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Crossing the Rio Grande

An Immigrant's Life in the 1880s

By Luis G. Gómez; Translated by Guadalupe Valdez Jr.

Publication Year: 2006

Although they are among the most important sources of the history of the American Southwest, the lives of ordinary immigrants from Mexico have rarely been recorded. Educated and hardworking, Luis G. Gómez came to Texas from Mexico as a young man in the mid-1880s. He made his way around much of South Texas, finding work on the railroad and in other businesses, observing the people and ways of the region and committing them to memory for later transcription. From the moment he crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros-Brownsville, Gómez sought his fortune in a series of contracting operations that created the infrastructure to help develop the Texas economy—clearing land, cutting wood, building roads, laying track, constructing bridges, and quarrying rock. Gómez describes Mexican customs in the United States, such as courtship and marriage, relations with Anglo employers, religious practices, and the simple home gatherings that sustained those Mexican Texans who settled in urban areas like Houston, isolated from predominantly Mexican South Texas. Few of the 150,000 immigrants in the last half of the nineteenth century left written records of their experiences, but Gómez wrote his memoir and had it privately published in Spanish in 1935. Crossing the Rio Grande presents an English edition of that memoir, translated by the author’s grandson, Guadalupe Valdez Jr., with assistance from Javier Villarreal, a professor of Spanish at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. An introduction by Thomas H. Kreneck explainss the book’s value to scholarship and describes what has been learned of the publication history of the original Spanish-language volume. Valdez’s comments provide a lucid and engaging picture of his grandfather’s later life and his gentlemanly character. This charming little volume provides a valuable account of a relatively undocumented period in Mexican Texans’ history. Almost unknown to those outside his family, this narrative has now been “recovered,” edited by Valdez and Kreneck, and made available to a wider, interested public.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Cover

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pp. c-ii

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

MIS MEMORIAS came to my attention at a 1991 meeting of the Spanish American Genealogical Association (SAGA) in Corpus Christi when Guadalupe Valdez Jr. gave a formal presentation on the book. Luis Gómez was Valdez’s grandfather, and as Valdez’s commentary details, the two had a special relationship. At that SAGA meeting, Valdez showed the audience one of approximately five known...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

The international border between Mexico and the United States has always been a permeable one. Ever since the boundary was established during the nineteenth century, people from Mexico have come north to live and work, and Texas has been a principal destination. While most scholars and other observers of Mexican migration to the Lone Star State have understandably focused on post-1900 immigrants...

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Memories of My Grandfather,Luis G. Gómez

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pp. 9-18

After so many years, it is impossible for me to remember how my first encounter with Luis G. Gómez, my grandfather, occurred. As I recall, it was around 1923, when I was six years of age, and I met him on the farm he worked near the little South Texas community of Ricardo, near Kingsville. Because I was his first grandchild and the eldest child...

Volume I

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Prologue

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pp. 21-22

This humble book, which I present for the consideration of the public who loves to read, has been composed with the sole idea of serving as a means of entertainment. There is no doubt that these readings, if read with patience, will be of great help to the young. They will find in Mis Memorias beautiful examples of filial obedience, which, if imitated, would make parents striving to attain their children’s good fortune very happy....

Contents

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pp. 23-24

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Chapter 1 My Pilgrimage in Texas: Where the Reader May See the Ability of a Swindler and Other Actions That Are Worthwhile Reading

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pp. 25-49

Having to immigrate into the United States somewhere around 1884, I left my country, México, and crossed the Rio Grande in a ferryboat, the only means of transportation available in those days to the beautiful, florescent state of Texas. This crossing took place on June 14, 1884, with only one goal in mind: to work and accumulate a fortune if at all possible. I had determined beforehand to go to Corpus Christi...

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Chapter 2 My Arrival in Houston: Where My Check-Times Were Paid with Pure Solid Gold

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pp. 50-52

As soon as I was well situated in that luxurious special train, I meditated on all that had happened to me. It all seemed like a dream or something that I had read in the story of A Thousand and One Nights. I remembered that it was only a few hours ago that I was forced to get off that freight train by that cruel African brakeman, and now I was walking very peacefully and happily toward the place of my golden...

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Chapter 3 The Negro Brakeman!: Where You Will See the Effect Caused to Him by Seeing Me When He Least Expected

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pp. 53-54

Before we ventured through the streets of that crowded city, my friend Pérez and I made sure we would have a decent place to stay. After we did that, we went out to visit a family, friends of ours, who lived there in Houston and whom we had previously visited. This family lived on the other side of the bridge not too far from the paying car where I had collected

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Chapter 4 An Opíparo Breakfast: An Incident Where Sometimes the Poor Can Also Enjoy Magnificent Meals like the Rich

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pp. 55-69

We went to visit the family that I spoke of in the previous chapter. There [at their home] we met young Agustín, who invited us for a ride in a skiff on the bayou between Houston and Galveston. We accepted the invitation, rented the skiff, and boarded it. We went for about ten miles to where there was a very big camp of laborers who were clearing land with axes. This land was to be used for planting...

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Chapter 5 The Company “Tamez-Gómez, Contractors” Signs Very Lucrative New Contracts

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pp. 70-81

As soon as our people arrived at the new camp, they began work cutting wood. I had already begun the project with ten men who were added to the twenty that Tamez had brought along, giving us a total of thirty men who made nine hundred cords of wood within fifteen days for a total...

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Chapter 6 The Phantom!: A Comical Historical Incident That Sounds Like a Tall Tale

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pp. 82-85

As soon as Mrs. Stafford mentioned that she would begin to share her history the following day, I interrupted her by saying, “If you wish to stay awake for a while, I will share with you an interesting anecdote, and although it is a true story, it may sound like a tall tale. I am sure you are going to have a good laugh.”...

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Chapter 7 Where We Will Hear the True Story of That Mysterious Petite Woman

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pp. 86-102

The following evening at 7, Mrs. Stafford started to share with us her story in the following manner. “My parents were very poor, and, to make matters worse, my loving mother passed away when Elena, my older sister, was 7 years old and I was only 5. My father was very young when mother passed away, for he was barely 31 years of age. Mr....

Index

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pp. 103-106


E-ISBN-13: 9781603445320
E-ISBN-10: 1603445323
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445141
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445142

Page Count: 124
Illustrations: 7 b&w photos. Map.
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Gulf Coast Books Series, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

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Subject Headings

  • Immigrants -- Texas, South -- Biography.
  • Mexican Americans -- Texas, South -- Biography.
  • Gómez, Luis G.
  • Texas, South -- Biography.
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