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Interview with Esiquia S. Monita



Esiquia Monita was born in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1902. In 1906 she crossed the border to El Paso, Texas, with her mother. She grew up in Kansas, working in beet fields. She married once in Kansas and moved with her husband to Chicago. She married again while in Chicago and came to St. Paul with her second husband. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Family history - early Mexican settlers in St. Paul - harvesting beets and corn in Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota - her husband's occupations - and food. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: In Spanish, transcribed into English. Part of the tape is garbled and difficult to understand.





World Region




This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Esiquia Monita was born in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1902. She

does not remember her life in Mexico because she crossed the border with her mother in 1906. They paid 2-5¢ and crossed to live in E1 Paso, Texas. She She

has more vivid memories of growing up in Kansas, working in the beets. married once in Kansas and went with him to Chicago. Chicago and came to St. Paul with her second husband. Esiquia discusses her parents and early life, brothers and sisters, her

She married again in

children, harvesting beets and corn, the first people she knew in St. Paul, the early St. Paul Mexican American Community festivals, her husband's occupations, and food. This is an English translation of the tape-recorded interview in Spanish. original cassette recording is available in the Audio-Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society. The



This interview is with Sra. Esiquia Monita. Sra. Monita lives at 469 Ada,

Today is July 7, 1975. She lives alone.


Paul, Minnesota.

Sra. Monita, I will start by asking you for your complete name? Moni*a: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Esiquia. What was your maiden name? Saenz. Was your family from Mexico? My mother used to say that I came to the United States "t.7hen I was four years old. I don't remember anything about Mexico and I have never gone back to

Mexico. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Where were you born? In Mexico. They brought me here when I was four years old.

Were you born in Mexico City? No, I was born in Chihuahua. don't know for sure. I think the little town was Casas Grandes. I

She used to tell us about it.

Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita:

When were you born? In 1902. April 10.

Did you come to Minnesota then? No, we didn't come to Minnesota. Juarez. My mother crossed the border at Ciudad

We lived in El Paso, Texas.

Barela: Monita: Barela:

What year was that? 1906. How long did you lived in E1 Paso?



I don't know how long we lived there.

The first thing that I remember is By then my mother did not have

one time when they were asking for workers. a husband. Barela: Monita:

My father, I think, had died many years before.

What was your father's name? Modesto. I don't know too much, at that time the parents did not inform My mother was a person

their children of family matters like they do now. that was hard to talk to. Barela: Monita: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

I have brothers and sisters, but they did not live with us. here when she lived in St. Paul.

I met a sister

Barela: Monita:

Lupe? Yes Lupe, and I had another onewho's name was Maria. She lived in Colorado. I also had a brother, he died. She never lived here.

Barela: Monita:

Do you remember your brother's name? Jose Teofilo Medrano. I can't say anything because like they say, they came My brother lived in Minneapolis, Consuelo lived in Maria never came.

and went like a cyclone. Milwaukee.

I am the one who lived here the longest.

Consuelo did come to see me. she died about two years ago. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita:

My other sister Olimpia lived in Davenport, Iowa,

Are any of your brothers alive? No brothers or sisters. I am the only one alive of the whole family.

Do you remember how you came across the border to the United States? No, I think my mother crossed the border by paying two or five cents. there wasn't any border patrol. the border. Then

I think she paid two or five cents to cross

She and my stepfather came across.

Barela: Monita: Barela:

What was your stepfather's name? Antonio Bautista. So after you crossed the border you lived in El Paso?

-3Monita: Yes, I guess so. I wasn't too old, but I do remember when we came here to a Not here in Minnesota. We were brought up

farm to work in the beet fields. in Kansas.

In many small towns working the beets.

I did not come to Minnesota

until I was married. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Do you remember anything about Kansas? No, except that it was full of weeds. Did you work the beets? No, not as a young girl. We were very young. All of us.

Did your mother talk about how hard it was to work the beets? No. They worked in groups of people.

From Kansas to Minnesota, did you work? Yes. We also worked for a short time in Iowa. Then all of us started working.

In what part of Iowa? In Davenport, Iowa. But my mother wasn't with us anymore.

Do you remember the year? No, I don't recall. What age were you then? About thirteen or fourteen. I was married twice. I got married for the first I have a daughter in Chicago

time when I was thirteen or fourteen years old.

from my first husband, and a son, but I never hear from him. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Where were you married for the first time? In Emporia, Kansas. What was your first husband's name? Nicolas Hernandez. Did you stay in Emporia and work? No, as soon as we were married, my husband wanted to go to Chicago. want to stay where my mother was. Olimpia. He didn't

My mother stayed in Emporia with my sister We came to

Olimpia also got married, but I don't remember when.

-4Monita: Chicago right away and we lived in some railroad cars. child, Rebecca. Davenport. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: There I had my first Then we came to

She is the one that still lives in Chicago.

In Davenport my husband got a job in a foundry.

What kind of work did your husband do? He worked for Battendorf. All the people worked there.

So you had your first child in Chicago? Yes, the first one in Chicago. Davenport, Iowa. The second one was a boy and he was born in

Barela: Monita:

From your first husband? Yes, from my first husband. We were not married for long. I was very young

and if he did not come home I would get very angry.

There were rumors that

he had been seen entering a house a couple of doors away from ours and I investigated and it was true. drink and miss work. Barela: Monita: I left him right away because sometimes he would A boy and a girl.

So I had two children from him.

Do you remember their birthdates? Rebecca, the one in Chicago. I had their certifica┬Ětes, but I left the children I don't know why he wanted I came here with my husband, All the

with my husband and he wanted the certificates. them.

My daughter was the one that asked for them.

the one that died here.

My husband's real name was Gonzalo Monita.

Monitas are part of our family: Monitas.

Margaret Lucio; Consuelo Velasquez; all are He has been in the service Now he is stationed in We went

Alejandro (Alex) and Gonzalo the youngest. He was here withl"me for Mother's Day.

for 20 years.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

We also lived there for a while, in Milwaukee.

to visit my sister Consuelo, who was sick, then she died, so we stayed there. I left my house here with all my furniture. But I was so saddened by her death

that I told the girls, my daughters, to get my furniture out of the house because we were paying rent. Barela: We stayed there for about two years. Did you marry your. second husband

So you went from Chicago to Davenport, Iowa.


Barela: Nonita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita:

in Davenport? No, we got married here in St. Paul. Did you come by train? Yes, we came by train. After you came here with your husband, where did he work? He worked for a long time in Armour's and Swift's. beet fields at first. We would also go to the

This is when I worked the beets.

Barela: Monita:

Is it hard work? It is terrible. Now that I remember, I get the chillsl But at that time my At

husband did not want to be on welfare.

We would leave our home rented. We used to

that time everything was very inexpensive. Barela: Monita: Did you take your children with you? Yes. We did not go very far.


We would go to Mankato, Sleepy Eye and Jordan,

Minnesota. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita:

Those are the ones that I remember.

Do you remember the year? No. How old were you then? Only God knows! LeSueur. I had a son,

that was killed by a corn truck in

I think this was in 1939.

There I worked with the Samora family

in the kitchen. Barela: Monita: Working the beets meant more than just harvesting, right? Always.

We would first hoe it.

Later we would clear it up, in August.


remember because you would do the work standing and I liked that.


that, until the crop is ready, between August, September and October, we would finish. Then we would come back. That was when I worked. My husband would

pick corn and I worked in the kitchen. Barela: Monita: Do you remember how much they paid you for the beet? No, I

remember how much they paid then.

-6Barela: Monita: So then you would pick corn, too? Yes, the corn was ready for picking right after we were through with the beets.

Mr. Zamora was in charge of the farm and he would let me work in the kitchen
because my husband worked for him ih the corn. him. Barela: Monita: Later my son also worked for

There was always a group of young boys working for him.

Was it hot working in the fields? Yes. It was enough to go crazy. I would put beet leafs on my head, like a We

hat, to cool off.

But it was a beautiful life, working with my husband.

would get home and he'would chop wood I made tortillas and cook the potatoes.

for the stove and get it going, while We had Beta, the one that was killed

by the truck, Consuela, Lucinda, Margarita, Alejandro and the one that is in the service. He has been in the Marines for 20 years. He called me the day before yesterday. He is the baby of my kids. He feels sad because He says he is very

I am all alone.

sad and misses his father. Barela: Monita: Did you ever go to school?

LWent. te school for two weeks , but my mother was always sick, so she took me out of school. way. There were only the three of us. All the others had gone their

It was just my mother, my sister and I.

My sister did go to school, in

Kansas. Barela: So after you finished the beet work, you would come back to St. Paul for the winter? Monita: Barela: Monita: Yes. Where did you live in St. Paul? Allover. We lived on State Street for a long time and also on Indiana Court. He is in the service and has the same name His second name is from his confir-

My youngest son was born there.

as his father, Gonzalo Guillermo Monita. mation.

But my husband, in his alien card, used the name that he gave himself All the people knew us by our

here in the United States, George G. Monita.

-7Monita: last name and not our first names. know who it was. Barela: Monita: Until when did you work in the fields? For about fourteen years. old. Barela: Monita: The first time I was married I was thirteen years When he died, a lot of people did not

We lasted together for about five years.

How many years did you go to Mankato and LeSueur to work? Not until there was enough work here. a job at the packing house.

soon as we came back he would get

He worked at Swift's, Cudahay's and Armour's.

Barela: Monita:

Did you live

in Milwaukee? died. We lived there for about ten My husband worked in the rail-

Yes, that was after one of my sister years.

That is where my son graduated from.

road tracks there, not a packing house. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: And from Milwaukee you came back to St. Paul? Yes, we came back to St. Paul. Did you work while you were in Milwaukee? No, I stayed home. Did you suffer a lot of hardships? Never. Were you always happy? God helped us. separated. I have nothing to complain about. We never tried to get When Swift

Whenever the check came he would go buy groceries.

closed down my son-in-law got transfered to California. Barela: Monita: Did you have a lot of friends here in St. Paul? All the old people. Those of us who are left. Mrs. Huerta and I have known

each other for a long t'd,me. time.

Some of the others I have only known for a short Her husband's name was Matias Huerta, she is Some of the

I remember Mrs. Huerta.

also a widow.

She used to give baby showers and everything.

other people I can't recall.

There are many more: Concha; the Coronado family)

-8Monita: and there are all my compadres. Arturo Coronado, they are good people. My son from

During the summer we went over to their restaurant to eat. California took us to the restaurant. Coronado's married yet. parents.

I also got to know my compadre Arturo

I remember when my compadre Arturo first came, he wasn't

Piedad Ruiz and Florentino Ruiz were also my compadres, he died. My comadre Luisa Guerra, died in Mexico, he George My compadre

Pomposo Guerra was my compadre. died here.

These are some of the older people I know or have known.

Galvin, my compadre Agustin Rodriquez, and his son Pete Rodriguez. Agustin Rodriquez' wife also died. All the old timers.

My compadre Alfonso All of which

and Margarita Bravo, they have also died.

There are many more.

are people that I haven't known for too long. in St. Paul when we came.

There were not many people here

There was Pomposo Guerra, Alvina and Lupe Cruz, I They live near here.

have known them for a long time. Barela: Monita:

Were you one of the first families to settle here? Yes, not the very first, but some of the first. was here.

My compadre Pomposo Guerra
We met Florentino Ruiz

The Coronados came much later than we did.

in the beets. Barela: Monita: You said you went to dances. Were these dances put on by the community? The My

No, these were dances we had for baptisms, marriages and for the clubs. Anahuac Society would have fund raisers. husband was a member of this club. We would sell food and pinatas.

Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita:

Did you help with the cooking? Yes. What kind of food did you prepare? Whatever they told me to help with. member of the Guadalupe Society. out. We still do that now because I am a

Even now that I am like this, I still help

Not with heavy work, but I pay for someone to help me.


Do you still cook?

-9Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: No, not anymore. What did you like to make the most? I liked to make tamales, tacos, enchiladas and mole. Do you have a good reciepe for mole? No. I no longer have a "metate."

Did you make use of a "metate?" Yes, but I sold it to Chencha .(Cresencia) Rangel. friends, but I never made them my compadres. The Rangel's were also good

They had a big family.

Barela: Monita:

Do you remember the first Neighborhood House? I only went there for the dances. ities, like sewing and that. I never participated in any of their activ-

Now many go to sister Giovani to sew, etc.


Since you were some of the first Mexicans to settle here in St. Paul, do you recall some of the problems you encountered, like discrimination?


No, I don't remember. got killed. about it.

God forbid, I kind of remember an incident when someone My husband was the one that would tell me

I never saw anything.

Barela: Monita:

Did you know how to read? At first, I did not, but later I lot. I only read Catholic books.

My husband was the one that read a

I never asked my husband about what was

going on because then he would tell me to read the paper and keep informed. No, not me. I would rather not ask any questions. We were always very happy,

all those years with our family.

We had a round table and I would look forIt is not like that anymore. The chil-

ward to their coming home for dinner.

dren hit their parents and they don't even finish their food. they do not like this or that.

They claim that

Now the people have enough money to buy things When we worked the beets,

even though they are very expensive, but not before.

we barely had enough to buy a sack of flour, beans, and lard, all those things for the winter time. I also did a lot of canning at the farm.

MY husband

-10Monita: would help me with the canning and also with the dishes. When we came back to

St. Paul, we would bring 250 quarts of tomatoes, and none of it ever went bad. I would also can four bushels of green peppers with garlic. peppers, then we would peel them. and I would boil them. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: I would toast the

My husband was good at peeling the peppers,

Then I would have the jars ready for canning.

Did you cook this on the stove? Yes, boil them. I did not do any cold pack canning. I never liked it.

So then you boiled the peppers? It was more like cooking it, ready to be mixed with meat or whatever. Where did you get the pepper? We would grow our own and also we would buy some from the farmers. would grow them and bring them here to sell. The farmers

They brought all different kinds. Jalapeno peppers are also

I liked green peppers because they were really hot. very hot. Barela: Monita: It is a big pepper.

Did you put hot pepper in all your foods? We had a grinder to grind the peppers and tomatoes and the garlic I would add to it. I can't eat any of that stuff anymore. It does not agree with me.

Barela: Monita:

Does your family like Mexican food? Yes, all my family. They were used to eating it. Now they make a lot of dif-

ferent kinds of food; like hot dish and Sloppy Joes, because of their families. What I could never do like they do is eat a got pepper just plain with salt. I could never do it. else. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: When you first came to St. Paul, did they have anything special for Christmas? Yes, we did. Did you have a Nativity scene? Yes, we use to have a beautiful manger, we still have one every year but not entirely as we had in those years. That is at Our Lady of Guadalupe church, I have to have them tdasted and cooked with something

-11Monita: Barela: Monita: where I belong and where they will someday bury me from. Did they ever have anything for the children? Oh yes, they and pinatas. Barela: Monita: Did you like to go to church? I used to like to go a lot, but now I can't always go. But if their is some~sed

to have big parties for them.

Beautiful parties with gifts

thing ':.specia1 and I want to go, I call a cab to take me there. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Did you have rosaries? Oh, yes. We have rosaries and novenas.

Are there some special novenas? Yes. The Novena of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We used to take out the statue We would take her around the dif-

of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a procession. ferent homes in December.

She would be taken from house to house at night.

A list was made up, so that one would know ahead of time when or where it would be. Her feast is December 12th.

December 12th, no matter how cold

it would be, we would go to the church and sing the "mananitas" to Our Lady. They are still doing it, but for the last three years I haven't been able to participate in this Barela: Monita:

of service because of my health.

Does your family still eat the Mexican food? Yes, they all have their "molcajetes." And they make "tortillas", they might

not make them all the time, but they sure like to eat them. Barela: Monita: Did you use the corn or flour for "torti11as'l? Flour "tortillas" made "enchiladas". To tell you the truth I only liked corn "tortillas" when I I also use to make "tortillas". My husband made me a

little board to make the "tortillas" on. Barela: Monita: Do you remember some of the fiestas you had here? Yes, I don't remember the years, but the Anahuac Society had various celebrations. They would have p1:natas and it was very pretty.

-12Barela: Monita: How about Christmas? At Christmas time, we would have the "Pastore1as". he would organized them at the Neighborhood House. I never participated, I would just go and look. Barela: Monita: How about the "Posadas "? The Montez family would have them at their home. They had really )lice "Posadas". There was the man, Urbano, They would have them but

After the "Posadas" they would have "tamales" and "btin"elos". Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: I see that you have statu"es of saints, do you still pray novenas? Yes, I do, every day. To what Saint are you most devoted to? To the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe. They help me a great deal. I also pray the rosary every day, the litany, everything.

My son

brought me this picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Have you visited the Basilica of Guadalupe? I have never been to Mexico. Would you like to go there some day? Yes, I would, (;omeday. who have gone. to Mexico. I hear so much about Mexico. My sons are the ones My sons have all gone

Alex brought me this rosary from there.

The only one who has not gone to Mexico is Margarita Lucio, she's The Lucio family has been here a long time. I knew

the wife of Frank Lucio.

my son-in-law as a little boy. Barela: Monita: You remember a lot. I would like to have my memory back and be able to remember everything. have had a good life. I

I thank the Lord every day for being able to get up There has been times in my

and prepare my own food and wash my own clothes. life when I have been unable to do anything. to do things for me around here.

Sometimes I have to pay someone But it's better that I

I miss my family.


Monita: Barela: Monita:

be alone.

I am not the first one to be alone.

You have really watched St. Paul grow, right? Yes, everything has be~me modern. hood House. I remember the area around the old NeighborI am sure that I can't

All of the houses have been torn down.

recognize the old West Side. Barela: Monita: When you first came, were there a lot of stores? Yes, there were many stores belonging to the Jews. to set up their stores. other store on Indiana. a food store. Then some Mexicans began Then there was anM~

One of the first was Mr. Zamora.

I believe the owner's name was Garzon.

Zamora had

He was a very good person.

He would also get together with the

men who handled the contract work in the farms. Barela: Monita: Didn't you sign a contract directly with the farmers? We would sign a contract with the labor contractor. with the farmer, once you got there. in Minnesota. Barela: Monita: Were you paid weekly? No, we were not paid until the entire job was finished, such as the thinning, the hoeing and so on. Barela: Monita: We had to completely finish the particul3.r job first. You would sign directly

The farmers were very good to us here

Did you make a great deal of money? Yes, thanks to God, we did make enough money. Especially because my husband We always had good luck.

worked with the meat packing plant all winter long. He never had any conflicts. married. Barela: Monita:

We lived very comfortably until my daughters got

Sometimes there were a few problems with their husbands.

Did they get married very young, like you did? Only one, ,Margarita, we had to sign before she could get married. only seventeen years old. The othe'!'s were of age. She was

My son-in-law came to ask

for Margarita's hand in marriage, but I insisted that his parents came to ask. Barela: Did parents always :- ask for the girls hand in marriage?

-14Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Yes, that was the custom. Were there any Mexican doctors or lawyers? No, just merchants. Do you miss the "old St. Paul"? Yes. I miss the little stores. Many of the old people are gone. Many

people have moved to the East Side. Barela: Monita: Barela: Monita: Barela: Does your family still retain some of the Mexican traditions? Yes, they still eat the food. They speak SpantEh, but not too well.

Did your family have any problems in school? No. But we didn't encourage them to continue their education.

Do we have your permission to record this interview in the Minnesota Historical Society?

Monita: Barela:

Yes, you have my permission. We thank you for your cooperation.