Forums Book Club November 2020 – Life Along the Border – Jovita Gonzalez Reply To: November 2020 – Life Along the Border – Jovita Gonzalez

  • Irma Salinas de Saldaña

    November 24, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    1. What did you like best about this book?

    I love and appreciate Maria Eugenia Cotera’s interest, dedication and passion to research and study Jovita’s master thesis which had been hidden away and filed in a few libraries. Thanks also to Dr. Jose Limon who introduced Maria Eugenia Cotera to Jovita’s manuscripts. Maria Eugenia Cotera autographed my book after I listened to her presentation on this book at a Hispanic Genealogy Conference about 15 years ago. She brought back to life a hidden treasure that prevented so many generations from learning valuable social history of South Texas written by a Hispanic woman in 1927 attending the University of Texas. I also appreciate her lifelong employee/housekeeper Isabel Cruz who inherited her house after her husband’s death who donated boxes of manuscripts to TAMU-CC and saved such valuable writings from destruction. Ms. Cruz was like family after so many years living with them and taking care of them until their death. Ms Cruz inherited their house and its belongings in 1987. They didn’t have any children.

    2. What did you like least about this book?

    It is a small paperback and I would like to see the book in large print and hard bound. The contents of the book are excellent.

    3. Share a favorite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out?

    I loved the part where her strong-willed Tia Lola taught Jovita and her siblings about their family heritage in Texas and also ensured that their early education was rounded out with plenty of information about important women in history. Jovita memorized a poem “La Influencia de la Mujer” about a feminist historical heritage, beginning with “Judith, the Old Testament heroine,” and ending with “Doña Josefa Ortiz de Dominquez, the Mother of Mexico’s Independence.” Jovita and her sister also learned about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s familiar and famous feminist poem “Hombres Necios.” The satirical-philosophical poem (written between 1651-1695) known for the words in its first line, “Foolish men who accuse”, in which it states that men cause female sexual behavior that they themselves then censor. This particular information in the book stood out to me because it appears to me that women are still struggling with some of the same issues of the 1930s.

    4. What feelings did this book evoke for you?

    I felt so much pride to learn that Jovita connected to my Guerra family tree. Jovita’s great grandmother Maria Ramona Guerra Hinojosa was my great great grandfather Jose Felipe Guerra Hinojosa’s sister. They lived close to each other since Las Escobas and Las Viboras ranches are close to each other. I imagined how maybe they visited each other often as adults, however their mom died when Felipe was a toddler and I picture Maria Ramona taking care of her baby brother along with her other siblings. So Jovita’s great grandmother was very close to my great great grandfather. Their father Jose de los Angeles Guerra remarried when his wife Rosalia died and the family grew much larger. It became a family of about 16 children from two mothers and one dad.

    5. Which places in the book would you most like to visit?

    I would like to visit the TAMU-Corpus Christi Special Collections and Archives to review the E.E. Mireles and Jovita Gonzalez de Mireles Papers and view original manuscripts of her writings including Dew of the Thorn, etc.

    Also, Las Escobas Ranch is so close to Las Viboras that I would like to go to Las Viboras Ranch.

    6. What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was he or she trying to get across?

    Maria Eugenia Cotera just fell in love with Jovita’s writings at the TAMU-CC library as she sat on the floor in a room full of boxes and boxes of papers that had been donated by Ms. Isabel Cruz with Dr. Jose Limon reviewing, organizing and reading so many beautiful folkloric stories that had been written by Jovita Gonzalez Mireles.

    I believe Jovita chose the topic “Social Life in Cameron, Starr, and Zapata Counties” as her thesis to research because when she moved to San Antonio to continue her education she probably got culture shock. Her professor, Eugene C. Barker was reluctant to approve and accept her research. It took courage for her to undertake a controversial topic since Texas history was undergoing a “whitewashing” by producing books that didn’t reflect her research findings. She wanted to write what she believed was true but won’t verbalize it to the all Anglo men in the academic world in lived in.

    7. What new things did you learn?

    I am puzzled how Jovita mingled and chose to be surrounded by a mostly white anglo male in the Texas Folklore Society in the 20s and 30s. Why did she do that? Sometimes I felt she was being used and taking advantage of. Was it survival to get an education and achieve her goals no matter what? I have a deeper understanding of people in her generation because of similar personal experiences I had in the 60s. Some things never change or change very slow.

    8. What do you think about the author’s research? Was it easy to see where the author got his or her information? Were the sources credible?

    I am amazed at both Jovita as a folkloric author and also Maria Eugenia Cotera as she researched Jovita’s writings and life. The primary Bibliography is very impressive and has motivated me to pursue further studies on the topic. Maria Eugenia Cotera brought to life material that was over 75 years old and made it relevant for today’s society.

    9. Why do you think the author chose to tell this story?

    Maria Eugenia Cotera wanted to tell Jovita’s story as it was very relevant in our current society. Jovita wrote stories and legends from the people who lived and worked in and around her grandfather’s ranch in Las Viboras. She was studying at the University of Texas working on her PHD and I believe Dr. Jose Limon was her professor and stirred her interest in Jovita’s writings. She studied about Jovita’s life and writings extensively.

    10. Do you see your ancestors differently after reading this book?

    I do not see my ancestors differently. It confirmed some of my opinions on the Guerra family. Education was valued and promoted in the family. Some did very well in managing their ranch/property/lands and finances and others did not. I remember hearing about Jovita from an uncle and I didn’t make the connection until now. He told me she was a teacher and he was looking for a book written about her. I am still looking for that book. He told me she had taught school in Rio Grande City. Some families ventured out of Starr County in search of an education and better opportunities as did Jovita. The Guerra family name was that of prestige, power, money and success in Starr County. Many descendants of the Guerra family continued the legacy of their ancestors.