Huellas del Pasado ... Footprints from the Past

Barrio Anita: Memorias de otros Tiempos

  ...Escucha, aprende: el tiempo se divide en dos ríos: uno corre hacia atrás, devora lo que vives, el otro va contigo adelante descubriendo tu vida.

-Pablo Neruda, Oda al Pasado


From our classrooms, several times a day, we hear the long howling of the trains rolling down the tracks that cross Barrio Anita. This is the barrio of Davis School, with roots in the early 1900s, and a precious storage of living memories of the old days. As time passes, these images become more vulnerable and threatened by the mere passing of time, and by people moving away. As teachers, we have wanted to delve into the richness of the stories of real people who have left their imprints on these streets. As students, we wanted to hear the stories from the people themselves. We wanted to ask open ended questions, and were interested in scary, interesting stories—stories about the school, tales of old styles of life, of the abundant and long gone Chinese stores of the old barrio;

memories of games, nursery rhymes, gardens, celebrations, and hot nights sleeping outside. Together with the students, we became oral historians with a passion for the everyday life of the past. We recognized heroes and heroines in those who could tell us that they had attended Davis or lived in the barrio so many years ago, before refrigerators and inside bathrooms, before coolers and cafeterias. Those who could remember when the Santa Cruz River and the acequia carried water year round, and ice, milk, and wood were delivered by horse. These are some of our discoveries, passed on in this book through their voices, as heirlooms for those who will come after us with more questions.

-Cecilia Valenzuela Gee,
5th Grade Teacher, 2002


drawing of the Davis School by Adan Hylton
drawing by Adan Hylton

railroad image by Aran Canally
Photo by Aran Canally


   "We were like family, one big family, and we had very good times. There was no pavement, no cars parked in here. We had an irrigating ditch, full of water. It would run from, I think 29th Street. We all learned to swim there. When Día de San Juan came along, we used to go real early in the morning and swim there."

Student Interviewer: Elizabeth Beamer
4th Grade Photojournalism Project, 1996

   Ramón Olivas was born in 1956 in Tucson, Arizona. He was raised in Barrio Anita. He participated in the life of Barrio Anita with family members who lived here.

   "My grandma and my great-grandmother lived in Barrio Anita for a very long time, and also about three or four of my aunts. My grandmother lived to be 104 years old. I think she came over in a covered wagon many years ago. When I was a child, if I did something wrong, it was O.K. for neighbors to discipline me. And then, they would call my mom or my dad, or my grandma, and tell them I had done something wrong, and I would get disciplined at home again. So, I think people have changed a little bit."

   "There was a swimming pool behind my mother's house where people used to go swimming. Before TV was invented, people used to listen to the radio and go to Herrera Quiroz Park. It was called Oury Park back then. (They just changed the name this year) That's where they had dances, and that's where they had baseball games. They had all these different activities at the park because it was a way of getting people together. After T.V., people didn't go to the park as much as they did before." Although Ramón did not attend Davis he was accepted by the people who lived in the barrio and knows a lot of things about it. When the question of how old the barrio was came up, he answered, "I think it's over a hundred years old. Barrio Anita is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tucson. So there's a lot of history here." When the subject of Herrera Quiroz Park came up again he said, "The pool they have at Oury Park now is the new pool. They used to have another pool, and sometimes it was segregated where only African Americans were allowed on one day and then, Mexicans on other days."

Student Interviewers: Kenia Beltrán, Diego Bravo,
Flor Martínez, Family Night, 2002
Summary by Jacob Moeller

Margarita Olivas, grandmother of Ramón Olivas 
Margarita Olivas, grandmother of Ramón Olivas. Courtesy of Ramón Olivas


Barrio Anita Landscape, drawing by Antonio Mesquita
Barrio Anita Landscape, drawing by Antonio Mesquita

   "We used to know everybody and everybody knew each other. We used to sleep outside in the summer. There were no coolers, and we trusted everybody. Even now, when I am outside watering the plants in the evenings or in the mornings, the smell of tortillas brings back the memories, because at that time, around hree or four o'clock, the mothers would build a fire. They had wood stoves. Then, the little "humito" would be up there, and the smell of tortillas, chorizos, and papas, and everything! Era wonderful!"

Student Interviewer: Elizabeth Beamer
4th Grade Photojournalism Project, 1996

   Estela Dalton has lived in Barrio Anita since she was a child. She has many stories of her experiences living there. One of her scary stories was about a witch that lived behind her house. Estela wasn't scared of her. In fact she always went to her house and helped her in her garden. "This one day, she told me, `When you go back home, don't take the shortcut to your house. Go around out the front of my door, go up the street, then three turns, and then go into your house, but don't take the shortcut.'"

Elena B. Dalton, mother of Estela Dalton, c. 1936.
Elena B. Dalton, mother of Estela Dalton, ca. 1936. Courtesy of Estela Dalton

   But Estela didn't obey the witch and between the shed and that row of outhouses that were there, a huge dog came at her, and he had red eyes and had a lot of foam coming out of his mouth. Estela froze. "All of the sudden I heard her yelling. `I told you not to go through there.'" Then she turned around and looked and there was a cat, and the cat attacked the dog. "I started running towards the alley, and as I turned around to see what was happening, the dog had scratched across the cat's face. I heard somebody yelling at me again. "'Run!' So I ran to the corner and I did the three corners and I went into my house."
   After that Estela did not see the lady for a long time, so she was getting pretty scared. Estela started looking for the cat, but she never found it. "I went and knocked on her kitchen door, and she didn't come out, so I noticed that the door was open, so I came in." Then Estela saw her in bed, and she said that the dog had scratched the cat. The lady had scratches on her face, and Estela asked her what had happened. The lady said, "I was trying to protect you. Would you do me a favor and cook these beans for me? I can't get up."
   So Estela cooked the beans for her. The lady said, "That was the devil after you `cause you've been a naughty girl."

Student interviewers: Cristina Acuña, Mariah Adkisson,
Freda Rodríguez, Family Night, 2002
Summary by Lisa Alfaro

   "My mother's father used to sell wood. Tenía una carretela con un caballo blanco. El se llamaba Toribio Felix y era viejito ya. El es el que nos ayudó a mi mamá , a nosotros y a los hijos a que viniéramos de Cananea. Vivía con seis hijos. Todos los días iba a entregar leña. Cabían cinco cargas de leña en la carretela atrás. Costaban $0.50 cada una. Ahora la venden en el Safeway en saquitos. Siempre que la veo me acuerdo de mi papá."

Student interviewer: Nina Lara
5th Grade Photojournalism Project, 1996

    "En el rincón donde está ahora el Sabino Canyon, mi papá tenía mucho terreno. En esos tiempos la mujer no tenía ninguna clase de derechos, todo era del hombre. Vino el gobierno y le dijo a mi papá que tenía que dejarlos porque el gobierno necesitaba esos terrenos. Tenía ganado y ya él estaba muy mal y muy enfermo y no le dieron nada a mi mamá. El gobierno se quedó con todo. Yo tenía cinco años cuando murió mi papá. La gente no tenía la educación que están teniendo estas criaturas. Lo que la mamá o el papá decía se hacía. Mi papá compró un terreno en Barrio Anita donde yo nací. Mi mamá batalló mucho."

Student Interviewer: Nina Lara
5th Grade Photojournalism Project, 1996

   "I remember the streets were a lot smaller. Tucson wasn't so extended. Going to Mount Lemon was like going really far out! I really can't even remember going past Wilmot. When I was growing up in Tucson, the houses were very old. They kept the same kind of architecture. Then, the newer houses were being built out East. As the houses went farther East, they were more expensive, so a lot of people whose families were working, they just stayed close in the city, in the downtown area, because that was more affordable, and they didn't move very much."

Student Interviewer: Alejandra Benítez
Family Night, February, 2002




Go to the Table of Contents Go to The Beginning: Tucson, Arizona Go to Barrio Anita Go to Corridos Go to Davis Families Go to Medicinal Plants