Interview with Julia Rios
Julia Rios is my grandmother. She is the seventh child of eight siblings born in Jalisco, Mexico to the parents Maria Padilla and Armando Vallejo. Born on July 24th 1921, she is currently 92 years of age. I see my grandmother every Wednesday morning at 9am at Ihop where we meet up for breakfast with my step- grandfather and my parents. I took this time to ask my grandmother about her life. My grandmother is the most wonderful woman I know and she did not hesitate to tell me about her life stories. She is known in my family as “Mama Julia”.
I began the interview by asking my grandmother about her family, siblings, and the way she was raised by her parents. Born into a wealthy family in Mexico in 1921, Mama Julia grew up on a ranch with eight other siblings. Her family had horses, goats, chickens, and ducks that she remembers taking care of as a child. Being girl. Her father was a very positive influence in her life telling her to pursue her dreams, but was also a force to be reckoned with when it came to discipline. If her or her siblings got out of hand they were guaranteed either “el cinto,” which means “the belt” in Spanish, or “la chancla,” which means “the sandal,” to their ass as punishment. Her parents were very traditional and strict because they only wanted the best for their children. One of the main reasons for them being very strict was because they did not want to be embarrassed in public with out of control children. She is very grateful for the way she was raised and used the same techniques on her own children. I then changed the topic and asked my grandmother about the type of schooling she received in Mexico as a young girl.
Mama Julia’s education was limited and cut short at 6th grade. She remembers loving school very much; however she stopped because she began to work. Her first job consisted of her and her siblings going to the fields and picking tomatoes with her family. She has always wanted to return back to school because she loves to learn and wishes she had learned English when she was younger. Today, her primary language is still Spanish as she never had the opportunity to learn English like she once wished. As she began to grow older, boys began to notice her.
As a teenager, she loved to wear dresses, jewelry, and make up. She would consider herself as a girly girl. She remembers many guys trying to woo their ways into her heart, but at the age of 19 she fell in love with my grandfather, Francisco Vega. That same year they were married and she was pregnant with her first child. She moved into her husband’s families home where she learned how to cook and clean for her family. By the time she was 30 years old she had had 13 pregnancies and eight children. My father was the last successful child born in 1957. With many more mouths to feed and living in Mexico, Mama Julia and Francisco had the opportunity to immigrate to America in 1963.
In order to give her children a better life and allow them to have opportunities she never had, Mama Julia packed up her stuff and took her eight children to Sacramento, California. Border security at the time was not as strict making traveling a car to California easier than today. Getting their life situated, Francisco staying in Mexico for a while to get the rest of their belongings. When he came to join his family in California things took a turn for the worst. Mama Julia called it, “el peor dia de su vida,” which means, “the worst day of her life.” Spending a lovely day with her oldest daughter and my aunt, Ofelia, she caught her husband Francisco cheating on her with another woman at the movie theaters. After confronting him, it was confessed that he not only been with another woman, but he also had two other daughters with her. Being Catholic, divorce is frowned upon, but she made the choice because she still wanted the best for her children as they were her number one priority. Ironically, two years later my grandfather, whom I have never met, got diagnosed with cancer and died. He left my grandmother alone with ten children; opening her arms to the two daughters my grandfather had had with another woman. Five year later, she met Ruben Rios.
Mama Julia told me that she felt like she would never trust another man again, but my step father Ruben proved her wrong. He told her that if she married him she would take care of her and her eight children and bring them into his home. She is very grateful to have met such a good man because he was able to be the father figure that her children never had with their real father. He was able to provide all her children with opportunities in America that they would have never achieved in Mexico. While her children were going to school she had many side jobs to keep busy since she only knew how to speak Spanish and was not degreed. She was a cleaning lady in an American families home, she cooked and sold her food around the town, and she learned how to read cards and get paid to tell other people about their psychic readings. Being a full time mother and working part time in different side jobs, one of the things she also wished she could have learned was to drive. Throughout the entire time she was in Mexico and California, not once did she learn how to drive. To this day she had never had her license. As the years went on and her children began to get older and get married, her family began to grow.
Today Mama Julia has 25 grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren. She had dedicated her life to her growing family. I asked her what is the most important thing in her life and without hesitation she said her family and God. She has had many challenges and struggles in her life, but she is very grateful for her children. She only has one photo of her parents who died after she had moved to California and has seen six of her eight siblings pass. Through everything she has been through, she tells me that she is not afraid to die. She is very grateful for the life she has lived and prays everyday for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I concluded the interview by asking my grandmother who is her favorite grandchild. She said I was.