A Place in El Paso: A Mexican-American Childhood

A Place in El Paso: A Mexican-American Childhood

A Place in El Paso: A Mexican-American Childhood

A Place in El Paso: A Mexican-American Childhood

Synopsis

"This memoir of growing up in El Paso in the 1940s and 1950s creates an entire city: the way a barrio awakens in the early morning sun, the thrill of a rare desert snow, the taste of fruit-flavored raspadas on summer afternoons, the "money boys" who would beg as commuters passed back and forth to Juarez, and the mischief of children entertaining themselves in the streets. Lopez-Stafford shows the reader El Paso through the eyes of Yoya - short for Gloria - the high-spirited narrator, who is five years old when the book begins. Gloria is a survivor. Her young mother has died leaving her in the care of her much older father, who tries to provide for his family by selling used clothing. Her brother Carlos, Padre Luna, and a community of children and women assume responsibility for Gloria, but like the inexplicable loss of her mother, unexpected changes separate her from her beloved barrio neighborhood. The search for su lugar, her place, becomes a search for identity as Gloria seeks to understand her various homes and families." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

My childhood is tucked away in a special place in my mind. In my memory, everything is huge compared to what it was in reality. The Segundo Barrio in South El Paso is basically the place it has always been. Its people are the living energy. The poverty is still there, and while many come and go, many stay for generations. In the physical sense, most of the changes are on the periphery. Some of the buildings have been modified or their names have been changed. For me, it is the same as it was in the 1940s, even if it is true that the part close to the Río Grande changed when they built the permanent, cement river bed.

The Río Grande was a great river in the thirties, forties and fifties. It was like a long, thin, silver snake that would not lie still. During dry weather when parts of the river dried, many people immigrated during the night by walking across the cracked river bed. There were dead animals that came all the way from Colorado. Once I saw a swollen animal that looked like a huge fish to me until Diego, the local drunk, told me it was a rat that had had too much to drink. We could also collect interesting driftwood.

There were two bridges downtown between El Paso and Juárez--the Stanton Street Bridge and the Santa Fe Bridge. The Stanton Bridge has never been as interesting as the Santa Fe Bridge, my own personal favorite. The Santa Fe Bridge, in the time prior to the cementing of the Río Grande, had the money boys--young Mexicans who would stand in the water under the bridge. They would be dressed in cut-off pants or shorts and they would carry long poles that had cylindrical containers on the end. The boys would yell and whistle at the pedestrians crossing the bridge back from Juárez and when people leaned over to look into the river, they would yell, "Give us some money!" As soon as the money was tossed into the river, the boys would maneuver themselves in the water, catching the coins with the poles, looking like awkward giraffes. There . . .

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