MEMORIES OF MY LIFE IN LAS MORAS
I’m very proud to have been born in an adobe hut in Las Moras, a ranch in Zacatecas, Mexico, where I also spent my childhood. I have many fond memories from that yesterday. One of those is that as soon as I turned 5, my Dad starting taking me to the field every day at the break of dawn to help him plant corn during the planting season, or to harvest it during the harvesting season. When it wasn’t the season for planting or for harvesting, we would tend cattle. When we would return home after sunset, my Mom and my siblings would be waiting for us so that we could all enjoy the unforgettably delicious dinners that my Mom would prepare for us. The dinners would consist of frijoles de la olla [beans cooked in a pot], freshly-made corn tortillas, and red chile from the molcajete [mortar and pestle]. A little boy, like I was back then, doesn’t need anything else to be happy. That’s why the years that I lived in the ranch were some of the happiest years of my life.©
Although my Dad and I would spend the day toiling under a very hot sun, I loved working in the field with him
When I was about 5 years old, my Dad started taking me to the field everyday at dawn, during the planting season, to help him plant corn. My Dad would carve out furrows with a plow that was pulled by a horse, and I, walking behind him, would toss the seeds into the burrows. Although we would toil under a very hot sun all day, I loved working in the field with my Dad. However, since I was a clumsy little boy, I’m sure that sometimes I was more of a hindrance than a help to my Dad.©
Solovino could sense when Death was lurking by
When I was about 8 years old, a small, stray, black dog whom I named Solovino, wandered into our house and into my life. He was playful, loyal, and affectionate. One day, Solovino, my Mom and I went to visit one of my favorite uncles who lived nearby and who had been sick with cancer for a long time, people would say. Since there was no doctor in Las Moras, if anyone got sick he either got cured with home remedies or he died because almost no one had any money to go to the nearest doctor who was in Tlaltenango, a small town that is about half a day, on foot, from Las Moras. After visiting my uncle, we returned home very happy because my Mom was sure that he was going to recover soon. According to her, he had looked much better than when she had seen him a month before. At midnight, Solovino let out blood-curling howls. Sadly, the following day, my uncle’s family notified us that he had died at midnight. From then on, I realized that Solovino could sense when Death was lurking nearby. Thereafter, every time that someone died in Las Moras, I would know it immediately because Solovino’s howling would tell me.©
When Death was stalking me, Solovino saved my life twice
One morning, while Solovino and I were out collecting firewood for my Mom’s clay stove where she would cook unforgettable meals, Solovino began to growl and became very tense. Then, a coyote rushed out from behind some trees towards me. Solovino charged him like a bolt of lighting. After fighting for a few minutes, the coyote ran away, bleeding and squealing. As the weeks went by, Solovino began to change; he became nervous, aggressive, and began to foam at the mouth. Then, he disappeared. A few days later, I found him. He was dead. As soon as I saw him, I started crying like the little boy that I was back then. Since Solovino and I had been inseparable, for a long time after he died, I held a grudge against him. In time, I came to realize that Solovino abandoned me because he knew that while Death had been killing him with the rabies, it had also been stalking me. I’ll never forget that Solovino saved my life twice and that he gave his life for mine.©
Happy and fancy free going barefoot
When we lived in Las Moras, I would usually walk around barefoot. However, when I had to look my “Sunday best,” I would wear huaraches that my Dad would buy in Tlaltenango. But I felt much more comfortable walking around barefoot. I didn’t start wearing shoes until we moved to Tijuana, where we lived for two years before we came to the U.S. But before I could ever get used to wearing shoes, I endured blisters for many years.©
Finally, the “Big Deal” has arrived . . . at last
When one of my uncles was about to marry a girl from a neighboring ranch, he planned to bring his bride to Las Moras on the wedding day in a brand new car that another one of my other uncles had brought from El Norte. Since there were no roads in Las Moras, days before the wedding, people pitched in to clear out and to widen a foot trail so that the car could get through. On the wedding day, as the car was nearing Las Moras, me, and all the people from Las Moras lined up along Las Moras‘ brand new road to see the arrival of the “big deal.” That was the first time that I saw a car.©
The time for bathing has arrived . . . oh well
We didn’t have any running water in Las Moras but there was a water well and a river near our hut. During the rainy season, when the well and the river would swell up, there was water for everything. But during the dry season, when the river water would dry up, and the water level in the well would recede, the water from the well was used only for cooking. Every so often, during the dry season, my Mom would fill up a tub with cold water from the well. With that water, my brothers and I had to bathe. Since I was the eldest, I was always the first one.©
The mail from El Norte has arrived . . . finally
One day I received a letter from a cousin in Los Angeles who had left Las Moras with his family to go live in El Norte. The letter took a month to get to me because we didn’t have postal service in Las Moras. The nearest post office was in Tlaltenango, a town that is about half a day, on foot, from Las Moras. If anyone from Las Moras wanted to mail anything out, he had to take it to town. If anyone wanted to mail anything to Las Moras, he had to send it to town. Whenever anyone went to town, he would drop off mail from Las Moras, and pick up mail for Las Moras. Sometimes, weeks would go by before anyone from Las Moras would go into town.©
I didn’t want to leave Las Moras because I was very happy
In Las Moras, the men would work six days a week from sunup to sundown tending to their land or to their livestock. Those that didn’t have land or livestock, like my Dad, would toil as farmhands for others. Although they would all “kill” themselves working, they would barely scrape by. Tired of working for a pittance, in time, most of the men, like my Dad, would go to El Norte every year to work in the fields or in factories for a season because they said that in El Norte they could earn money by the handful without “killing” themselves. Although they would all come and go at first, in time, most, like my Dad, would stay over there. Although my family wanted to join my Dad once he had settled in El Norte, I was afraid of leaving my life in Las Moras because it was the only life that I had known. Moreover, I was afraid of going to live in a foreign nation where they speak a very strange language that I thought that I could never learn. However, in time, my Dad took us to Tijuana. After we had lived in Tijuana for two years, he brought us to Los Angeles where he had already settled.©
MEMORIES IN PICTURES OF LAS MORAS
The hut where I was born and where I lived in my childhood years, which were some of the happiest years of my life.
Growing corn seedlings behind the hut, like the ones my Dad and I used to plant, during the planting season.
The river near the hut after a heavy rain storm during the rainy season, when there was water for everything.
Water on the river, where I used to play with my brothers, is drying up because the rainy season is coming to an end.