This interview was conducted by Johnny De La Rosa on March 12, 2005 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2005 class.
On April 7, 1940 my grandfather Fred Jimenez De La Rosa Sr. was born in San Antonio, Tx. His parents names are Demetria and Fidel De La Rosa, who both emigrated to San Antonio, Tx. from Matamoros, Mexico in 1939, to establish a better life for themselves and their children. Futhermore, Fred’s parents also wanted their kids to have an opportunity to get an education better than they could ever have back in Mexico. Along with Fred being the youngest out of 12 children, Fred has five brothers and six sisters. Unfortunately, Fred only reached the 9th grade at Lanier High School in San Antonio, Tx. Meanwhile after dropping out, Fred joined the workforce picking onions in the fields, until he became a cook at the Gunter Hotel where he met his wife Petra Gandara De La Rosa and married on October 29, 1960. However, after the Gunter Hotel, he joined Alamo Iron Works where he retired after 35 years. Together, my grandparents had four children: Fred Jr., Yolanda, Gilbert, Sylvia. Fred remembers what it was like growing up as a Mexican-American worker; to better himself due to the fact that his parent’s decision to emigrated to the United States made all it possible.
As a child,at what age did you begin to share and contribute your help for your family? What were your duties and what side of town did your family settle?
My family settled on the West Side of San Antonio on Obregon street and I began to do housework at the age of seven years old. My obligations include collecting wood everyday to heat the house and pick tomatoes in my back yard where we had a family garden.
Did your parents ever tell you why they decided to emigrate to the United States?
I remember my parents telling me that the United States was the only way to escape the
poor living conditions they had to deal with. My parent also wanted their kids to have an
opportunity to better themselves in United States.
Did your parents ever mentioned the way they lived in Matamoros, Mexico compared to the United States?
Absolutely, they told me that they were both unemployed most of the time because work
was hard to find and the United States was a better chance to find work. Mexico was poor and the Mexican government didn’t help the people the way the United States did. They also told me that the pay in the United States was much higher than Mexico.
Do you have any relatives that still live in Matamoros, Mexico or any part of the country?
Yes, my uncle Juan still lives in Matamoros, Mexico where I visit every so often. Besides him, there’s no other living relatives in Mexico.
After your parents emigrated to the United States, can you recall if your parents assimilated themselves or you to look like the others to fit in?
I doubt it, because our fashion was based on my mom sewing of whatever she could
put together. However, when I went to Chicago when I was 18 years old looking for work, I tried to fit in by wearing zoot-suits.
What did your parents do for a living after they emigrated to the U.S? Did you ever contribute to make there jobs easier?
My mother worked at home as a house-wife and my dad worked in the fields picking onions and tomatoes. Yes, most of the time, I helped father in the fields along with my older brothers. As for my mom, I contributed on my behalf by helping my mom cook and clean at the age of seven years old.
Were you ever thankful of your parents moving to the United States?
Yes, very thankful because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be receiving social security,
medicare, or have the benefit to retired. My parents made this possible for me along with my bothers and sisters to live a better life in the United States.
What skills did you developed as you got older from your parents?
From my mom, I learned how to cook and sew. She taught me how to make tortillas, tamales, chili, and enchilladas. The cooking skills gave me the opportunity to work as a cook at the Gunter Hotel when I was 16 years old. My dad taught me the basics on how to fix a car engine but mechanics didn’t interest me.
At what age did you begin to speak English and where did you learn the language?
I began to speak English at the age of seven years old and learned the language at Storm Elementary school. I remember it was hard to learn english because my parents only taught me Spanish when they raised me.
Where did you go to school and how far did you pursue your education?
I attented school here in San Antonio at storm Elementary School then Harris Middle School and Lanier High School but only reached the ninth grade. I drop out because I had to work in the same field where my dad worked picking onions to help my parents financially.
How did you get to school and how far did you live from school?
I remember my brother and sisters will walk together every school day about 5 miles
to school because my parents couldn’t afford a vehicle.
Did you ever attend church as a child and how offen did you attend.
Yes, every Sunday me and my family would attend Immaculate Conception Catholic Church because it was enforce by my parents.
When did you get your first vehicle and how much did you pay for it?
I got my first vehicle back in 1962 when I was twenty two years old. I bought the car for $75 dollars because it was a used ’52 black and lime green Bellaire Chevrolet.
When was your first official job after working in the fields with your dad?
My first official job was back in 1956 when I was sixteen years old at the Gunter Hotel downtown. I was a cook for 15 years earning 38 cents an hour. I got the job because I had some knowledge on how to cook; so they gave me a chance to become a cook.
Where and when did you meet your wife?
I met her in the lobby of the Gunter Hotel during my second year working there and married when I was twenty years old on October 29, 1960.
Did you ever work anywhere else besides San Antonio?
Yes, when I was 18 years old; I traveled to Chicago where I lived and worked. I stayed with my aunt and uncle along with their son for two years. I worked as a shoe shiner and in the Driton Robert Company dealing with rubber materials during that time. I remember working extras hours a week so I could afford a ticket to the Cubs baseball game. On weekends, when me and my cousin Carlos went out, we wore our zoot-suites because during that time it was in style. However, I didn’t stay long because My mom got sick causing me to come back to San Antonio. When I returned, I got my old job back at the Gunter Hotel.
After you married, Did you own or rent a house and how much did it cost?
After marrying your grandmother, we decided to own a house rather than rent. I bought
the house in 1963 for $20,000 dollars on the South Side of San Antonio.
Did you serve in any branch of the military?
No, I never served in the military because I had problems with my left leg and couldn’t pass the physical.
How many grandchildren do you have?
I have 8 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
What do you consider to be your most important achievement?
I considered my family to be the most important achievement in my life. My wife and
children and grandchildren are all important to me to see and spend time with as a family.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Yes, I appreciate my parent’s courage to leave their country to a place they didn’t know
much about. Their sacrifice meant a lot because they left their families and friends behind to better not just their lives but their children’s lives as well.
After interviewing my grandfather, I learned why his parents emigrated to the U.S and much about his experiences through out his life time. Most importantly, I learned that he was the only child in his family to be a natural born citizen in the United States. Before interviewing my grandfather, I didn’t know he was part of the work force picking onions and tomatoes in the fields. During the interview, my grandfather expressed how hard he worked to accomplish his goals. By doing this interview, it made me relies not to take life for granted because the stories taught me how he struggled to succeed. I attempted to verify the answers through one of his brother because they both grew up together. The benefits of the interview about the past, creates a better understanding on how life treated them. The draw back of learning about the past through the interview, is that
he worked twice as hard compared to present workers earning a living. Overall, the interview worked effectively because the interview is based on the interviewer’s curiosity to questioned the interviewee’s life.
- Sheraton Gunter Hotel
The Sherton Gunter Hotel is a historic building where my grandfather worked for 15 years after working the fields. The Gunter Hotel downtown on Houston street gave Fred the opportunity to change his life into success. The hotel is also where he met his wife Petra.
- American Institute Economic Research This site provides
information on the diffenerce of standard of living campared between years.