Grandmas & girl power

Wasn’t planning on writing about this today but I do want to be intentional about sharing the “big things” I learn through researching my family’s history. I mean, if we don’t learn about our future by remembering our past, then why spend all this time looking at dead people?

One thing that has jumped out in the last few days is the suffrage and increased liberation of women during the period of time I’ve been researching – late 19th to early 20th centuries.

From my paternal grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit, her ability to capitalize on new technology to create a business and her marriage choice (as well as my maternal grandmother’s), I’m learning that both of my grandmas took the opportunity to express important life choices under great pressure.

It turns out both of them had been committed to men for marriage before they actually married my grandfathers. Same story, different family: both ended up marrying for love – and eloping.

Love this one: One of my grandmas was given the choice between a piano – you know, something big to win over her heart – if she chose not to marry my grandfather, an illiterate ranch hand (whose father had been shot while playing music in a nightclub) for whom she had immense compassion and, eventually, love.

Last I heard, my grandfather wasn’t made up of a big, wooden box and 88 black and white keys.

Dots

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 9.33.48 PM

From the game Two Dots, Level 42, where I continue to suck.

Ever played Two Dots? I’ve never seen two dots that could mess me up so good.

So here I am, at Level 42 (pun definitely intended), where I plan to hang out awhile. Mostly because I can’t connect enough dots to get any farther. I think this is where my usual ability to think and plan ahead comes to a grinding halt.

For years, that’s just how I have felt about connecting my family’s “dots,” too. Until this weekend. 

For 20+ years – all I knew was that my great-grandfather’s birth family wasn’t his birth family at all.

In the last week, I’ve found the dots he connected to originally and then those he connected to later, leaving me to investigate when and why he changed families. I have theories, of course. But I’d rather have dots – the connected kind.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of talking with my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. She set me straight on who said what and the origins of my blog’s name.

She also put me in a better position to locate records about their father – not that far back in our ancestry, of course. But between that and my other recent findings, I can actually start connecting dots that have sat unattached for far too long. Much better than Level 42.

What Poor Mexican Gone really means

Weekends are for fact-checking. In fact, I’m thinking of using them to write more about my family’s history, since I have more time on weekends to do research.

I’m more fascinated every day by how the world, as it evolved, was a macro image of things happening in my own family and in the fast-changing Mexican and Mexican-American cultures.

For now, I got one fact wrong – an important one. And I love the correction!

Today I learned that the “poor mexican gone” saying didn’t come from my my mom’s mom, although she was known for making up some pretty funny ones.

It turns out this phrasing came from my paternal grandfather – my dad’s dad.

So what started as this:

Cuando hitty con un cartucho
No come back
Cuando de repente pún
Poor Mexican gone

Actually meant this:

When you pull the trigger [on the gun],
The bullet doesn’t come back
When it hits the Mexican,
He doesn’t come back [either]

I love that, as facts come together with more clarity, the surprises keep coming, rearranging the pieces of this puzzle.

As with many things in life, sometimes it’s just not as important to see what it all looks like in the end, when the journey alone has so much to teach us. I’m grateful for the rich lessons along the way.

Wanna be startin’ something?

I’m entrepreneurial by nature and by birth. From a legacy in my family of “starters”  — from grocers to gas station owners, seamstresses, ministers to musicians and marketers, bootleggers, accountants to attorneys and retailers — there’s a lot of startup in my blood.

metate1

Making meal for corn tortillas went from 16th-century low-tech…

The best part: my grandmother owned a molino de nixtamal, a corn mill for grinding maize to resell to markets that sold tortillas. I just learned that having the kind of manufacturing equipment required to run this operation was pretty cutting-edge for the early 20th century – anywhere in the world.*

Ha. My grandma was high-tech! Sigh. One more story to run down. But back to business.

molino

…to high-tech, with marked advances in the early 20th century.

Working for the man
While I’ve mostly worked for “the man” (The Man, actually) much of my career, I’ve had to find ways to feed my need to build new things, wherever I was. I’ve been fortunate to be in rapid-growth environments and fill in critical gaps due to the growth.

But here’s what I learned: If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and work in a larger company or business that’s not yours (yet), learn what you can where you are. Make the way you’re wired work for you and your employer. And then take it up a notch.

Here are a few ideas on how to “be startin’ something” right where you are:

  • Find an important problem that needs solving and perhaps that no one has “discovered” yet. If you’re one who spots trends or opportunities early, this is where you use it. Get some traction by taking on a project you know has a start and a finish – something that’s measurable, with tangible output.
    One project I worked on a number of years ago capitalized on what was then “new” RSS technology – the ability to syndicate content. We needed to distribute globally gathered story content from a team of field reporters — a good solution for our customers, who were also globally distributed. RSS was a seemingly small solution, but it had a big impact on productivity and opened up great opportunities for me to contribute more.
  • If you are ready for a bigger challenge, identify an initiative that meets an ongoing business need. How about that new CRM idea that’s been kicked about for so long? Got a knack for tech? Maybe this is your thing to drive for the business side of the house.
  • Heck, it could be something that has been broken for so long, everyone has just accepted it and learned to “work around” the “broken” state and call it good. Fix that. Think big.
  • Next step: Mention the idea to your supervisor and measure the warmth of her reception. If it feels good, come back with a more thought-out solution and a high-level plan. You never know – you just might be onto something.

It is possible to carve a niche for yourself by spotting opportunities and showing you’re self-starter who can help advance the business and your team’s credibility while growing your personal toolkit. My grandmother did it. She spotted an emerging opportunity and seized it – by making tortillas highly reproducible.

You can do the same in your space.

The fact is, you know your work and understand the types of problems that need solving or are trending. Chances are also good you’re pretty familiar with what good solutions look like, now and in the future. So find them. Offer them.

If you don’t do it, who knows when anyone else will get around to it?

p.s. I’d drafted this post (the one that blew up) before coming across this one from Seth today. Love his wisdom – don’t miss it!

* Source: Goods, Power, History: Latin America’s Material Culture, Arnold J. Bauer, p. 190.

So…Forget the Alamo?

For the first time in 20 years, I’m on the hunt for a long lost ancestor.

Last time I looked for this guy, I discovered his parents, siblings, children. Yet there was no sign he’d been born into the family that raised him.

That’s how my research stayed for a long time.

Yesterday, I found his biological parents – definitely different than the folks who raised him. And quite possibly a different line than I was hoping for.

Image capturing cover page of Arteaga, Coahuila parish records 1820-1861

It’s time to go through Mexican parish records again so we can connect family dots and learn more about a pivotal ancestor.

That missing piece
Funny, how we always look for that missing piece – the missing relative, the runaway cat, the lost puppy  – and we’re not satisfied until we know their status. Happy endings preferred, of course.

I wonder whether we’re just trying to plug holes to cover up cracks in our lives … or if what we’re really after is wholeness or belonging, regardless of the amount of ugly it takes to get there.

For this ancestor, I always wanted to know whether he was born to different parents than those he grew up with. Now I have my answer, and I still want more. I want the whole story.

Perhaps his mom died during childbirth, or maybe he’s the stepchild, “the milkman’s son,” as it were.  Who cares. He’s my relative, and now I feel responsible to bring his story to life.

Oh – it looks like our shot at being related to Spanish/Mexican nobility is going downhill…fast.

When your family’s roots start digging in

Well, that was a surprise.

So I went online tonight on a whim to see what all has happened in the world of online genealogy since I took my last serious look (several years ago).

If you are impartial to having your ancestors “baptized” posthumously by Mormon missionaries, this one’s for you.

pullinghair-smWhat had taken me hours upon hours – no, months upon months – to compile in family history was, quite literally, fairly easy tonight in the space of an hour or two.

I’m a huge technology advocate and often an early adopter, so I appreciate the leapfrogging advances that come every few months in the world of tech. To see it some 20 years later, though – that was on a scale I wasn’t expecting. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is simply amazing how easy this has gotten.

I still have a lot of validating to do, but Lord knows I did that homework way back when. Now I am plugging in facts and literally connecting people-dots.

The coolest part: It looks like I’m getting closer to validating that our family were among the founding fathers of the San Antonio de Bexar – San Antonio, Texas.

I really do think my head might pop.

Priming the family story pump

When I was starting my family research paper for my Mexican American history class so many years ago, my professor told us to start with what we know — to start with the living.

Continuing to learn and tell my family’s history means a lot to me. I’m a dots connector, so when I see the past and present woven together through story, it puts me in awe of time, of history, of my own life and how I got here.

In fact it fills me with, I don’t know, a confidence in knowing and understanding a little more about who I am. It helps me feel like I belong. For someone who grew up as a minority in most situations, that is saying a lot.

And I can only imagine what it could mean to more of my loved ones.

I feel a family history project coming on
So I’m feeling another family history “project” coming on, but this one’s gonna need some help from my familia. They just don’t know it yet.

It’s time again to follow Dr. Zamora’s advice and capitalize on the time we have with those of us who are still here. I mean, each of us can come up with at least one story or memory to share, right?

There’s always a party pooper, but they can stay home from the party*. I just think it would be great to honor senior family members, as well as those who have gone ahead of us.

I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

* You’ll learn soon enough that I have a special fondness for música tropical, namely salsa. It’s not uncommon in some songs to label party-poopers — the ones who never enter the dance floor — as los aburridos (the bored ones). So sad.