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South Texas Living

Siblings recall childhood as migrant workers in new book

Siblings recall childhood as migrant workers in new book
The 10 Garcia siblings visit the Basilica of San Juan del Valle to “unveil” their book, Are We Almost There?, giving thanks at the national shrine as the family has done for many years. Gathered for the event are Mariano Garcia Jr., Adela Ramirez, Carmen “Baby” Ramirez, Ramiro “Raymond” Garcia, Santiago “Jimmy” Garcia, Ysidro “Shado” Garcia, Mary Rose “Rose” Ximenez, Jesusita “Susie” Castro, Dimas Garcia, and Thelma Celestino.

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Wilson County News
May 29, 2013

Chronicling an extraordinary childhood, Thelma Garcia Celestino has gathered stories from her siblings, telling of their hardworking family as they migrated from state to state, harvesting crops and working the fields.

In Are We Almost There? Stories of Ten Migrant Worker Siblings, Celestino and her brothers and sisters share fond memories of their youth and their parents, Carmen and Mariano Garcia Sr., who instilled in all their children the importance of family, faith, and work ethics.

Their humble beginnings could have been a detriment, but all the siblings grew to measures of success in a variety of fields, from welding to education and banking to the military, and more. They now range in age from 56 to 71; all but two live in Floresville.

“We have to embrace our culture and heritage and not be embarrassed by our humble beginnings,” Celestino said.

It was always Celestino’s dream to be a published author, said her sister, Rose Garcia Ximenez. Though she’s kept a journal most of her life, she waited until after she retired from her 30 years as an educator before pursuing her dream. It’s now come to fruition with her first book, contributed to by her siblings.

Each chapter of Are We Almost There? tells part of the family’s story from the perspective of one of the siblings, starting with the eldest, Mariano Jr., now retired and living in Houston, and closing with a chapter by Celestino, the youngest. The family’s home base was Floresville, where they would return from the year’s travels, following the crops and the various harvests.

Memories shared include marveling over new shoes, traveling together in the truck as they migrated, their mother’s ingenuity, missing school because they had to work, working in the fields, celebrating with family and friends, and much more.

One constant for the family was the return at the end of every season to San Juan, to visit what is now the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, a national Marian shrine. The Garcia family would give thanks for safe travels and make a donation to the church in gratitude for the protection and blessing of God and Mary. On one such visit, as the family -- parents and all 10 siblings -- waited on a bench to make their annual visit, a local photographer snapped their picture. He was amazed they were all the same family and that they made this annual pilgrimage. The photo became part of the cover art for the family’s book.

Their parents passed away within six months of each other in 1977, but the siblings have remained close.

They gather regularly -- once or twice a month, said Celestino and Ximenez -- to visit and enjoy each other’s company. It was during these gatherings that they crafted the stories that would become their book. Celestino would read the latest contributions, checking facts and ensuring her four sisters and five brothers were happy with the results.

“We wanted to share the hardship, getting our education, and our shared faith,” Celestino said. “Everything was teamwork. It took all of us, being supportive of one another.”

Celestino has been speaking to student groups and others about Are We Almost There? and about her family’s experiences, with more events scheduled.

The book will be released nationwide July 23 in bookstores and online. Limited copies are available from the siblings, and from the Wilson County News.

For more information about the book or to schedule an event, contact Celestino at 210-834-4899 or, or Ximenez at 210-843-0079, 830-393-6381, or

Are We Almost There? by Thelma Garcia Celestino, Tate Publishing, 165 pages, paperback. $12.99.

Book launch, signing
The Garcia family held an initial “unveiling” of their book, Are We Almost There?, at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in the Rio Grande Valley, where they have returned often through the years as part of a longstanding family tradition.

The 10 siblings will launch their book locally during Masses Sunday, June 2, at Sacred Heart Church on Trail Street in Floresville. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing by the 10 siblings.

Your Opinions and Comments

Kristen Weaver  
May 30, 2013 11:31pm
Congratulations! What a tribute and treasure to your family and community.

Carmen Castro Leal  
May 30, 2013 2:22pm
Congratulations to my Garcia family! It's amazing to see all these stories we've heard for years on paper (and even learning more as we read). This is a gift that will live on for generations. This book teaches everyone to ... More ›

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