Heritage, Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 1993 Page: 19
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on the casket until they could cover it
entirely with dirt.
Several times we heard the story about
how the statue of San Miguel had not
wanted to leave Socorro when it was
traveling through on the way to New
Mexico. The cart it was on would not
budge across the Socorro-Ysleta line, and
the parishioners took that as a sign that
the saint would stay with them. It is still
there today. Mr. and Mrs. Juan Fresquez
sang the sweet holy songs of the posadas,
and Conchita Fernandez pointed out the
old stations of the cross that were posted
around the town. The new stations are
now scattered around the church grounds,
because some locals complained the
processions blocked traffic.
Many of the women told the students
how they and their mothers cooked chile
colorado and dried vegetables, fruit, and
meat in rooms called despensas. Students
came to understand that caring for the
home and family was time consuming and
usually required the help of several females.
Maria Feliza Perez told how customs
had changed, and she chuckled as
she recounted the time when her
husband's aunt hung a pair of scissors and
a set of keys on her stomach during an
eclipse when she was pregnant. All the
while the aunt prayed to a picture of San
Ram6n who had a nickel adhered to his
face with chewing gum.
Juan Fresquez provided some meat to
railroad history when he told us that
another knowledgeable man, the late
Guadalupe Garcia had told him that two
railroad companies had raced to build the
railroad through the Valley. GH and
Southern Pacific could not agree on where
to build the track, and so they competed
to see which company could dig the
railroad trench the fastest. The company
that completed the task the quickest would
win the contract to lay the railroad tracks,
and the other would have to pay to use it.
Southern Pacific won. GH finally recouped
its loss when the Bureau of Reclamation
decided to build the Franklin
Canal and bought that trench from them.
The many stories, thoughts, controversies
were left to posterity when we
received funding from the Texas Committee
for the Humanities and Archaeological
Research Inc. to print a book, edit
a film, and create an exhibit based on the
interviews. Students from the journalism
class transcribed tapes and using themes,
edited a book entitled "Lo Nuestro: People
The students came to understand that there are things not
yet known in history, that they could be "discoverers."
of the Lower Valley." The Media Technology
class spliced a documentary film by the
same title, and a small glass showcase was
devoted to artifacts and photographs collected
during the project. These were shared
with the participants during a presentation at
the high school at the end of the school year.
Agustin Payan could not be at the presentation,
but I dropped by his house recently
to hand deliver his copy of "Lo
Nuestro." He had a tearful look in his eyes
when he saw his name under the Spanish
and translated English text that were once
his spoken words. I pointed to the section
called "Words of Wisdom" and showed him
we had included some of his advice to young
adults about good citizenship and the importance
of education. His voice started to
crack as he gave his thanks and mentioned
his children would be grateful to me and the
students when they realized what we had
done for them. They would be able to know
him and his life through this book. He said
they would learn how hard he had had to
work as an immigrant without an education,
how proud he was to be able to own his own
house, and owe no one a dime. I wish the
students could have heard him.
The students gathered important historical
information and some interesting stories
about peoples' lives, but the real lesson was
in the ideas about the learning process.
Angelica Palacios came to understand that
there are things not yet known in history,
that she could be a "discoverer." The students
also came to acknowledge that their
community predated the birth of the United
States, predated pilgrims and Plymouth
Rock, and that they had to be critical of the
things they once believed to be true.
By conducting this oral history program,
we gave people a chance to participate
in history. We gave history back to
the people. So often we read about the
important people, those with the big
ranches, the political clout, and the longwinded
voices, but by talking to the common
folk, we enriched the historical process.
We have something to share with the
community of the future, but also the Amish
community in Ohio, a cowboy in New
Mexico, and the preppie in Boston. The
young have now become the keepers of the
living memories of the Valley. The memories
are now theirs.
Gonzalez-Peterson is bilingual educator and
director, Socorro School Oral History Project.
HERITAGE * WINTER 1919
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 1993, periodical, Winter 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45415/m1/19/: accessed May 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.