It isn’t every day a son gets to write an article about their Mother, but here I am, doing exactly that. At the age of seventy-five, my mother, Teresa Villarreal Rodriguez, recently published a book titled, “Home, Where Memories Wait to be Remembered.” The book is about everyday life in San Antonio’s Westside during the 50’s and 60’s. My Jefita was raised in a patchwork-type family stitched together after her mother’s died when she was 6 months old and her siblings were 10, 8, 4, and 2 years. They were raised by her father’s mother; his sister and brother-in-law who had a five-year-old daughter.
When I asked my Mom why she wrote these stories, she replied, “In the beginning, I wrote because I wanted to leave my children, grandchildren and extended family a written history of our life. Specifically, who raised us and how we were raised. But as I kept writing, I realized there were other reasons for writing.”
The book of short stories brings life to her grandmother’s penchant for prayer to all her favorite santitos, yet even though she was a woman of faith, she was not afraid to use her gift as a curandera for the good of others. The stories describe growing up in a rich culture that includes rituals such as Cortando Las Nubes and Curando de Susto and traditions like Tamaladas, Bolo, and house limpias. Some stories are funny, others are tragic and sad, yet most show a strong community and the dignity of the people living on the Westside.
Writing about a different reality about the Westside was also one of her goals in publishing her book. She said, “There was so much more to the Westside than what the rest of the city saw on the news. I wanted my stories to capture the vibrant feeling of daily living that took place on our part of town; the color, noise and mouth-watering aromas drifting out of small cramped kitchens as dinners were prepared. And I wanted readers to get a sense of the strong, resilient and generous people in my neighborhood”
The memoir is published and available for sale by Conocimientos Press. It was during the pandemic that my mom shared a few stories with her Facebook family and caught the attention of publisher and UTSA professor emerita Josie Méndez-Negrete, and something to marvel. What is endearing about San Antonio’s Westside will be remembered for generations to come.
My Madre spent the last 12 years of her work life teaching high school in SAISD and it’s endearing how she speaks with such affection about her students. However, she says that the majority of her students were not aware of their amazingly beautiful culture. She believes that because of the troubling world we live in, our youth needs to know their roots in order to know who they are. By discovering they come from strong, resilient people they will be better able to weather the hard times they will encounter. At the end of our conversacion, she added “Hijo, if my stories connect people to their culture, I will finally understand this 30 plus year journey that I have traveled.”
Leonard Brennan Rodriguez is the Interim-Chairman of La Prensa Texas and former President and CEO of the City of San Antonio Westside Development Corporation