Oral History Project:
Autobiographical Stories of Women From Chandler as Told to CGCC Students
Oral History of Carmen Arvizu
Written by: Natalie Bullington and Sarah Moore

Carmen Arvizu De Ayala Interviewed by Natalie Bullington and Sarah Moore On October 15, 2004

Carmen's grandparents on her mother's side were Fernando Lopez and Rita Lopez. Her grandmother on her father's side was Josefina Arvizo. She does not remember a grandfather on her father's side, she thinks, because he might have already been dead when she was born. But she isn't sure but that is what she believes.

Her father was Victoriano Arvizu. He was born in San Diego; he later moved to Chandler and worked as a farmer all his life. He picked cotton and corn in Arizona and tomatoes in Sacramento, California.

Carmen's mother, Delfina Lopez, was born in Sonora. She worked part-time picking cotton. The rest of the time, she took care of the family and the house. Although they were poor, they ate well because they owned a cow, chickens, turkeys and pigs. From the chicken, they had eggs and made chicken soup. Carmen's mother also cooked menudo, posole, tamales, and cupcakes. They never went hungry. Delfina was not formally involved in politics or social life in Chandler organizations; however, she shared food and helped her neighbors whenever she could.

Carmen does not know how her parents met or when they got married. She does not know exactly when her family arrived in Chandler either. She thinks they came here due to the available farm work.

Carmen was born in Chandler in 1919. Her family's home was located on Frye between Dobson and Price. Her parents had 5 children: 2 boys and 3 girls. Three children were born in Nogales and two were born in Chandler. Her brothers had a nickname for her: Weapisca (because her skin was the lightest). At that time Chandler was not developed so her two- bedroom house was in the country. Some of the children slept on the floor. They had no water or electricity. They used oil lamps and took baths in a stream that passed near their house. They also had an outhouse.

The family used a wagon and horses for transportation. This was typical for her family and neighboring homes, so Carmen saw no problem with their life style. Carmen remembers it took 8 days to get to Nogales to visit cousins. However today, they have lost contact with them.

Some of the neighbors that Carmen remembers are Rosenda Lopez, Lupe Guerrero, y la familia Marzuez. Carmen's family would sit outside, and neighbors would come around to visit. Adults would talk with her parents and children would play with them. They went to the movies only once in a while. Carmen knew the Serranos and the Bashas' when they were all poor. Now the Serranos have many restaurants, and the Bashas' own numerous grocery stores.

Carmen attended Cleaveland School until the 5th grade. She and her siblings had to walk 5 miles to school, 10 miles round trip. She liked school because she made lots of friends there, and she could play ball and jacks at recess. Carmen and her siblings took their lunch to school. She remembers a Miss Moore, one of her teachers. She remembers the principal, Miss Seavers, did not like children to speak Spanish; their punishment for doing so was a pinch. Miss. Seavers did not want the student to speak Spanish. Overall Americans and Mexicans got along well. She did not notice any difference because they were all poor.

Delfina taught her 2 other daughters to knit and crochet. However, Carmen did not learn because she never came when her mother called. Instead she preferred to play ball with her brothers. She could never sit still in one place. Overall Carmen's brothers and sisters had the same rules. They would have to help with some chores such as feeding the chicken's everyday.

When Carmen was 14 or 15 years old, she thought she would have liked to be a nun; because she always liked to go to church. Her mother instilled in her a love of God and respect for others. Carmen and her family attended mass at St. Mary's Church as a child. Today, Carmen belongs to the Altar Society. The Altar Society keeps the church clean, does fund raising for needy families, and goes to people's homes to give communion to those who cannot go out of their homes.

Her two brothers participated in World War II. Her younger brother Jesus (Jessie) hurt his back due to a gunshot wound in the war and still has some problems now. Her other brother was on his way over, but was called back because the war had ended. Carmen was not aware of the Depression or the feminist movement. Due to her family not having a lot of money and living on a farm.

Carmen got married in 1937 at age 18 to David Perez Ayala. He was born in: Zacatecas, Mexico and later moved with his family to Mesa. They had 6 children: 5 daughters and 1 son. For many years her husband did farm work. Three years in a row the family went to Sacramento to pick tomatoes. Thereafter, David went alone because it was too much of a problem to travel with the children. Once in a while Carmen worked picking cotton. Carmen worked picking cotton. She does not remember how much she got paid?enough to get by. She was not aware of being discriminated.

David died at 84 on January 8, 2001. She still misses him very much. They had been together for over 60 years. Last year, Carmen's older daughter passed away in California. She was married but did not have any children. Carmen has 13 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren, and 1 great great grandchild. Every Sunday her children come to visit her.

Carmen thinks that people need to study to get ahead. In addition, she believes people need God to find peace and to feel better, no matter what faith they are. She is deeply religious and wakes up at the break of dawn to walk to St. Mary's Church for services. When asked if she could live her life over again, what she would have changed, she simply stated that she would have lived it better and done some things differently.

She has seen lots of changes in Chandler and its people through the years. In her youth, the roads going through downtown would curve around the park, and motorists would always slow down in case of pedestrians. The roads today are straight, and she thinks the cars go by too fast. There are many new people arriving in Chandler every day, lots of cars and traffic as well. But most of all, she notices that people are not as friendly anymore; when she says "hello" or "good morning" to them they just keep on walking. Never the less, Carmen said "Chandler may not seem beautiful but it's perfect for me!" There is no other place she would rather call home.