Mi Familia Es Mi Resqueza

Noemy Chavez

Beatrice Tellez Jimenez (in the white dress) with her family in Barrio Anita c. 1931
Beatrice Tellez
Jimenez (in the
white dress) with
her family in Barrio
Anita c. 1931

Familia is important to everybody. In a Mexican-American family, "family" doesn't mean just your siblings and parents. It means your whole family-tios and tias (aunts and uncles), nanas and tatas (grandmothers and grandfathers), sobrinos-nephews and nieces, cousins. For a lot of kids on the Westside, for example, they make time to see their nana or their cousins everyday. For some Chicano children, they believe their mother is the basis-the heart-of the family. La madre es la familia.

A Mother's Influence

Your mother is one of the first people you see in the morning and one of the last people you see at night. My mother is a role model because she is the only grownup I can really talk to, really tell my problems to. I look up to her. I think it is because she has proved to everyone else and to me that she has done something with her life. Her own mother said to her that she wouldn't get anywhere doing art. But she proved everyone wrong. She took first place in a 1997 competition run by the Pima County literary magazine, Cababi. Her painting was used as the cover. I guess that is why I call her my role model. It is because she's also my hero. She has done so much with her life, and I want to do a lot with mine. I can ask her just about anything-basically, I can tell her everything. She has become my best friend. I know she's always going to be there. She's there when I need a shoulder to cry on. When we interviewed Soledad Ortiz-a longtime Hollywood resident (born 1937)-she said her mother, Angelita Ochoa, always knew what to say. No matter what was wrong with what child-Mrs.Ochoa had eighteen-she knew how to comfort them.

Stories my nana told me ... La Llorona

Here are some other quotes from our interviews with Westside residents regarding the influence of la madre on the family and on their lives:

"When someone has faith in you it has a lot to do with you being there, even if you may not have a lot of faith in yourself, sometimes....My mom was an orphan so she had a big strong sense of familia. She didn't have a family for most of her life. She was in foster care and she was treated really badly, and because of that I guess she became a super mom, she became a really good parent and she had a lot of faith in me."
(Salomón Baldenegro, 6/19/97)

"In the Mexican community I think the mother is very influential on how the children of the familia are brought up, and what they do and even their values. Even to the point where they help keep the family together."
(Margaret McKenna, 6/27/97)

"My mother used to handle the children while my father was at work. There were ten children in my family so my mother, of course, had to be very powerful."
(Lydia Carranza Waer, 6/30/97)

"My mother had a considerable amount of power in my family. Whatever she would say would go. For example, if someone would call my mom saying that they needed help I would have to go down to their home and help them with whatever they needed. If I didn't do it, then my mother would call me at home or at work and get on my case and ask me why I didn't help them when she told me to."
(José J. Ibarra, 7/1/97)

Nana Power


Angelita Ochoa (holding baby) and family in Hollywood in 1941
Angelita Ochoa (holding baby) and family in Hollywood in 1941


Angelita Ochoa and family  at her 97th birthday party in 1995.
Angelita Ochoa  and family and at her 97th birthday party in 1995.

At my house whatever my mother says goes. But when my Nana-my grandmother-was alive, she outruled my mom. If my mother told us to do something and my Nana disagreed, then we'd listen to my Nana. It's weird, I know, but it is very true. When a Nana leaves, the familia falls apart. For example, when my Nana died, everyone-the extended family-went their own ways. Hardly any of us talk to each other anymore. Steven Encinas, a current resident of Barrio Hollywood, said when his Nanita (great grandmother) was alive, Niagra Street, where she lived in Hollywood, used to be packed with cars almost every night because people would be visiting with her, having dinner with her. Then all the little kids of these relatives would play up and down the street and other little kids would come out to play with them. When she died, Steven said, "It was like the street died with her."

Honoring La Familia


Bertha Sanchez (in rocking chair) with family at Pima County Courthouse c. 1930
Bertha Sanchez (in rocking chair) with family at Pima County Courthouse c. 1930

"Honoring my familia means you have respect...[It means] everyone besides my familia-everybody in the community, having pride in being Chicano, and... having pride in what we do in the community and doing the best with what we can and what we have."
(Margaret McKenna, 6/27/97)

"Honoring the family to me basically means that your family comes first. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for my parents. They came over to the United States with little education from Mexico. My parents were able to give us enough to survive. Honoring the family also means sticking together. My family is the most important thing in my life. In my book it is number one...I try to dedicate every Sunday to my mom and my dad."
( José J. Ibarra, 7/1/97)

"Honoring my familia means obedience to the parent and your obedience means... respect so that your parents will not be ashamed of you. Our parents...help us because they have experienced more and just because they know best."
(Lydia Carranza Waer, 6/30/97)

"Honoring the family meant love, understanding and helping the other members of the familia out when they really needed your support for a problem. It also meant that you had to respect each other and you had unity.
(Trinidad Rodriguez, 6/27/97)

"Honoring the family means total respect. My siblings had so much respect that cursing in the family was as if it were in outerspace. We all had to have respect for the familia because it was the basis of our whole being."
(Jorge Lespron, 6/25/97)