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Interview with Teresa M. Munoz

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Teresa Munoz was born in Mexico in 1919, immigrated to the United States in 1944 with her husband, David L. Munoz, and settled in St. Paul in 1945. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Family and community life - the art of making pi

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TRANSCRIPT OF AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH TERESA MUNOZ JULY 17, 1975 INTERVIEWER: VICTOR F. BARELA
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This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Mrs. Teresa Munoz was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico in 1919. She resided there until her marriage in 1944, and subsequent move to the United States in 1945. The young couple found temporary work in Montana, but moved to St. Paul to secure steadier work shortly there after. Mrs. Munoz learned the art of "pinata" making in her childhood in Mex~co. She conttnued to make "pinatas", and share the art with those unfamiliar with it, here in Minnesota. In this interview she discusses not only this special talent but also life in Mexico, St. Paul, her family, the Mexican Revolution, and many of the people, activities and societies on St. Paul's West Side. This is an English translation of the original interview tape-recorded in Spanish. The original tape recording is available in the Audio-Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

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INTERVIEW WITH TERESA MUNOZ JULY 17, 1975 INTERVIEWER: VICTOR F. BARELA

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This is Victo'r F. Barela, interviewing Mrs. Teresa Munoz, on July 17, 1975 at. 269 East Congress Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55107. This oral interview is being conducted for the Mexican American History Project under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society. Do I have your permission to interview you so that this interview will become the property of the Minnesota Historical Society? Yes. What is your full name? Julia Teresa Munoz Menchaca. Where were you born? I was born in Piedras Negras, in the state of Coahuila, in Mexico. What year? 1919. Who were your parents? Nicolas Menchaca and Luisa Martinez de Menchaca. Where were they born? My mother was born in Las Minas del Seco, Texas. San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Do you remember the dates? My father was born in 1895. My mother in 1901. My father was born in

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What kind of work did your father do? My father owned a store in the market in Piedras Negras. He sold Mexican items like: sombreros, toys, records, baskets, flowers et cetera. He would go 3 or 4 times a year into the interior of Mexico and buy these items. We all worked either at home or at the store. I learned to make J'pinatas" for the store. The first person whom I remember making "pinatas" was my grandmother, C1eofas Martinez. She would use a clay pot to make the "pinatas" for the birthdays in the family and also to sell in the store. Later they decided to make the "pinatas" out of bamboo because they lasted longer and was more convenient and they also would not break as easily, as the ones made out of clay pots. So since you were very young you have been making them?

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I don't remember exactly when I started making them. Since I can remember, I wanted to learn how to make them because I saw that my father provided for us and I wanted to make some money to help him. Later I was so proud that my mother would consult me regarding a special "pinata" order she would get, instead of me consulting with her. What are some of your early memories of Mexico? Did you go to school there?

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I went to school at the Co1egio de Delfina Chapa. I studied there in elementary school and Anahuac School, Academia Renacimiento, Academia de las Senoritas Flores. When I completed elementary school, I went to Eagle Pass, Texas to study English. You went to elementary school in Piedras Negras? Yes. I studied English with the Sisters of the Order of St. Joseph and also with the Sisters of the Order of the Good Pastor. were these public schools? No, they were private schools, because I was the oldest of the family, :my~­ parents naturally wanted to give me the best education they could. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Drawing from the Federal College. Was this in Eagle Pass? No, this was in Piedras Negras. At the same time I was in the City Institute. I took classes during the day and also at night. The first years of my youth were spent studying. I never thought that the English I was learning to help my father in his store would be such a big help in my life like it is now. Especially during the time I have lived in Minnesota. You mentioned that you were the oldest, so did you have other brothers and sisters? Yes, there were 12 in our family. brothers in Mexico and I. What were their names? Nicolas, Maria de 1a Luz, Maria de los Angeles, Agustin, Marcelino, Margarita, Juan, Carolina, Luisa, Carlos and Luis. Who are the ones that are still alive? There is only Marcelino and Nicolas. Where do they
1ive~and

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But they have all died except for two

what do they do?

They have similar business to that of my father's. The store that my father had was named "La F10r de Mexico". It was widely known throughout the region. He had clients from allover; like San Antonio, Crystal City, and Carriso. Other people also came to buy from here. Right now my brother Marcelino has a store, "E1 Nuevo Mexico", in Piedras Negras. The youngest, Nicolas, is single and he is the proprietor of another store in Vi11acuna, Coahuila, a city near Rio, Texas. How old were you when you came to the United States?

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-3Munoz: Barela: Munoz: Barela: Munoz: When I got married to my husband. What was his name? His name was David Lopez Munos. When did you get married? We were married in 1944. My husband had told me about the field work in Montana. He had been here before because his family was of few means. He liked coming to these states to work in the beet fields. So we decided to go to Montana. I had never seen a beet field. Did you go by train? No, we came in cars that came and brought several families. We came to Sidney, Montana in May of 1945. We stayed in Sidney, Montana and I helped him with whatever I could. I did not like it because I had never done that type of work. After the field work was finished, my husband went to the Holly Sugar Company in Montana and they gave him a job. We moved to a cabin that was near the company, but it was so cold that I could not stand it. In those days, before the temporary work was completed, I had met Mr. Manuel Contreras from St. Paul, Minnesota. He still lives here with his wife. He told me that there was work here in St. Paul, more suitable to what I wanted. We had to leave Montana because I could not stand the cold weather. I had never seen a pair of overshoes. I had never seen so much snow before, but I became accustomed to it because I wanted to stay, I did not want to go back to Texas. We came to Minnesota, I liked it and I wanted to raise my family here. We stayed at the house of Manuel Contreras. I have a lot to be grateful to him for. Three days later we were both working at Armour and Company;' packing house. We worked .there for a while and later at the Wa1Borf Paper Company and other places. I was working at Waldorf's before my daughter was born. This was back in 1952. I worked for about three years there. At that time we were living in the old West Side. This was when all the Mexican people started gathering. This is where I made a lot of friends because the only person we knew when we first came was "Don Manuel". Later we met Mr. Francisco (Pancho) Rangel, who was the Consul of Mexico at that time, his wife who is still alive, Mrs. Crecencia Rangel, their children, Eugenia Rangel, she is my "comadre", she is my daughter'Nancy's godmother. My "comadre" has since moved to California. We also met many other people, the Galvans, their mother was a much appreciated person because she treated us as though.we were her children. This is where I first ate Mexican food again. There were little restaurants that were just starting. The only one that succeeded was the "Coronado's". But they also started small. Now they have a big business in Minneapolis. They worked very hard, and they deserve what they have. Barela: Munoz: Barela: Munoz: When you came to the United States, where did you cross the border? Piedras Negras. Was the journey a hard one? Yes, it was a difficult journey because there were many of us who were coming He was from Eagle Pass, Texas.

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-4Munoz: to work in the beet fields. I had never worked and I did not like it. I told my husband that if he wanted to ke~working in the fields, that was fine, but that I was going to stay in St. Paul. So from Montana, you came directly to Minnesota? Yes. In Montana it was very cold and the people who had come from Texas had gone back to their homes in Texas. I was one of the people that stayed because I thought that I could stand the weather. The climate in Montana is very cold. We think it is cold in Minnesota but in Montana it was worse. Did you come to St. Paul by car? No, we came by bus. And we had "Don Manuel's" address.

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Were any of your children born in Montana? No, Nancy was born in 1952 and Larry in 1954. So your reason for coming to the United States was to work? Yes. Did your husband find work right away? Right away. It was almost towards the end of World War II. We were in Montana when Japan surrendered. We were already here when Germany surrendered and they signed the peace. What was the year when you first came to Minnesota? In 1945. Where did you live at first? At first we lived in Fairfield Street in a duplex. We lived in the second floor. In the first floor were Mr. PompoBo Guerra and Mrs. Luisa Guerra. They were some of the first founders of the Mexican community. Do you remember Mr. Pomposo Guerra? Yes, I also remember his wife Luisa. Did they help out at the church? Yes. They were devout Catholics the same as Mrs. Chencha (Crecencia) Rangel. They were the promoters. Mr. Francisco (Pancho) Rangel was one of the people that organized the Anahuac Society. Did you participate in the Anahuac Society? I participated and so did my husband. My "compadre" Jose Hernandez, they called him "El Chino", was one of Nancy's godparents, Larry's godparents are Mr. Mendez and Miss Vita Galvan. Godparents for baptism.

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-5Barela: Munoz: Do you remember some of the families when you first came? of the Rangel's? What do you remember

Yes, I remember. Of the Rangel's I remember that the girls were the best artists. Even now Kiko has his own band. The girls were good at playing the piano and singing. They would perform for the festivals. They had a lot of costumes that they brought from Mexico. When they got married the group broke up. In the group were Juanita, Eugenia, and the girl that married Jose Gaona, I don't recall her name. They sang beautifully. "Don Pancho" was very Mexican so the girls would sing real Mexican songs. He ~eminded me of my father. He was very serious and he had a gift for reading and writing in Spanish. I feel I have been very lucky in knowing both languages, because, I not only read books and magazines in English but also in Spanish. What do you remember about the Guerra's? I remember that "Dona Luisa" was always cooking food to take to Father Ward. And every Sunday a group of ladies would cook and sell Mexican food at the church. For the benefit of the church. This was all volunteer work. Mrs. Ruiz, Mrs. Antonia Galvan, whom we called "Mama"; and Mrs. Escamilla, first names escape me. I don't remember the others. You mentioned Father Ward, was he already here when you first came? In those days he had just started Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. It was a very humble church, but it was well known. People from allover St. Paul would go there because they liked to see all the celebrations that took place in the church. Father Ward was not Mexican, but he was more than that. He loved traditions and his devotion was to Our Lady of Guadalupe. He was very devoted to her. He was a sacred man to us because he helped our community. Even some of my children's live was touched by him. Most of them were baptised by him. From the generation of the 50's until his death. Was he still a priest when he died? Yes. He had just been named Monsignor. They had an open house to celebrate his naming of Monsignor. It wasn't too long after that, that he died. Where did he live? He had a humble house close to the new church which he built. Did you suffer a lot of harships when you first came to Minnesota? No, not really, because there were plenty of jobs. Those who did not work was because they did not want to. There were plenty of jobs for those who wanted to work. Not only in the packing houses, but also in other p1~ces, such as factories, laundries and other companies. You had the opportunity to work wherever you felt most comfortable and according to your abilities. How about in Mexico? We could not stay in Mexico because my husband was from Texas and his lifestyle was very different from mine. He liked living in the north. When we came I

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-6Munoz: liked it even though it is very cold. Texas is very hot. I also liked it here because I felt that even though I might not have the opportunities, but that someday my children would. When you first came to St. Paul, what was it like? When we came 00 St. Paul most of the landlords in the West Side were Jewish people. The place where we lived was called "Little Mexico" because it had three floors. What they called a "Cold water flat". No hot water. We only had a sink with cold water, a table, stove, two chairs, and a bed and one closet. And this is how most of the houses were. There were very few houses that were in good condition. Now it is very different. The majority of the people do not live in the conditions they once did. The Neighborhood House was the center of all activities. It was one of the better buildings. All the Mexican children would gather there after school to play and learn. When I first came, Miss Currie was the director of the Neighborhood House. She was a very enthusiastic person when it came to helping the Mexican people. I never got to meet her, but as they told me, she was an intelligent woman who helped us a lot. Did the Mexican families get together at the Neighborhood House? Yes, this is where they had the meetings for the different clubs and other societies. Among them were the Auxiliary of the Anahuac in which all the wives and relatives of the Anahuac members could join. The Anahuac Society was exclusively for men. After leaving Mexico and living in Montana and then St. Paul, did you do any "pinata" making? By then I had, had a lot of experience in that type of work. But when I came here for several years I did not try to work at it because I was busy working at other jobs. At the same time I did not think there were any people that would be interested in "pinatas". I made "pinatas" for Mrs. Chencha Rangel and others for Christmas but it was a passing thing. It wasn't until my children went to Lafayette School that I made a "pinata" for the school to show my appreciation for what they had done for my children. I called the principal Miss McGuire and asked her if it would be all right to give them something for Christmas and she said it was alright. This was in the early 1960's. I made them a snowman and a little "burro". I could not get any bamboo so I made them out of wire. When I took them to school the teachers asked me if I had brought the pinatas from Mexico and I explained that I had made them. They were very happy-- to hear that I knew how to make them. They called Della McGregor, the woman in charge of the St. Paul Public Library because they were in the process of making some pinatas for a party. She (Miss McGuire) told them that she would give them the pinatas. So to make a long story short, I ended up being in charge of the pinata making program. They had a big party. This came out on television, in the news, and also in the paper. It was a first for.St. Paul. Miss McGregor, the librarian, who now has retired, informed the International rnmstitute that I knew how to make the pinatas. They called me and that is how

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-7Munoz: I became involved with them. During the fair they would let me sell all the things that I knew how to make. I visited a lot of public schools and also Catholic schools like: St. Columbus, Our Lady of the Angels and other schools in the suburbs and Visitation Convent. I have also worked with Sister Geovanni. I taught classes there and at the Institute, until last year when I discontinued all of it. I think it is time for me to rest a bit. The enthusiasm for my work is still there. Some of my best customers are from Minnetonka, Minneapolis, Edina, Montevideo, Minnesota. There is a tremendous market for Mexican crafts. In 1973, I was at one of the most luxurious clubs the Minnetonka Country C~ub. It was full of people. They ordered 140 pinatas that they used for decorations and later they were sold. Everyone of them went and they also wanted some more. Pinata making demands a lot of time. It is an art and I am sure someday it will disappear because here in the United States everything is money. I can't handle it by myself. My daughter and my son know how to make them, but they don't have the time. It is a very fast pace of life. Barela: Munoz: When you first came, did you participate in any of the festivities? When I first came I took part in some of the festivities here in St. Paul. Most of these were organized for the benefit of the church. Many ladies belonged to the Guada1upanas. It is a Society that was organized by some of the first Mexican families. It is the counterpart of the Knights of Columbus or any of the other men's clubs. Were you a member? No, because I worked a lot and I could not attend meetings. One of the things that I liked the most, and it is still in existence, is the visitation of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the homes of the Mexican families who wish to have· her in their home for a day. This takes place for nine days or more before Our Lady's Day, the 12th of December. Each night they take her from house to house. The woman of the house receives the Virgin and people o~me· to say:the novena. There is singing and refreshments. It is a social and religious event. Early on the morning of December 12th many people serenade the Virgin. The Minnesota climate is not the most appropriate for this, but with their faith and love the people go and serenade the Virgin. Who was the lady that started the pilgrimage to visit the Virgin? After we settled here in Minnesota and I started to get to know what was on, the lady that I remember is "Dona Fe1icitas Herrera". She and "Dona Rangel". Mrs. Chencha Rangel is one of the people that is most informed the celebrations that took place because she planned for them. Also the my "comadres", Lola and Vita Galvan. How did you celebrate the 5th of May? The 5th of May we had a "Jamaica" at the Neighborhood House. the first celebrations I attended. What does the word "jamaica" mean? That was one of going Chencha about Galvan's,

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The word "jamaica" means a "fair" or "carnival" like the ones the schools organized. It consists of games, booths with Mexican food, and other things. At the same time if someone knows how to make flowers or other things they usually sell them there. Others sell Mexican artifacts from Mexico. This was for the 5th of May. The 16th of September is the biggest event of the year. When I first came here, they only had a simple dance. Later they organized a fiesta queen. The girl that sold the most tickets was the one that got to be the queen. The others were her attendants. For the 15th of September the "Comite Patriotico", and the "Anahuac Society", organized a two day program in which the talented people participated. They could recite, sing, or dance. In the last few years the celebrations have grown tremendously. It is very interesting to see. Mrs. Maria Moran has organized a group of dancers and they not only participate for our celebrations but also participated in the 1965 Aquatennia1 when they honored Mexico. They also danced at Donaldson's Department Store in St. Paul. At the same time I was demonstrating pinate making at Dayton's for 10 'days. In the last few years for the 15th and 16th of September they have organized a parade through downtown St. Paul. Everyone who wishes can participate. Some of the people that have taken place in the parade have been the Mayor, the Governor, and others. Before, the Mayor would crown the Fiesta Queen. Now I don't know how it is because I have not attended for a while. Now we have our own Mexican bands. When I first came we did not have a Mexican band. Now they even bring them from Texas, Albert Lea, and all over. Even Albert Lea has its own band. Albert Lea, Minnesota also has a large Mexican community. It is something that has grown with the years. Right now the community is probably three times as large as when we first came. Maybe even bigger. There are a lot of people I don't know. I know the people that lived in the old West Side but the majority were people that were new to the state.

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Did you celebrate E1 Dia de 1a Raza (Columbus Day)? Recently the young people have been c21ebrating E1 Dia de 1a Raza. No, I mean a long time ago? Before, the Anahuac Society was the only one that celebrated E1 Dia de 1a Raza. How did you celebrate Christmas? Christmas was a religious feast. Father Ward was the one that organized the Christmas festivities, like masses, rosaries, and the laying of the baby.Jesus. For the fiestas did you sell your pinatas? No, there were a lot of years when I did not make pinatas because I did not think that there would be an interest in them. Father Ward would have a party for all the children of the parish. For that day I would send him two or three pinatas for the party. He gave them their party on January 6th, the day of the Santos Reyes (Three Kings). Do you still maintain some of the Mexican traditions at home?

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-9Munoz: Well, the pinatas. The Mexican traditions are the pinatas. For my children's birthdays I always make them a pinata. We go to a park and break it. My grandson is going to be having a birthday soon. Also for Christmas I make tamales for the family and friends. I make "bunuelos" for New Year's and "mole" for special occassions. Do you make good "mole"? Well, I buy it already prepared. It is very easy to make and it's good.

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Do your children eat and know how to make Mexican food? Yes, they eat it. My daughter Nancy, tacos, enchiladas, for my assistance, They like it very much. They also know how to make it. knows how to make it. She is married now "and she makes and tostadas for special occassions. Sometimes she asks but she knows how to make them.

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Do they speak Spanish? They understand it. Especially when I am upset I use Spanish.

Your son is studying Spanish? Yes, he is studying Spanish at the University of Minnesota. Right now he is in Mexico, in Piedras Negras with my family, perfecting his Spanish. He is going to be there for the summer. Is he still single? Yes, he is single. Nancy is married? Who did she marry?

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Yes, she is married to David A. Bernille. Do you still visit Mexico? Yes, on special occassions. It is very far and right now the cost of living is high and it does not allow us to take such a trip. I only go when it is an emergency and my presence is needed. I am just wondering if "your family ever suffered any hardships in school? No, I have done everything possible so my children will not suffer what we suffered. There were hard times, even though there were plenty of jobs but I was very far away from my family, we were in a different environment, among different people, and I did not have the things I was accustomed to having. I knew in my mind that if I did not have those things that I wanted, my children would have them someday. I could have gone back. My mother wanted us to go back and we did go back one time, but I could not get used to things there any more. So we came back here.

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My daughter, Nancy, graduated from Brady High School, and my son ,)Larry, graduated from Humboldt High School. For a while my daughter attended the University of Minnesota, but then she decided to get married and start her familY. Now she is a housewife. You have led a varied life. When I first carne you mentioned something about your family being involved in the Revolution? Yes, my father was a lieutenant on the "Carrnsistas" side. My father and my granfather were part of the principal force of "Don Jesus Carranza", who was a brother of "Don Venustiano Carranza". At one time the capital of the Republic of Mexico was in Piedras Negras, because the Federalists had taken over the capital. "Don Venustiano" was in Piedras Negras and he established his capital there. Did your family suffer hardships during the Revolution? My father suffered because he was involved with the Revolution. There was no fighting army, no cooking utensils, all they had was a horse and their rifle. There was a man here named Madedonio Vasquez, he is dead now, he fought under my father. He always remembered this. He always talked about the Revolution. He could talk all night about the adventures he and my father had in the Revolution. He carne to the United States just as we did. He had his first wife and all his children. When his first wife died, he married Concha, a woman from Mexico, she still lives here in St. Paul. He was a very good friend of my father's. Did you also have uncles that fought in the Revolution? Yes, I had two uncles that were killed in the Revolution. "Vi11istas" • Was your family divided then? No, there was no division. These are periods of the Revolution. "Carranza" was before "Villa". There were various leaders in the Revolution. The main one was "Don Venustiano-Carranza", because he was the president of Mexico and he was assassinated in his palace in Mexico City. My father's name is listed in the registry of the Department of Defense. We are also registered "there. I belong to the Association of the Sons and Daughters of the Veterans of the Revolution. It's been a long time since I last attended the meetings. The Association is still in existanence in Piedras Negras. Do you remember any thing about the Revolution? No, I don't remember. What I know are things that my father would tell me about. I was born in 1919 and they were married in 1918 during the Revolution. After he was married he" gave it all up to tend to his new responsibilities. But I do remember that my grandmother told me that "Don Jesus Carranza" went with my father to ask for my mother's hand in marriage. My grandmother did They were

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-11Munoz: Barela: Munoz: Barela: Munoz: Barela: Munoz: approve of
my

mother marrying.

Those were good weddings.

Did you have a wedding like that? No, I married the modern way. My mother wanted me to marry someone that lived in our community, but when one is young one does not think. Was there some conflict with your husband and your family? Yes, somewhat of a conflict. This was also another reason why I wanted to be away from'the family, to avoid any problems. How old were you when you got married? I was 18 years old. The good thing about Mexico is that your education does not take as long as it does here. There you have six years of elementary and sometimes you can start at four years of age in Kindergarten. The word is an Anglo word. The same as we have Mexican words here that we use, they also have some Anglo words that they use. Kindergarten is one of them. Only they shorten it to "Kinder". So you prefer the Mexican education system? Yes, because it does not take as long. Here you go for twelve years. Eight years of elementary and four of high school. In Mexico, when you finish the 6th grade, you have the equivalency of a high school education here. When you pass to the 4th grade you already know the history of Mexico, universal geography, grammer, arithmetic, and mathematics. If you pass the 4th grade you will pass the 5th grade, because 4th and 5th grades are the hardest. Those were the grades that made me cry. In your life time, what has influenced you the most in your thinking and lifestyle?
,I

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What has influenced me the most is that I left Mexico. The causes were many and varied, but here I have found my life. My children were born here, we established a home, when the home broke, I raised my children and saw to it that they got an education. I am very proud of my children. We have had no major difficulties like some families do~ You had to bring up the children by yourself. What happened to your husband?

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My husband was hospitalized with a pulmonary problem for many years. When he came out, he was a changed man. I felt that it had affected his mind. I had to choose between him and my children. Is he still alive? No, he died in 1973. The 26 of February in 1973. He had an apartment and the children would go visit him. I never went because of the problems that existed between us that were impossible to resolve. One person that I am

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-12Munoz: very grateful to is Father Ward, because he helped me when my children were at that age when they needed a father image. Whenever I needed help, I would call him and he would talk to my children about the problem. They really listened to him. If you were to give advice to the young people, or anyone of us that has not had many experiences in life, what would you tell them? As I told you before, experience makes you the expert. There are no universities or colleges that can give you degrees or that can teach you what life is all about. Your life will be what you want it to be. Money is not happiness. Happiness is working and creating whatever satisfies you. Most of all, having friends that you can depend on and never lose faith in God. At the same time, think ahead about what you really want. If you are going to have a job where you do not make much money but you enjoy it, you will be happier there than one where you make a lot of money and you do not enjoy it. We are all born with a special gift from God and if we know how to best develop that interest we will be happy. We are all born with this gift. That is what my grandmother used to tell me, and I believe it to be true. Some are good at carpentry and if they work at it, they will be much happier than if they were successful lawyers. But sometimes the money and the luxuries in the world take us away"from what we really want. The temptations are many but at the end of your life you take an inventory of the things you gained and lost and you reflect on this. You think that if you were to do it over again you would have done what you liked best. What else can I say? I appreciate this very much. Thank you.

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