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National Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Selina Chavez
  • 169th Fighter Wing
What is National Hispanic Heritage Month? We recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group's heritage and culture.
Hispanics have honorably safeguarded our country in times of war and peace. They have shared their profound commitment to family, faith, dedication and hard work to the United States for many years. The National Hispanic Heritage Month was originated by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968.

To fully understand the Hispanic audience, pay attention to the meaning of "familia" or family to the Hispanic culture. It is the single most important aspect to life.

A Short Story told by Maria "Gallardo" Leddy - Aunt of Selina Chavez

"In attempting to write a short biography regarding our grandparents, Jose and Lucia Fabian, I tried to recall some of the events my mother told me.

Our grandparents came from Mexico. Our grandmother Lucia and her children, our parents, came to the United States in 1919 to make and find a new life. We are Americans by birth, but out origins come from our Mexican grandparents and their native Indian and colonial ancestors from Spain, Italy, France and Great Britain. I am proud to be a Mexican, a Mestizo...a mixture of the above.

Lucia Torres, our grandmother, born December 13, 1874 in San de Mesquital, Zacatecas, Mexico, was the oldest of eight children, six girls and two boys. Jose, one of her brothers, fought in one of the revolutions. Appolonio the other brother was considered the most fortunate in the family; he had fields of crops.

Jose Fabian, Lucia's husband, born in 1870 in the same town as she, has one brother who later would become an officer in the Mexican Army. Jose was 23 and Lucia was 19 when they were married in 1893.

Jose was a carpenter, stonemason and contractor so the family lived well until his death on October 22, 1913. He appointed the oldest son, Carlos in charge of the savings that he kept under lock and key. When Jose died he left our grandmother, Lucia with eight children.

In Mexico, Francisco Madero was elected president in 1911. He was murdered in 1913 by Huerta's forces, so he only served for eighteen months. Civil war raged in Mexico for the next seven years.

It was during this time that Jose died and life for Lucia and their children was very hard. Lucia was 39 when her husband died, so she worked at sewing hats and selling tortillas to help support her family.

During the civil war, Lucia's 15-year-old son Jose, would join Pancho Villa's Army. Pancho Villa was a cattle thief, turned revolutionary leader and general. His army would sometimes be a part of the Mexican government and sometimes fought against it. Jose, with his uncle General Antonio Fabian, disguised in women's clothes, would later escape Villa's army to the United States, because they feared for their lives. During this time, Lucia didn't see her son for seven years.

The oldest sons of Lucia and one daughter, Maria, left Mexico to make a new life for themselves in the United States. A year later in 1920, Lucia with her youngest children, arrived in Walnut, Kansas to reunite with the rest of the family. During the period of 1920-1929, nearly 600,000 Mexicans entered the United States on permanent visas, which granted them legal rights to live and work in the United States while attaining citizenship.

Life for the Fabian family, though better than living in Mexico, was still difficult. Due to their limited education, working for the railroad was their only means of income. On the railroad lines, the crews were seventy percent track layers and ninety percent of the maintenance workers were Mexican. To stay close to their jobs and being so poor, families lived in the box cars on the rails while enduring the cold harsh winters and terrible heat in the summers.

Some years later after the stock market crash of 1929, the effects of the Great Depression were felt. The U.S. Mexican laborers were viewed as an inconvenience. They were subject to the needs and whims of the American society. Unable to find work, Mexican Americans were forced to return to Mexico in 1930; some willingly volunteered, some tricked by repatriation. Nearly 89,000 Mexicans were deported.

Lucia and her family went back to San Padro, Mexico for jobs they were told existed. But there were none. In 1945, Lucia returned to the U.S. to Chicago, Illinois along with the remaining family members. Ma-Chia, Lucia's nickname by the grandchildren, died July 12, 1960 at the age of 86."

I'm honored to share this story for National Hispanic Heritage Month; I'm grateful for the life I have and proud of what my family endured to get us here.

National Hispanic Heritage Month - September 15 - October 15