Magnolia Park Project


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An Oral History Project by Southeast College

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Magnolia Park Project

  1. 1. Magnolia Park An Oral History Project by Southeast College Saturday, October 13, 2012 4 - 6 p.m.
  2. 2. This unique structure was commissioned by the Mexican-American community of Magnolia Park. Hidalgo Park Quiosco
  3. 3. Magnolia Park Oral History ProjectT he Magnolia Park Oral History Project is a documentary-style, multi-part video project that features the people,history and legacy of one of the oldest neighborhoods of Houston and of Texas.Magnolia Park, located in Houston’s East End and adjacent to the early Texas town of Harrisburg (the truebirthplace of Houston), eventually became home to a wave of Mexican and Tejano settlers and their familiesfleeing the Mexican Revolution of 1910.The neighborhood’s identity and unique culture produced great leaders and activism in the Sociedad MutualistaBenito Juárez or Benito Juárez Mutual Aid Society, and other groups focused on advocating for barrio cohesivenessand organization. This community-building started in the early 1900s and continues today with descendants ofthe original families including the Vara, Partida, Antes, González and Chairez families, to name a few.These families contributed to Magnolia Park’s historical context and continue to contribute to this living historyof Houston and Texas.
  4. 4. The Aguilar Garza Family The Alonzo Family Frank and Ventura Alonzo met in Magnolia Park in the early 1900s and would together produce a long line of musicians. Lending their voices and talents to their own band “Alonzo y Sus Rancheros, ”The Aguilar Garza Family has its roots in Durango, Mexico, and the they would popularize the Mexican Big Band or “orquesta” soundRio Grande Valley, but most made their way to Magnolia Park post from Magnolia Park to many points beyond in the 1930s and 1940s.Mexican Revolution to find job opportunities. Felipe Aguilar arrived Ventura became known as the “Queen of the Accordion” and wouldfirst and found work digging ditches for 25 cents an hour. Of his teach the great accordionists of their time like Flaco Jiménez andfive children, Domitila (pictured) stood out. When she, a noted Estéban “Steve” Jordan.seamstress at the Alice Dress Company, married Vital Garza, heruncle Cresencio Aguilar, would come along to help the family. “Ms.Tilly, was known for her expert dressmaking and her “giving ways. ” ”Ms. Tilly would help establish the Chicano Family Center for Seniorswhich thrives today. Of Vital and Domitila’s four children, GloriaAlaníz, still gives back to her community as her mother taught herand still calls Magnolia Park home.
  5. 5. The Ante Family The Chairez FamilyTomás Ante, born in México in 1890, first came to Texas in 1911where he met his lovely bride Julia Vásquez before establishingand raising 11 children together in what was then called Harrisburg.Tomás is fondly remembered by his sons Eddie and Robert as Feliciano and Petra Chairez would flee Pancho Villa’s revolution and“always helping people” and having “a lot of comadres and arrive in Magnolia Park in the early 1920s. They escaped because thecompadres. ” “Federales” who stopped them saw the family’s horse blanket had the “right colors” according to relative María de Jesus. By covered wagon, they made it to San Antonio and then to Magnolia Park where history would be made. Son Francisco Chairez (pictured top 2nd from left) would become the first Latino to graduate, through scholarships, from Rice Institute (now Rice University) and become a chemical engineer. He would be the role model for the rest of the family for the rest of their lives.
  6. 6. The Córdova Family The De La Portilla-Martínez Family Hailing mostly from Spain and México, the De La Portilla-Martínez family was forced into Texas by the Mexican Revolution. At the turnBorn in Piedras Negras, Mexico in 1915, Gilberto Córdova (pictured) of the 19th century, before the family would make its mark on theircame to Texas at the age of seven looking for work. In 1922, after new home of Magnolia Park, ancestor Felipe Roque de la Portilla, amarrying his wife Guadalupe of Sugar Land, he convinced his captain of the Spanish Army made his mark in central Texas wherebeloved sister to join him and his family to move to Magnolia Park he is named in a commemorative monument for the establishmentwhere he would hold jobs at the City of Houston and Gulfgate Mall of San Marcos. His modern descendants include the Frank de lamost of his life. Sons, Carlos, “Charlie, Frankie and Gibby would all ” Portilla, Sr. (pictured above) Family. Frank de la Portilla, Jr. (middle)become very athletic as young boys. They all became boxers with remembers a great life in his beloved Magnolia Park tempered byCharlie leading the way as the 1962 Texas Golden Gloves Welter discrimination. An athletic standout, Frank Jr. in the 1950s madeWeight Champion. His title and reputation as a boxer would very All-City in Baseball and All-State in Basketball at Milby High School,proudly transcend beyond the borders of Magnolia Park for years. where he says he learned harsh lessons of discrimination from his school coaches.
  7. 7. The Domínguez Family The Espinosa FamilyBorn in 1908 in Galeana, México, Juan Domínguez, made his wayto Houston’s Magnolia Park to find new opportunity when his fatherwould not allow him to go to college. Almost a century later, he Mariano and Tomasita Espinosa arrived in Magnolia Park in 1902.would become a noted community leader that set the tone for his Mariano would find work on the Southern Pacific Railroads whileown sons, including one John Domínguez, Jr. and his wife Frances Tomasita, with many mouths to feed, would survive their meagerand their children. existence living in box cars along the railroads of Magnolia Park. Her other refuge was in the newly established Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Religion and the church became a way of life. For son Rudy, (top – 2nd from left), a devout altar boy, service in WWII would set his path to become a Master Tailor. He returned from the Great War and worked at the top department stores in Houston before establishing his Rudy the Tailor Shop in Magnolia Park, where he and his family still live today.
  8. 8. The Flóres Family The Gaitán Family Pablo and Victoria Gaitán (pictured) made their way to Magnolia Park from San Luís Potosí, Mexico in 1909, right before the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution. Starting a new life in Texas meant a lot of struggle as seasonal laborers in “las piscas” all over Texas and Illinois. One son, Juan, was born in Archer, Texas because of that lifestyle. His son, Manuel “Munger” was born in Magnolia Park and would attend Magnolia Park schools, and become a popularAntonio Flóres was “one of the few” Mexicans in Magnolia Park athlete and eventually, a Golden Glove Champion before becomingin 1906. He brought from his hometown of Monterrey, México, a a machinist until his retirement from the Budweiser Plant. The entiresense of wanting to accomplish something. Soon after his arrival, he surviving family still lives in the Magnolia Park area.would help establish the civic group “Los Hacheros” or Woodmenof the World. Campo Navidad would be a helping hand to otherMexicans arriving during and after the Mexican Revolution.
  9. 9. The Anastacio Garza-Martínez Family The González Family Anastacio and Petra Garza rolled into Texas from Mier, Tamaulipas, Mexico by covered wagon during the Frontier days of the 1890s, pre- Mexican Revolution. The family “cuentos” are that Petra was as tough if not tougher than the men around her as she packed a gun while traveling with small One of Magnolia Parks’ First Families of restaurateurs, the José children across Texas González family, would establish itself way before the success of where she and Anastacio El Jardín Restaurant. José was a very gifted tile mason before hismade a home in Lockhart. They made their way to Magnolia Park, new career. Considered a very distinguished man, José would bringarriving in the late 1920 where Anastacio worked on the waterfront. people together with his style, talents and sense of community.Daughter, Tomasa married into the Luis and Maximiliana Martínez Daughter, Dr. Laura Murillo, remembers her father as a man “whofamily in 1930. Of their eight children, surviving sons and daughtersall became professionals. Son, Ramiro became a cryptologist saw no barriers, no obstacles. ”and communications controller with RCA, NASA subcontractorand subsequently became a polygraph examiner with the City ofHouston until retirement. Daughter, Dr. Irene Porcarello would riseto the top of the Education field as President of Houston CommunityCollege.
  10. 10. The Pancho Gabino Hernandez Family The José “Joe” Martínez Family Fleeing the Mexican Revolution, would be a smart move for Francisco “Pancho” Gabino Hernández who arrived in Magnolia at the turn of the 20th century. He started as a door-to- door salesman but soon established the Alamo Furniture Co. and earned the nickname “Pancho del Alamo. ” By the mid 1900s, his family would be working for him. Relying on the “Golden Rule, ” Pancho del Alamo Félix Martínez and wife Zapopán, (pictured center) crossed the would become very prosperous and a Mexico-Texas border at the turn of the last century and settled inleader of the Latino Business community. He was the first to have a Lockhart, Texas, before making their way to Magnolia Park circa.fleet of delivery trucks. Says granddaughter, Tina Gabino Rodríguez, 1925. Félix found work at the docks at the Houston Compress where“We struggled during the Great Depression, but survived. She ” he worked and raised his family. The Martínez Family was a big,added, “I thank him for instilling in us to never be afraid of hard close-knit family with eight daughters and one son, José “Joe, who ”work. ” grew up to become a hometown sports hero at Edison Jr. High and Milby High School. He made All-City in Basketball. He also played ball at the Allen Military Academy in Bryan-College Station before moving to the University of Houston where he made history in 1950 as one of the first Latino students to graduate. Joe married Lydia Ayala, also a Magnolia Park resident, and together had three sons, all college-educated professionals. Martinez’s amazing athleticism is still remembered fondly in Magnolia Park.
  11. 11. The Munguía-Cantú-Rivera Families The Navarro Family Gabriel C. Navarro arrived in Magnolia Park from Mexico in 1919, following the tumultuous Mexican Revolution. He and his wife, Maria Gutierrez, established themselves here and raised eight children. Raúl Navarro, who spent a lifelong career in the printingThe Munguía-Cantú-Rivera families were inter-related and some of business in the East End, he was an ordained Deacon in the Catholicthe first Latino entrepreneurs in Houston and Magnolia Park. All Church and was very involved in the Texas Silver Hair Legislature.told, they established the iconic businesses including the AlamoFurniture Company; the Munguía Furniture Company; the AztecaTheater and La Moderna Grocery Store. Eli Brett Rivera (in weddingpicture) would become one of the Houston Police Department’sfirst Latino officers.
  12. 12. The Partida Family The Pérez-Rodríguez Family Cecilio Pérez, (pictured with grandson, Richard Olivarez and hisSeeing FDR in Magnolia Park in 1936 and his grandfather, Elias daughter Vera) came to Magnolia Park in early 1900s from RealRamírez, at work in the community, got Frank Partida started in de Catorce, Mexico and established himself as a successfulpolitics at a very early age. The Partida family has, for generations, businessman in the early days. He had five sons and one daughter,been at the forefront of many of Magnolia Park’s greatest moments Aurora, who married Rufus “Cuco” Rodríguez and had two sons,in history. Roy and Tony, and a daughter named Ruth. One son, Roy Pérez Rodríguez, would see the world as a road driver and served in the Air Force, rising to the rank of E-3. Most of the Pérez men and some women would serve in every arm of the United States Military. One family member made a career at Shell Oil, one worked for a drum making company, another worked all his life in the auto industry in Detroit, Michigan. Cousin Gilbert Coronado is a supervisor for Missouri Pacific Railroad to this day. Cousin Esequiel Rodríguez, (deceased), was one of the first Tejano music aficionados. The modern Pérez Rodríguez descendants are educated professionals. Most of the Pérez-Rodríguez family still resides in Magnolia Park today.
  13. 13. The Postel Family The Ramírez Family A third generation “Tejano, Elias Ramírez, made his mark in ” Magnolia Park in the early 1900s. He was a respected civic leaderThe Postel Family has its origins in Mexico from where Martín and and became the first president of the Sociedad Mutalista BenitoMaria Postel left in 1906 to come to Texas. Arturo García Postel, Juárez. From the Ramírez family would come the first Hispanic(pictured bottom middle) was born in Victoria, Texas, in 1906 before Senator from Harris County; an HISD Trustee; an Army Brigadiermoving to Magnolia Park to find job opportunities. Arturo’s son General and Commandant of Texas A&M Corps. of Cadets; and aAdolph, Sr. (top far right) remembers a simple life , Model T’s and POW Military hero.Model A’s in the 1930s in Magnolia Park where he would attendDeZavala Elementary and Edison Jr. High, before getting a job atthe shipyards at the Port of Houston and then the railroads near thedocks. He would retire from that job 38 years later.
  14. 14. The Reyna Family The Romo FamilyMary Reyna, (pictured top-middle), was the daughter of María andGerónimo Torres, who left Piedras Negras, Mexico to escape the The Romo Family came to Magnolia Park after the MexicanRevolution around 1911. Early vaudevillians or entertainers, they Revolution in 1919. Patriarch Julian Romo established himself aswould make their way to San Antonio where daughter Mary met a successful businessman, one of the first in Magnolia Park, withher future husband, Joe Reyna, (pictured top row, second from left) the Romo Grocery Store on 76th Street. He would become a bigbefore their big move to Magnolia Park. Joe, a mechanic, eventually community leader and everybody’s “Padrino” and helped thoseset up Reyna’s Garage on Harrisburg. Mary, friend to high profile less fortunate during tough times, especially during the Greatpoliticians, Mexican Presidents, and comedian, Cantínflas, would Depression. He would support local organizations and Mexicanbecome one of Magnolia Park’s first Latina florists in the industry. baseball teams all of his life. His descendants, now into theHer entrepreneurial spirit made Reyna’s Flower Shop one of the fourth generation, would become educated and professional andmost successful businesses around. Her beautiful daughter, Gloria, concerned about the community as well. His family says his legacywas named Fiestas Patrias Queen in 1946. Her sisters, Chris and is that of a “compassionate human being. ”Soila Reyna Lawrence, were also beauty queens. The community-minded Reyna Family would make many strides on behalf of theirbeloved community of Magnolia Park.
  15. 15. The Gilberto Sánchez Family The Seguín Family Descendants of Juan Seguín, one of the defenders of the Alamo,Gilberto Sánchez (pictured as a boy) was born in 1905 in San and “Alcalde” of San Antonio, settled in Magnolia Park circa 1920s.Antonio, Texas, and as a young man moved his family to and settled Pablo Ramírez and María Seguín (pictured, and Juan Seguín’s greatin Magnolia Park in 1926. He was a self-educated salesman who granddaughter) had no children together but raised her children Lillierose to be District Manager of the Woodman of the World (Los Seguín and Roy Luna (great great grandchildren of Juan Seguín)Hacheros) Life Insurance organization. He met and married Herlinda in Magnolia Park. Gregorio García of Matamoros, Tamaulipas,Quiñones in Maxwell, Texas, and brought her to Magnolia Park with Mexico married Guadalupe Seguín. Their daughter, Julia Seguín,one daughter Oralia “Lollie” Cain. Other children born in Magnolia (born in 1925 in Magnolia Park and Juan Seguín’s great-great-great granddaughter) married Cesario Aguilar. She went on to becomePark included Melba, one of the first Latina stewardesses with Pan the first Hispanic PTA President of Franklin Elementary and was partAmerican Airlines. Daughter Ninfa Rosson was a social worker with of the “Sunshine Girls” with her sister, Gertrudis Dehoyas “AuntMD Anderson Cancer Center where she spent her whole career. Gerty , in the 1960s. All the Seguín descendants in Magnolia Park ”Gilberto Sánchez died at 93 years old in Magnolia Park in a home he were heavily involved in community service, education and politics.designed and built himself and that still stands today on Avenue L. Fourth generation daughter, Else Flóres McKenzie would becomeThe legacy of Gilberto Sánchez is his love of God, family, community the family’s first college graduate (U of H, summa cum laude) andand his job. first Latina to attain Grade 13 with the Internal Revenue Service.
  16. 16. The Torres Delgado Family The Treviño-Postel FamilyMariano Torres escaped the Mexican Revolution on his way to SanAntonio, Texas, and then became a laborer in the cotton fields of Isabel Gómez Postel, pictured as a school teacher in 1906, wouldLockhart before moving his family to Magnolia Park in the early marry Alejandro Postel in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico and1920’s. Son Juan Torres was born there in 1914 and married Carmen travel to Texas in 1913, shortly after the Mexican Revolution broke. His brother Victoriano (pictured, circa 1923), also a Tejano, would out. They moved to Magnolia Park to find work. Daughter, Adelinamarry Nestora Rodríguez from San Pedro, Coahuíla, Mexico. Both Postel Treviño, would make her life here with her children, Hildawould become entrepreneurs and raised their families in Magnolia Rose, Benita, Gilbert, and Olivia and when her husband, Hector,Park and Newgulf, an industrial town. Juan and Carmen opened a died at the age of 49, she became a young widow and had to findneighborhood tortilla factory known as La Poblana, which would work during the Great Depression. Adelina would make a careerstand for nearly 60 years in the heart of Magnolia Park on 77th and out of social work, first with the United Way. The Postel men wouldCanal. It provided many jobs for family members through the years become noted tailors. All the Postel-Treviño family would rise to beuntil its closure in 2006. well-respected in their community of Magnolia Park where many family members still reside to this day.
  17. 17. The Rudy Vara Family The Vela-Garza-García Family Petra and Anastacio Garza (pictured center) left Mexico for Lockhart, Texas, in the early 1900s and worked as sharecroppers beforeDedicated service to community was Rudy Vara Sr.’s trademark settling in Magnolia Park where Petra would be one of the firstfrom the time he arrived in Magnolia Park from San Antonio. After Latinas to purchase property on Avenue F Son Alvino Vela Garza .meeting his future wife, Alice Rivera, at the famous Quiosco in was born in Lockhart and married Esther Flóres also born and raised1940, the pair would together become noted leaders in their barrio. in Lockhart. Alvino would become a certified government welderRudy was one the last of the true “vaqueros” forging trails on his and worked for the Platzer Shipyard until his retirement. Gloriamount to the Houston Livestock Show on behalf of all Latinos and Garza, their only child, became the first Latina twirler at Milby Highwas very active with the Riata Committee. He was also a big force School where she met the love of her life, Raymond Vela Romoat the American Legion Hall, in LULAC, and many other service García, whose parents Rodrigo and Lily, moved to Magnolia fromorganizations benefitting Magnolia Park families. All of their six Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Raymond would also make history assurviving children, in some form or fashion, became community the first Latino Motorcycle Division police officer for the Houstonleaders in their own right. One son, Judge Richard Vara, holds the Police Department.title as the longest serving Justice of the Peace in Harris County.
  18. 18. The Villagomez Family The Ybarra Family Abraham and Rumalda Ybarra, from Castaños, Coahuíla, Mexico, were the original family members who arrived in Magnolia Park inRamón Villagómez traveled with his bride-to-be, Delfina, from 1915. Ranchers, (pictured with six of 14 children), they had Isidro,Morelia, México to escape the Mexican Revolution. Along the way, the first born in the USA, and raised cattle and a lot of farm animalsa precious family heirloom would become the centerpiece of their first in Bryan, Texas, and then in Magnolia Park. Isidro would meetenduring love. In the early days, there was great struggle to survive. his wife, Josefina, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, theFrom living out of box cars along the railroads of Magnolia Park center of their family life. They remember a quieter time in thisto their present homestead, there would be much progress: son region of Magnolia Park in the 20s and 30s; they remember theAugustín would become a mail operator; son Aurelio would become horse and buggy days. Isidro would make his living from the“El Zapatero de Magnolia” a shoe shop owner; the family would Houston Compress near the docks of the Port of Houston. It was inhelp establish Immaculate Heart of Mary Church; and produce Magnolia Park that he and Josefina raised their four boys: Isidro, Jr.;countless educators and business owners. Yet, for all the early Roy; Ricardo and David.struggle, there would be many victories for the proud VillagómezFamily, then and now.
  19. 19. Board of TrusteesMary Ann Perez, Chair, District IIIBruce Austin, Vice Chair, District IINeeta Sane, Secretary, District VIIYolanda Navarro Flores, District I Carroll G. Robinson, District IV Richard Schechter, District V Sandie Mullins, District VI Eva L. Loredo, District VIIIChristopher W. Oliver, District IX Chancellor Mary S. Spangler, Ed.D. Southeast College President Irene Porcarello, Ed.D.