Excerpts from Elvira

“Crossing the Border”, from Chapter 1. ‘From Chalchihuites to El Paso del Norte.

 Elvira explains why it was important for them to cross through the customs office, instead of just crossing the bridge from Juárez to El Paso. She then depicts, in amusing terms, her father’s attempts to sign documents for the family, and how everyone was washed and disinfected before they could cross. Read the Excerpt…

“El Traque”, from Chapter 1, From Chalchihuites to El Paso del Norte.

The two Chávez families traveled to the work encampments living in boxcars. The men were soon sent out-of-state while the women and children remained in El Paso, Texas. There, the women managed however they could, with eight children in a single boxcar, waiting for financial support from the men, which arrived only intermittently. Elvira describes her mother taking a house-cleaning job and walking to work across town both ways in order to save a few cents. Read the Excerpt

“Arriving in Scottsbluff”, from Chapter 3, Off to Nebraska.

The Chávez family arrives in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Elvira describes their housing accommodations and gives a glimpse into the type of work that the family was to engage in. She matter-of-factly depicts how the very young children were put to work to help the family. In one comical anecdote, she describes the difficulty that her nine-year-old sister had in performing her appointed job. Read the Excerpt

“Cheap Soap”, from Chapter 7, A New Life.

Elvira describes some of the amusing consequences of misunderstandings due to language differences. Elvira’s father Jake is widely known for his delightful use of immigrant English. He is shown shopping for soap and how he and the clerk are able to make themselves understood. The incident also reveals certain vending practices of the time as well as the role of men in controlling access to money. Read the Excerpt

“Nomach Agüita”, from Chapter 10, don Juan.

Elvira’s father-in-law, don Juan Hernández, was a tyrant with his family, including Elvira and Maique who, as newlyweds with scant resources, were obliged to live with her in-laws. In this excerpt, don Juan mistreats Elvira’s daughter (also named Elvira), and Elvira Sr. stands up to him, contrary to all the familial norms.. Read the Excerpt