Juanita Constante fronts a display of family photos.
Clarice Keating Of the Catholic Sentinel
It’s true — traveling from Asherton, Texas, to St. Paul in the bed of a truck, with only a tarp over their heads to protect from the elements – wasn’t easy going. Especially for Cruz Garcia Robles’ sister, who at the time had a 2-month-old child. The family, and six other men, struggled to keep warm as they traveled through Utah in February 1948.
“We were like tamales in that truck,” Robles laughed.
Robles was 15 the first time she arrived in Oregon, and her family was among those who worked on the Koessler family farm. “We didn’t know anything about hops or how to harvest them,” she remembered. “But we learned.” She recalls harvesting the mature hops with a machete in the rain and at night.
As the seasons changed, they picked strawberries, then beans, then walnuts in the winter. They would move to Prineville to harvest potatoes and then return to Texas until the cycle began again.
When Robles got married in 1950, she insisted they come to Oregon and stay. In those days, there were just a handful of Mexican-Americans in Woodburn, and she does remember once being asked to leave a downtown Woodburn restaurant. That made her family feel bad, she said, but as more and more people came from Asherton, their network expanded and life got better.