- Child of Many Rivers: Journeys to and from the Rio Grande
The author of this little book, Lucy Fischer-West, grew up and came of age on the Rio Grande in the twin cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, the only child of a Mexican mother and a German father. Her father, Martin Franz Jockisch, joined the German navy in 1909 but wound up with a fishing fleet in the North Sea, where he met a Russian sailor who filled his head with tales of the good life in the United States. Jumping ship in New York City in the middle of the winter of 1912, the young sailor found himself in a strange city where he knew no one, spoke not a word of English, had no place to go, and spent his first night on a cold bench in Central Park. In time Jockisch learned English, changed his name to Fischer, worked at various jobs, and by the time the United States entered World War I, he had joined a vaudeville act as an acrobat walking a slack-rope. As a member of the De Perón Trio, he traveled to thirty-two states.
After gaining citizenship in 1934 and working at various jobs, Fischer went to sea with the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II and sailed a large part of the world. After the war, he was traveling across the country when he stopped in El Paso for a brief holiday and decided to visit Ciudad Juárez to see a bullfight. Instead he wound up at a charity fiesta, where he danced with a beautiful young lady with long black hair named Lucinda Laura Rey. Hoping to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution, Lucinda's father had brought the family to Ciudad Juárez from Camargo, Chihuahua, in 1910 and set up shop as a grocer. On their third date, Martin proposed, and Lucinda accepted. After Fischer served another stint in the Merchant Marine, the two were married in 1948.
But Child of Many Rivers is much more than just family genealogy. It is also the story of the daughter of Martin and Lucinda Fischer, Lucy Fischer-West. Growing up on both sides of the Rio Grande, speaking Spanish with her mother and English with her father, Lucy was educated at elementary schools in Ciudad Juárez and in [End Page 416] El Paso. These childhood recollections of life on the border and coming of age in a bicultural, biracial, bilingual environment are little less than precious. Time would take the writer far from the Rio Grande, to the south of France, the River Ganges in distant India, charity work in Calcutta, and a blessing from Mother Teresa. But Lucy would return to the Rio Grande, to El Paso, where she teaches high school English. Anyone interested in life on the Texas-Mexico border in the twentieth century will want this book. Lucy Fischer-West is a good writer. She has an interesting story to tell, and we should all be grateful for her efforts. Her book is highly recommended. Unfortunately, the Texas-Mexico border of the twenty-first century is radically different from what the author fondly describes in the twentieth century.