Oral History of Genobeba (Esperanza) Martinez-Escobar
Conducted by Tina Olivas on March 25, 2008
Genobeba Martinez-Escobar, better known as Esperanza, is my Nana (grandmother), and she is the very definition of a strong woman. My Nana was a determined individual who had a lot of heart and talent and always believed in the ties of family and tradition. To my family, her actions are historic. She was the first of our family to prove that women are strong, and with ganas (will) you can accomplish anything.
Genobeba (Esperanza) was born on June 12, 1912. Her parents, Crespin and Fernanda Martinez, along with her 5 other siblings (2 brothers and 3 sisters) lived in Beeville, Texas. Both of her parents were migrant workers who worked the farms of Texas to make ends meet for their large family. However, while growing up, Esperanza was raised by her grandparents. The reason why she lived with them is still a mystery to our family, but what we do know is that she thought very highly of her grandparents, especially her grandmother. Her grandmother was a major influence on her life; all of her beliefs and strength were from the influences of her grandmother. Her grandparents raised her until the age of 13, and then she moved back to live with her parents. Growing up, she never received an education. But she never let that stop her from educating herself by constantly asking questions when she was curious.
With a large family Esperanza's options were limited, and she was sent to work in the fields to help her parents. It was through this early experience that she received the strong work ethic she carried the rest of her life. In her time it was common for migrant workers to include their children in the job. All workers had a clear understanding that in order to make ends meet, they needed to use the resources they had to pick up the extra money needed.
Jumping forward to the 1950's, Esperanza separated from her husband (not divorced), and moved to Gilbert, Arizona. She moved because of the working opportunities in the local Gilbert farms for cotton or citrus pickers. It was the only work she knew since she was a young girl growing up in Beeville. Work was a definite necessity for survival now that she had three children: Jose, Guadalupe (Lupe), and Delores (Lola). Esperanza was also expecting twins at the time. But even with all the odds against her, she knew that if she wanted her family to survive she would have to work hard.
On May 3, 1952, El dia de la Santa Cruz (Day of Saint Cruz) Esperanza gave birth to her twins. She had a home birth, and at those times she only had to pay the midwife $1 dollar for the birth (50 cents per baby). They were both girls, and in light of the special day of St. Cruz, she named them Cruz and Cristina. Tragically the second twin, Cristina, was still born. Working hard and raising her children became Esperanza's main focus. Day in and out she worked, and all by herself she raised her 4 children.
A few years later, on September 30, 1955 Esperanza gave birth to Frank, her fifth and final child. With her family expanding she moved once again, this time to Chandler, Arizona in 1956. Still working within agriculture she took jobs such as babysitting neighbor's kids, cleaning houses, and laundry work to earn the extra wages needed.
Esperanza loved to visit downtown Chandler; it was walking distance from her little house on 49th East Morales Street in South Chandler. She would take her kids out to town and buy them an ice cream at the old Arrow Pharmacy or the local ice cream stop called Snowcap. Every once in awhile she would take her family to the local café called The Cozy Café for lunch. Esperanza would shop for groceries at the Payless Market. It was a little grocery market owned by a Chinese couple (Linda and Gene), thus giving it its nickname Los Chinos.
Esperanza was known for her cooking. Even to this day her recipe for homemade tortillas is passed down to each generation. While recalling the days she learned how to make tortillas, Cruz (Esperanza's youngest daughter) describes how she both enjoyed and loathed making tortillas. One of Esperanza's biggest rules while making tortillas is for the person not to have any nail polish on. "Como vas a cocinar con las manos manchados con pintura asi?" she would declare. (How are you going to cook with your hands all dirty from paint like that?)
Gardening and sewing were her favorite hobbies. Each new school year Esperanza would make a new dress for her daughters. She would use the materials from an empty potato sack, and all on her own, design and sew the dresses. During the winter times she would make quilts for the cold nights. In the neighborhood, she had the most beautiful garden. Esperanza took great pride in her garden and never let anybody bother it. For example, once she had a problem with her neighbors' pet rabbit. It ate everything, the vegetables and flowers. The problem continued up to the point that one day Esperanza went up to the neighbors' house and demanded that they contain the rabbit and keep it as far away from her garden as possible or else. Well, let's just say the neighbors didn't pay much attention to her warning, so a few days later the rabbit was back, eating up her garden. Esperanza broke an empty glass bottle and with one swift throw, killed the rabbit. Esperanza took pride in her garden and gave fair warning to those who threatened it by any means. This story has been told countless times in our family, and it has yet to have lost it sense of humor.
Esperanza lived a long, hard and beautiful life. It has been 20 years since she has passed away due to colon cancer, but we never forget what she truly meant to our family: A true definition of what a strong woman is. Whether it is her heart of gold in caring and raising her family, or her brave and fearless attitude in life, her presence in the kitchen or her talent with a sewing machine, our family will never forget the wonderful person she was. Esperanza claimed to be
the perfect mother, but she taught us all (even my generation) that in the end it all comes down to your family and having the ganas to make it past all the rigorous hurdles in life.
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Photos courtesy of the family.