A Mexican Immigrant Woman

Elvira is the poignant life story of a girl whose family immigrated to the United States to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921). Her father first finds work on the railroad in El Paso, Texas, where the women were obliged to live in cramped boxcars with their children. They then migrated to Kansas City to work in the meat-packing houses and finally – fatefully – to Scottsbluff, Nebraska where Elvira was to work in the sugar-beet fields for nearly 50 years at hard labor.

Elvira projects a strong portrait of personal courage and determination, qualities that she displays from a very early age. Her life story is told in the down-to-earth language of a farmworker, lending power to her narrative.

Elvira weaves into her family history their early life as migrants; their settlement in Nebraska; and heartrending accounts of backbreaking labor, illness and death, their struggles to overcome poverty, and the challenges of racism and of life between two very different cultures. She describes, often with a wry sense of humor, severe restrictions on girls’ behavior and control of family members by patriarchal men. She also relates accounts of Mexican cultural practices such as courtship and marriage and festive celebrations.

Her staunch belief in God sustains Elvira after the deaths − one and then another − of her beloved husband Maique and two of their sons. She struggles to support her two remaining sons and − motivated by her faith and her experience as a farmworker − she dedicates herself to a life of service to women and to the migrant community.