymond, who wasn't afforded this protection, got into serious trouble before the age of 16, Carlos, after coming out of the home, got into some trouble of his own, and Caesar lost his life to street violence on his 15th birthday.
As for me, in spite of the obvious benefits of the boarding home and the dangers of the city streets, I would have much preferred to stay at home and forgo those benefits.
Carlos recalls an incident prior to going to St. Agnes, when mom took him to the local grocery store to buy food. After going to the check out counter and having the food bagged, she picked up the bags and told the owner to put the amount on her credit account. The owner protested saying, wait a minute! We dont give credit in this store! You have to pay cash! Mom said, OK then! Im just going to take the food! You try and stop me! I have children at home who are hungry and Im going to bring them some food! The owner reluctantly gave in and started a tally sheet for her credit purchases.
For many years before moms death, she was well liked in the neighborhood. In the local church, she was considered a Church Elder, and everyone called her Grandma with great respect. In fact, she was the manager of her apartment building and one day, because the owner was having trouble collecting his rent from some of the tenants, he asked her why she couldnt keep her family members in line. Mom had to explain to him that Grandma was a title of respect and that she wasnt really related to any of the tenants.
Rae felt that mom favored the boys. All of her life, she felt a certain amount of resentment toward mom for this. All her life, she was trying to get mom to show her the mother's love she felt she was being deprived of. Rae said mom told her that women can survive in the street a lot easier than men.
My feeling of what mom may have been thinking of was that women could marry into money, or at least that the man of the house was still required, by society, to be the bread winner of the household, and women only needed to land a husband and be supported. This is a chauvinistic way of looking at life but, still, this was what most people believed. That is why working women didn't earn as much as men for the same jobs, and women were locked out of certain careers - because MEN, were considered the "bread winners". The fact that a single mother had an even greater financial burden than a married father made no difference to society in those days. And REMEMBER! Mom came over as an indentured servant! I'm sure her brother(s) weren't treated that way! It would be no wonder if mom felt that men had a greater chance of advancing in the work force, and that women had a better chance in the home. I don't know if she, in FACT, DID feel that way, at least not completely. But those were the times we lived in!
Raymond didn't remember Rae's situation the way she did, although towards the end of mom's life, mom would always holler at Rae every time Rae called (so Im told). Raymond remembered that Rae never tried to earn money and help with the family finances. She did help with child caring and stuff in the early years, but that was expected of her. On the other hand, boys weren't expected to do housework, cook , or go out and earn money, but Raymond did all of these! Mom looked upon Raymond as the "first born son", and depended on him very greatly. Mom taught Raymond to cook, and make jewelry and other things. I think what was happening between mom and Rae was that Rae would try to tell mom how hard a life she had lived and how hard the times were for her even then. Mom had no patience with that kind of talk because, however hard Raes life was, moms life had been ten times harder, yet she survived!
This does not take away anything from my sister, Rae. She was a great person to know. She was extremely independent, the life of the party, and traveled around a lot. She's gone now and I really miss her!