This interview was conducted by Giovanna Verduzco on March 27, 2015 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2015 class.
On July 24, 1942 Santiago Guerra, or more commonly known as Jimmy, was born in San Antonio, Texas to Rosa Guerra (Cano) and Rosendo Guerra. Being the only male sibling, Jimmy has one older sister, Lucinda Guerra, and two younger sisters, Beatriz and Alice Guerra. Throughout his entire life, Jimmy has lived in San Antonio, Texas. In 1962, Jimmy married his first wife, Linda Wright, and had four children together. Their firstborn child, and only son, is Jimmy Guerra, followed by their daughters: Carol, Brenda, and Dana Guerra. He later went on to marry his second wife, Eulalia Guerra (Perez), on December 23, 1998, and together they adopted three brothers: Fernando, Alex Gonzalo, and Kevin Julian Guerra (Moran) in 2008. As a young child, Jimmy enjoyed horseback riding, which is probably what led him to become a racehorse trainer. Until three years ago, Jimmy was still training racehorses, but he has retired since. Now he enjoys spending time with his family, and raises animals on his ranch.
What did you do for fun when you were younger?
For fun, just work, work.
Do you recall what age you were when you started horseback riding?
About eleven, ten, eleven. That was during the rodeo. They had them trail rides that you’d go off all the way to Laredo and you’d ride all weekend long and then you’d ride all the way from Laredo to San Antonio. It took a whole week. Just for the fun of it. A bunch of us get together and wed all go, it’d be a hundred fifty, two hundred riders. Well they still do it but not, no, not too many people do it no more.
Where did you buy groceries or clothes when you were younger and how is it similar and different to now?
Well it’s a whole lot higher now. Them tennies that came out, the black and white ones, were real expensive here a couple years ago. They came back. They were four, five dollars a pair. It’s completely different. The prices, the food. You could go to the grocery store with five dollars and bring sodas and Fritos, a loaf of bread, tomatoes, to make sandwiches stuff like that. And a dollar lunch feed. For three to four dollars, five dollars you know. They didn’t have no H.E.B’s then. No just a regular little store like at convenient stores.
Would you say there was discrimination or racism in San Antonio?
No, I don’t think so.
What are the biggest changes you remember about San Antonio from when you were younger to now?
Well the traffic and it’s so big. You know, really grown a bunch. Back then they didn’t have no all them expressways you know that go under and over and shoot you all over town. Nah, it was just one main street. [It’s] really grown.
Could you tell me about the different jobs you’ve had?
Well I drove a truck for a while for about five years. Oh and the big dairies. And I would work at night and during the day I would mess with some horses. Train horses.
What was it like working for E.R. Bailey?
Oh that was, he was the car lot man; he had a bunch of car lots here in town, and he owned a bunch of horses. So he hired be to go off to the big tracks with him. Louisiana and Colorado and we went to St. Illinois. Different tracks, different towns.
What’s your best memory from horse training with E.R. Bailey?
When I took a picture with Patsy Cline. And I never did get the picture, and then she got killed in a plane crash. She was a western singer. She was a big star, and she happened to be at the track that day, and she told the manager of the track that she was willing to take a picture with everybody, anybody that’d win a race, shed go in and take a picture with. So it was real nice and everybody… We won a race and she was in the picture.
What was your life, or life in general, like after you returned from Louisiana?
Well every time we come back, you know we would stay gone for six, seven months. Every time we come back everything was changing; you know it grew so fast! The expressways and you know everything. It changed so much.
Could you tell me about one of your fondest memories with Thundering Tina?
Oh wow well we won all them big races with her. She made the horse of the year here in Texas like in the 80’s… eighty something. I don’t remember. At the track they gave her a ceremony, in Bandera…Bandera Downs.
Did you witness any constructional changes while you were a truck driver?
Well here when they built the tower, the Tower of the Americas. That took them forever though. A long time to [build]. Back then the River walk wasn’t as populated.
How has San Antonio changed in your opinion, if any?
A whole bunch in every way. You know, highways, expressways, going through it and then 1604 goes all the way around it, and everything, big changes. [There’s] more people. As it grows you know more people more people.
What do you think about the economic changes?
Hijole it’s terrible now. Everything’s so expensive. Well the gas prices right now is good but for how long? That’s the thing, you never know, and when they jump it takes and keeps on jumping and jumping and jumping going higher and higher and higher. There ain’t nothing people can do. The minimum wage has changed a little bit, but not that much. Oh when I was a teenager the gas was twelve, thirteen cents a gallon; look at all the difference. Cigarettes twenty-three, twenty-four cents a pack, now it’s almost seven [dollars]; that’s a big jump. I bought a brand new truck in sixty for twenty-seven hundred dollars, and it was top of the line you know. Right now twenty-seven hundred ain’t nothing you know.
Is there anything else you would like to add to the interview?
No, not really.
The whole process of the oral history project was insightful. Not only did I receive a glimpse of what historians might go through to receive a thorough history, but I was also able to look into Mr. Guerra’s past and learn about San Antonio history through his eyes and life. Needless to say, I feel like I learned a lot through this project. My interviewee seemed to really stress just how much San Antonio has changed in respect to size. He constantly referred back to expressways and highways, and how they used to not be around before; “it was just one main street”. I still see this happening today. Ironically enough, I used to think that San Antonio was just another city in our country, but after the interview I realized that San Antonio is not just another city, and is in fact still growing. I remember when I moved into the Southside part of San Antonio from the Northeast (and I am going off of independent school districts in reference to locations) I was so overwhelmed by how lonely and unpopulated the south was. I moved roughly around seven years ago, and throughout the years I have noticed that the “city” portion of San Antonio has slowly crept into the “country” part. My view on the topic has completely changed since I now agree that San Antonio is a growing city. Mr. Guerra’s stories mainly related to San Antonio’s growth, so that helped me visualize San Antonio’s growth, and I verified most of his stories through pictures he had, or simply by browsing the internet. Apart from learning about San Antonio, I also learned that my interviewee left Texas at a young age to help train racehorses, and eventually made it his fulltime job. I think that doing an oral history is an effective way of learning about the past because I feel like the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Yes, you might not get exact dates through an oral history, but you do get a person who lived through it and experienced it firsthand. It is much more intriguing to learn about the past through someone who can give you real life stories full of emotion, rather than reading and learning dates through a dull textbook.
- Sister Lucinda Guerra was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1939
- Born in San Antonio, Texas on July 24,1942
- Sister Beatriz Guerra was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1946
- Sister Alice Guerra was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1949
- Began horseback riding in 1954
- Became a horse trainer (specifically racehorses) in 1958
- Took on a side job as a truck driver in the 1960’s
- Married Linda Wright in 1962
- Son Jimmy Guerra was born in San Antonio, Texas on May 5
- Daughter Carol Guerra was born in San Antonio, Texas
- Daughter Brenda Guerra was born in San Antonio, Texas on January of 1970
- Daughter Dana Guerra was born in San Antonio, Texas
- Married Eulalia Guerra (Perez) on December 23, 1998
- Began the process of adopting three boys in 2006
- Adopted Fernando, Alex Gonzalo, and Kevin Julian Guerra (Moran) in 2008
- Retired in 2012
- Raises animals on his ranch- 2015