Case III: Chapter 3: Paloma’s Story

Case III: Chapter 3: Paloma’s Story

Dudley had a very successful day, completing a series of minor repairs, including refinishing an antique table for Mrs. Vigil. He was pleased with how well he was adapting to his new “career” and his life at La Vida Aureo. He had also rediscovered his joy of reading and there were plenty of classic novels available in the library.

On this morning, his ToDo list was relatively short and he decided to try to talk in more depth with Paloma Angostura. “Buenos dias, Señora Angostura. Como esta? I trust you are well on this beautiful morning. “

Hola, Señor Dudley. Muy bien. I am quite well, gracias.”

“I have been busy adapting to my new life here at and to my new responsibilities, but enjoying every minute. It has been an honor to know your children, and, if I am not being too forward, I would like to learn more about how you came to be at La Vida Aureo.”

“Certainly, my son and daughter always ask after you now that they know you are here under my watchful eye. They send their regards. My life has been a journey and I would be happy to share my story with you. Another coffee?”

“I am the daughter of immigrant farm workers from southern New Mexico and I am named after two cities near where they lived and worked. My father was an early participant in the Bracero Program, instituted during World War II between the American and Mexican governments to provide temporary contract agricultural laborers. For the United States, the program was a convenient way to provide much-needed labor to the agriculture industry during the war. The United States promised good wages and working conditions as well as modest benefits for these contract laborers. It also promised Mexico tighter border security to prevent persons who were not part of the Bracero Program from entering the country illegally. Mexico was concerned that this exodus would harm it own economy. Mexico also benefitted because the laborers returned with enhanced skills. Officially, the program limited the number of workers, but the promise of better wages encouraged many to enter the country illegally. Some American businesses took advantage of these individuals and their treatment and working conditions often was not much better than slavery. But, these workers were reluctant to complain because most had entered the country illegally.”

“My father was initially hired for seasonal work in southern New Mexico and, after several years, was promoted to the position of Foreman because of his skills and dependability. He was treated well by his American employer. He was able to save a portion of his wages to provide for his family who remained in Mexico. As the Bracero program was winding down, his employer offered him the opportunity to stay in New Mexico permanently as a full-time employee. With that support, he received his Green Card and eventually became an American citizen. With this stability, he was able to bring his pregnant wife to America.”

“My parents strongly encouraged me to get in education. Although I finished high school, I foolishly fell for a dashing young man and got pregnant before I could further my education. He left shortly after my second child was born and I dedicated myself to ensuring that my children had access to all the opportunities available to them that I had missed.”

“This experience and my youthful defiance broke my father’s heart and after several years in New Mexico, he died. My mother had been a capable worker and accomplished cook. She was completely adept using the food that was available and enhancing its flavor with natural herbs and spices that were available. My mother’s sister, Tia Luisa, was an accomplished Curandera and passed much of her knowledge about the use and preparation of naturally available plants and herbs. She also nurtured my understanding and appreciation of Mayan culture and tradition.”

“My mother was eventually hired as a cook for the Jaramillo family in Albuquerque. I assisted my mother in the kitchen while caring for my young children and learned much about cooking and the ability to enhance the flavor of almost any dish. Over time, my mother developed a comprehensive knowledge, not only of traditional Mexican foods but also those Castilian Spanish dishes the family preferred as well as many American and French dishes introduced by guests of the family. The Jaramillo family assisted my children to get a complete education, much more than I could afford on my own.”

When she finished, Paloma sat back in her chair and looked at Dudley. “Tell me about your story; I suspect that you are not native to New Mexico, but have an interesting story to tell.”

“I will and remind me to tell you about my own group of friends here in Albuquerque; they are not unlike the four women we were talking about recently, another Queer Quartet! Perhaps another time; I promised Mr. Sandoval that I would look at his computer; I hope it is just a loose connection. I know so very little about these new and complicated machines. I guess I’m just an old fashioned analog guy in an increasingly digital world. Isabella wants me to get a “smart phone” so she can send me messages any time she wants, but I’m resisting.”

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