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South Texas Living

Las Comunidades — serving the community

Las Comunidades — serving the community
Vickie Hernandez (now deceased), who was chosen as Mother of the Year in 1984, displays her cape, crown, and flowers.

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
May 22, 2013
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The second group of the Comunidades Eclesiales de Base devoted their time to raising funds to help the needy in the community. Henry and I were moved to join the group after several couples made a surprise visit to our house one summer evening in 1973. Henry had experienced a mishap and had been in the hospital. He was recovering at home and was unable to work for a few weeks. He had not been at his job long enough to merit sick leave. These people had a monetary donation for us. They explained that it was their mission to help people in need. We had not heard of the group or their work. Their gift was timely. Donations were coming in as we needed them. God was watching over us. Henry recovered sooner than we had hoped and was able to return to work. Not long after, we joined the group. We wanted to help others as we had been helped.

In the group were Pilár and Nicolasa Saldaña, Waldo and Magdalene Ximenez, Arturo and Maria Nuñez, Felipe and Esperanza Trujillo, Hilario and Luisita Escobedo, Trine and Celia Barrientez, and Georgia Ortiz. Also, from Poth, were Paulita Castellano (Guevara), Elvira Silva, and Dionicio and Consuelo Rocha. We would meet once a month at different houses. Like the other group, we also devoted some time to reading scripture, singing, and sharing a meal. We also had a business meeting. We had a president, a secretary, and a treasurer. We would plan the fund-raisers. In the beginning, we would distribute the money ourselves to deserving people. After a change of pastors, it was decided that the money would go to a church fund and the pastor would be involved in the decision of where the money would go.

We would often have breakfasts in the Sacred Heart Parish Hall. The other parishioners always supported us and we had successful fund-raisers.

During the Peanut Festivals, we would set up a stand on the courthouse grounds to sell tacos. We always had good results because we would be making tortillas in plain sight of the customers. Luisita would always make the masa for the tortillas. The rest of us women would take turns rolling out and cooking the tortillas. I remember one year, it rained quite a bit off and on during the day and into the night, but people kept buying and we kept making the tacos. By then, our kids were old enough to hang out with their friends, those that were still at home.

That one year, while I was helping at the booth, a little boy came running up to me, calling out, “Ms. Castro, Ms. Castro!” When I turned to him, he whispered, “The police have your son. They caught him with Mary Jane.” I took off my apron, made an excuse to the ladies, and followed the boy to the jailhouse. I was thinking, “Who is this Mary Jane? And which one of the boys is it?” A couple of police officers were outside the facility. They were questioning several boys. I introduced myself as the mother of one of the boys. One of the officers was holding some capsules and asked me if I knew what they were. I told him they were my son’s medication to prevent seizures. (To this day, two of them take that certain medication -- the result, the doctors said, of getting knocks when they played football.) It turned out that my son had participated in some shoving around of other boys, strangers to him and his friends. The officers spotted that, and it was enough to entitle them to a search. I was convincing enough that they did not pursue the matter of taking my son in. They gave all the boys a lecture and let them go. After that, I was ready to call it a day and go home. And his dad? Well, he was “helping out” at the family business, Castro’s Place. As for Mary Jane -- It wasn’t a girl at all. It took a while for me to get educated. It was the English translation for that stuff also called weed. I sure hope my son doesn’t get embarrassed with this story. It’s not any worse than some of the stories I’ve told about myself. The good thing was that the story that little boy told me was not true.

Something else the group did was that at Christmas time they would fix a turkey dinner with all the trimmings and invite the neediest families in the community to a dinner in the Sacred Heart Parish Hall. They would buy small gifts for the children of those families.

Another way we raised money for several years was by having Mother’s Day dances. They were held at the Wilson County Show Barn the night before Mother’s Day. We always had a good crowd. The ladies that attended would sign their name on the back of their ticket. At intermission, a ticket would be drawn. Whoever’s name was on it was chosen as the Mother of the Year. A beautiful cape had been made by Esperanza Trujillo, Maria Nuñez, and her mother. The preceding mother of the year had the honor of placing the cape on the new honoree and placing the crown on her head. She presented her with a bouquet of flowers. We would solicit prizes from business people and individuals and these were also presented to her at this time. The last Mother’s Day dance was held in 1984. That year Vickie Hernandez was crowned Mother of the Year.

By then the group was smaller. Henry and I had decided about a year before to leave the group. I didn’t really want to, but I had a little too much on my plate. I had gotten a promotion at Head Start and had more responsibilities. I missed the monthly get-togethers. I used to call them my “night out.”

After a couple of unfortunate events, the group decided to disband, or perhaps they were tired. They had been working hard for about 12 years and had helped a lot of people. As the saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” But maybe not. Now there is the St. Vincent de Paul Society. They help the community on a much bigger scale. And there are many more organizations dedicated to helping the less fortunate. God bless them all.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is juliamcastro1@gmail.com.

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