Currently, Ediciones Lengua y Cultura is editing two memoirs in addition to Elvira: María Auxilio – a.k.a. ‘La Mary’ and ‘Johnny Mack – The History of a Mexican American Family’, and is preparing them for publication in the near future.
María Auxilio, a.k.a. ‘La Mary’
A Memoir by Mary Gay A. Thomas
Even before she was born, María Auxilio Félix was destined to become a prostitute and a heroin addict. When her mother was pregnant with her, Mary’s father, a bar owner in Colton, California, had an on-going affair with one of the waitresses, La Margarita. Then, as the child was growing up, her mother often heaped abuse upon her, telling her that she was going to become nothing but a whore, like La Margarita.
La Mary describes her childhood as one of sexual encounters at family gatherings and of secret abuse by one of her uncles, confirming her sordid self concept. As an adult in Stockton, Mary entered the life of a talona and tecata. For thirteen years, María la Bandida, as she was widely known, walked the streets of Stockton and Sacramento and the dirt roads of the migrant camps in Hanford, Gonzalez, and Kingsville in a vicious cycle of prostitution and shooting heroin.
Speaking mainly in English and using the bilingual Chicano prison caló of the 1950’s, Mary relates the anguish of spiriting a young niece in her charge to a convent in Tijuana, keeping her away from the social services authorities, only to hear of the baby’s death while in a heroin-induced stupor.
She sank ever deeper into the oblivion bestowed by King Heroin, until she met Piti, the only man she ever truly loved. She had a daughter with him, Erlinda, − the first time she had gotten pregnant, despite having had unprotected sex with literally thousands of men. For the love of their baby, Mary and Piti struggled for months to get clean and to stay that way. Even after Piti was killed in a work accident, Mary continued to fight for her own and her daughter’s survival.
Eventually, Mary left the life of the streets and devoted herself to helping young addicts straighten up their own lives. She became a key staff member of a community action program in East Oakland where she organized involvement in political activity by members of the Chicano community. Ultimately, her organizing acumen drew the attention of Congressman Ron Dellums who hired her as a liaison to the minority community of Oakland.
She worked in that capacity until her violent death at the hands of her fifth husband, a man she had known much earlier on the streets of Oakland. On his release from prison, she had taken him into her home for rehabilitation and had only recently gotten married to him.
Johnny Mack – The History of a Mexican-American Family
by J. Mack Hernandez
Soledad came from a fairly-well educated lineage. They valued family history and passed down details of the stories of their ancestors, mainly through the paternal line – the Fonsecas. Soledad impressed on Juanecito the importance of these genealogical accounts and of passing them on to future generations.
So, years later Johnny Mack began to write his recollections of his mother’s stories that went back five generations to his great-great-great grandfather who was an officer in the Spanish-colonial army. He recounts the then-common practice by Spanish soldiers of taking indigenous wives, thus furthering the mestizaje of the Mexican populace. So, Johnny Mack’s own great-grandchildren will have knowledge of ancestors eight generations before them.
Juanecito, was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1910 on one of his family’s many migrations to the United States from León, Guanajuato. His parents, Juan Hernández Medel and Soledad Fonseca Torres soon settled in the Mexican barrio of Armourdale in Kansas City, although they made frequent trips back to their home city. Juanecito’s oldest brother,Miguel, had been born in León as was his younger brother Cesáreo. The youngest of the four children, Moisés, was born in Kansas City.
By 1923, the family began to spend the growing season in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, recruited by the Great Western Sugar Company with the incentive that the entire family could work in the fields. Miguel and Juanecito were now teenagers; Cesáreo, 8, and Moisés, 5, were also deemed old enough to do their part.
As a teenager, Juanecito, in the manner of most young Mexican-American boys, took up boxing, eventually participating in one of the first Golden Gloves tourneys in Scottsbluff. He won several matches to the point that a local promoter induced him to fight professionally. There, he took the ring name “Johnny Mack” and, since he became well known for his boxing exploits, began using it outside the ring. Later, he decided to make it his legal name, often abbreviating it to “J. Mack”.