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Mexican Identity: Juana Gallegos’s story
 
Juana Gallegos
Juana Gallegos

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“Nací Mexicana y me voy a morir Mexicana.”

I was born Mexican and I am going to die Mexican.”

Juana Gallegos, San Antonio, Texas, 1979

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While there is no single Mexican immigrant experience, the story of Juana Gallegos and her descendants is fairly typical of those who migrated in the early 20th century. Born in 1900 in the rural town of Miquihuana, Tamaulipas, Mexico, Juana’s life was seriously disrupted by shifts in the agricultural system, the building of a national Mexican railway system, and the Mexican Revolution.

Although Juana left her native country in 1923 and moved to San Antonio, Texas, she never stopped visiting her Mexican relatives or thinking of herself as Mexican.

Juana Gallegos in a typing class, Mexico City, Mexico, 1922
Juana Gallegos in a typing class, Mexico City, Mexico, 1922

Leaving Mexico

Like many other Mexicans, industrialization and the Mexican Revolution significantly altered Juana Gallegos's life. The spread of railroads into the Mexican countryside, and the breakup of the near-feudal hacienda system of farming during the revolution, led many people to move to cities. Around 1918, Juana Gallegos moved with her parents from the hacienda her father managed in Miquihuana to Mexico City where the family had political connections. After President Carranza was deposed, Juana and her mother returned to Matehuala (near Miquihuana) and, in 1923, emigrated to the United States to escape the ongoing turbulence of the revolution.

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Other families experienced the same kinds of disruptions to their lives. The Valadez family—including son Adolfo—had a store in Matehuala, Mexico. During the extended unrest of the Mexican Revolution, rebels would frequently raid the store. In 1920 the family fled the disorder, leaving Matehuala for Tampico. The revolution still made life difficult, so the family moved to Monterrey, Mexico, in 1923 and then traveled by train to Houston in the United States.

Adolfo Valadez, around 1908
Adolfo Valadez, around 1908
Adolfo Valadez, 1927
Adolfo Valadez, 1927
Juana Gallego, 1927
Juana Gallego, 1927

Becoming Established in the United States

Strong Mexican American communities in San Antonio made the transition easier for Juana Gallegos and Adolfo Valadez. Adolfo first lived in Houston and then San Antonio where he stayed in a rooming house. He worked at the Alamo Iron Works for many years. In the late 1940s, Adolfo joined other migrant Latino workers performing seasonal labor in the Del Monte canneries in Wisconsin.

Immigrant communities often organize along linguistic, religious, and especially regional lines. In San Antonio, Juana Gallegos and Adolfo Valadez (both with roots in Matehuala) met, married, and had three children—Christina, Ninfa, and Adolfo. Around 1928, they brought Juana’s mother Matiana to the United States.

Weddings are a great time for celebration and family reunion. In 1928, Juana Gallegos married Adolfo Valadez, a fellow immigrant from Matehuala. Adolfo’s family had to brave cold and rain as they drove 14 hours in an open-sided car the 200 miles from Houston to San Antonio to attend the ceremony.

Wedding portrait of Juana Gallegos and Aldolfo Valadez, 1928
Wedding portrait of Juana Gallegos and Aldolfo Valadez, 1928
Juana Gallegos and Adolfo Valadez’s marriage license
Juana Gallegos and Adolfo Valadez’s marriage license
Juana Gallegos's Mexican identification card, about 1923
Juana Gallegos's Mexican identification card, about 1923

Visiting Home

The choice to move to another country doesn’t mean that bonds of friendship and family are cut. Many immigrants regularly travel back to their hometown for vacations, special occasions, and to make sure that their children understand their cultural roots.

Ninfa Valadez, age 2, in Matehuala, Mexico
Ninfa Valadez, age 2, in Matehuala, Mexico

Every summer Juana Valadez would travel home to the isolated village of Miquihuana, taking her children with her. The family traveled by a series of trains from San Antonio to Matehuala, Mexico, where they would hitch a ride on the back of a supply truck.

Juana Gallegos’s children and her mother in Matehuala, Mexico
Juana Gallegos’s children and her mother in Matehuala, Mexico

Juana Gallegos returned to Mexico regularly to visit family and friends. Here she sits with her mother and two of her children in a garden in Matehuala.

Ties to home are strong in an immigrant community. Here Christina Valadez (center), with other Texan women from Matehuala, participates in a fund-raising event.
Ties to home are strong in an immigrant community. Here Christina Valadez (center), with other Texan women from Matehuala, participates in a fund-raising event.
Chirsitina Valadez (Juana’s American-born daughter) participated in this bingo fund-raiser as part of the 400-year anniversary of Matehuala.
Chirsitina Valadez (Juana’s American-born daughter) participated in this bingo fund-raiser as part of the 400-year anniversary of Matehuala.
Christina Valadez saved this return boarding pass as a souvenir from a trip to Matehuala, Mexico, with her mother and cousin.
Christina Valadez saved this return boarding pass as a souvenir from a trip to Matehuala, Mexico, with her mother and cousin.
Juana Valadez steps off a plane from Mexico City after a return to Matehuala, 1972
Juana Valadez steps off a plane from Mexico City after a return to Matehuala, 1972
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