This is the story of Rafael Morales, a Mixteca native of the State of Oaxaca, Mexico who “sneaked” into the United States, and eventually landed in Healdsburg, California, where after 8 years he brought his wife Conception (Concha) Rosas Hernandez and children, Candido, Hugo, and baby Evelia to California.
Rafael’s native village of Tequixtepec resides in the Mexican Oaxacan mountainous Valley of the Mixteca Baja, the center of the Mixteca nation. The arriving Spaniard colonizers were amazed to witness a highly developed political organization, a social class stratification, written manuscripts, a developed astronomy science, an advanced religious structure, delicate artistic expressions, agricultural technology, an economy of regional markets which also included long distance commerce.
Candido Morales Ruiz, Rafael’s father, married to Paula Mendoza, acted as the towns butcher, serving his customers out of his house or on Sundays in the town Plaza. He did not want Rafael to get involved with a group of basketball players in the Plaza. So he enrolled him instead with a music teacher who taught him the violin. Rafael’s entry into music was the beginning of his musical career which spanned his entire life on violin, guitar, base, and mandolin. At 5’3 Rafael would not have been able to leap very high anyway.
Although his Mexican rural school education ended at the third grade, his passion for reading and learning ran throughout his entire life. He even named one of his sons “Hugo” in honor of Victor Hugo.
As a young man he opened a small grocery store in the nearby village of Miltepec. A mysterious fire destroyed the store, but not the flame in his heart for the young Concepcion Rosa Hernandez, whom he first met as a Padrino (Godfather) at a local Baptism. An attractive Mixteca, Rafael had had his eyes previously on a certain Linda whose mother planned to send her to school in Puebla. Rafael protested the move and explained his intentions of marrying Linda in the future. The mother insulted Rafael for his dark skin and sent the daughter off to school. Sometime later returned pregnant, pleaded with Rafael to marry her, but his response “no soap.” Rafael became a butcher like his father, a baker with a huge oven next to his house, a barber, and finally the local mailman delivering posts on foot or on horseback to surrounding villages, sometimes leaving at 3AM to complete his rounds.
Disaster had struck the Morales family with the murder of Candido Sr. Friends later informed Rafael of the whereabouts of the assassin, but he refused any revenge, saying “Let God forgive him.” Mother Paula was left with five children to support. Along with Rafael’s sometime support, she wove and sold sombreros to support her growing family. She died at 93 years of age.
The emerging courtship of Rafael and Concha outdid the romantic approaches of Romeo and Juliet. It started off with Concha's mother's dislike of Rafael and her refusal to have him involved with her daughter in any way. However, Mama didn’t realize what a creative opponent she faced In Rafael. He first organized a chorus of young girls from Tequixtepec who serenaded Concha’s home at night. Mama thought that the serenades were a lovely expression, not realizing that Rafael was the organizer. He also composed long and beautiful love letters and poems, delivered by a friend, and placed under a secret rock. Concha would read them and then burn them. Her mother had previously told her that she would have to wait four years before she would allow her to marry as she did not know how to cook, keep house, or read and write. However, four years shrank to two and she and Rafael were married in the Miltepec parish church on July 23, 1945, where Rafael had organized two mariachi bands to play. The marriage produced two male sons, Candido and Hugo, and later daughter Evelia. Rafael left his family to travel north to Mexicali where he could stay with a cousin and seek work. As there was only a yellow line separating the two countries, Rafael crossed the border every day to pick fruit in California and send some money back to his family.
According to Candido Jr. Rafael made an appointment with the Tijuana American Consulate where he requested a two-week visa to travel to Fresno to purchase musical instruments for his band in Mexicali. The whole request was a creative fabrication that helped him get into the United States. With the visa he set out for Fresno and kept going all the way to Stockton, California. There as part of a group of workers on the street corner Rafael heard a voice from a truck “ Hey! Anybody want to go to Sonoma County?” and the Morales family history began on this 1953 day. The invitation was to pick hops on the Santa Rosa Grace Brothers Brewing Company’s ranch. The adjoining property belonged to a McClinsh family who eventually hired Rafael as their ranch foreman and provided him a house for his estranged family. The ranch was later sold but the sale included the position of Rafael Morales as foreman.
Rafael had been absent for eight years from his family. He kept in touch with Concha by mail and by money orders when he could. There were weeks when she received no income and was forced to feed her children only beans and tortillas. As the local schools only went to the third grade, she moved her children to the larger city of Huayuapan so that her sons, Candido and Hugo could continue their education at the local Catholic school “Escuela Particular de Pio XI (Pope Pius XI). Concha related that she had placed the boys there “por la disciplina,” for the discipline. In order to support her family she rose at 5AM, wove 3 palm sombreros, and sold them in the plaza. Finally she obtained a full time job selling bread. Meanwhile, Rafael in California was not happy with Concha’s move and did not write to her for three months. Candido Jr. related that Rafael wanted her to move in with his mother. Added to her two sons now was a daughter, Evelia with whom Concha was pregnant at the time of Rafael’s departure.
After the family’s five year stay in Huajuapan, Rafael was finally able to bring them all to Healdsburg, California, June 1945. He introduced his wife to the owner of the ranch “ I’d like you to meet my esposa.” The owner smiled and said “ Nice to meet you Esposa. ” Candido Jr. was 13, Hugo 9, and Evelia 7. The family was later blessed with the birth of daughter, Connie. In 1978 Rafael bought a one-acre parcel in Windsor, California from John Narduzzi of the Santa Rosa Shoe Company for 28 thousand dollars, on which he later built the present Morales hone.
Rafael continued to play his violin as well as guitar, mandolin, base, and other string instruments. In 1964 he organized a band of nine musicians who played his arrangements until 1978. He always carried pen and paper in his pocket on which he created songs and poems. He also had a passion for reading books and Spanish language newspapers. Back in Teqixtepec he had served as President of the town Council. In Healdsburg he became the first chairman of the United Latins of Sonoma County, a community organization dedicated to the interests of the Spanish Speaking community. He also became active with fund raising activities for his Catholic parish of St John.
All of the Morales children arrived from Mexico speaking only Spanish. Connie also entered school also speaking Spanish, as it was the family’s language. Candido, Hugo, Evelia, and Connie all attended local public elementary schools, Healdsburg High School, and later college and universities such as Sonoma State University (Candido), Harvard Undergraduate University and Harvard Law School (Hugo) all on scholarship, San Francisco State University and San Jose University where Evelia acquired her Masters Degree in Education and Connie her Masters in Speech Therapy. Both sisters are employed by the Gilroy, California School District.
Candido spent 30 years as the Vice President and Program Manager for the North Bay Human Development Corporation, later named the California Human Development Corporation, Santa Rosa, California. The non-profit agency which at one time served the States of Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, serves low income people in job development, low cost housing, senior housing, alternatives to jail for first time offenders, and advocacy for farm workers. Based on his skill and experience at CHDC, Candido was chosen out of 300 candidates for the position as Director of the “Instituto de los Mexicanos En El Exterior,” a program within the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs inaugurated by the former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox. The INE office, as it is called, offers social and educational programs to Mexican nationals living in the USA and Canada such as books in Spanish, adult education/ESL via the internet, health referral offices in all fifty Consular offices, as well as seminars in Mexico City for community leaders, teachers, school board members and health board members. Candido recently retired from this position with the election of a new Mexican President, and now divides his time between his Oaxacan village, Mexico City, and his home in Windsor, California.
Son Hugo could have had a very successful career as a lawyer at the prestigious Healdsburg law firm of Passalaqua and Mazzoni when he graduated from Harvard Law School. However, he announced to his father that he would rater devote his efforts to poor peoples causes. He serves presently as Founder and President of Radio Bi-Lingue, a 33 year old radio network with a satellite system, reaching scores of affiliates throughout the USA, Mexico, Puerto Rico, along with 7 owned stations in California, 3 in New Mexico, and 1 in Arizona. It is the only producer of national Spanish language programs in the public radio system.
The remarkable accomplishments of this Morales family ought not to be categorized as unusually notable for they are Mexican Mixtecas, proud heirs of the Mixteca people of Oaxaca, Mexico, a rich and profound culture that endured for 3000 years. ”Certainly the near future will place the Mixteca a place corresponding to the most known civilizations of Mesoamerica and the ancient world. Furthermore one should note that the Mixtec culture did not disappear during the colonial period nor in the radical national changes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Wherever there are Mixtecs, in all parts of Mexico or whatever part of the world, they have adapted to their diaspora. Many have abandoned the Mixteca but their hearts, their sentiments, and thoughts penetrate their land and tradition. As the song “Cancion Mixteca” illustrates, among the many ethnic groups that form the Mixtec Republic, perhaps the most sentimental, most nostalgic, and faithful to its roots is the “nu savi,” the Mixteca nation. ” Back in Healdsburg, California Rafael Morales certainly echoed these sentiments with the composition of his song “Tequixtepec Tierra Linda” (“Tequixtepec Beautiful Land”) “Tequixtepec, my heart adores you. Little nook where I rested and which gave me great inspiration. I remember your mountains where we children picked iris in the month of April. The murmurs of your waters singing in the dark. Your early morning women singing their songs which took the sorrows from their hearts. For this, one should name you Tequixtepec The Beautiful, your song which rises and falls in my heart.” Gratefully we honor the memory of Rafael Morales, the linchpin strength of his wife Concha, and the remarkable accomplishments of heir children. Lucky for us in the USA that there was no fence and no stifling immigration laws preventing the rich contribution of this family to our communities. Yet, there exist thousands of other type Morales with the same work ethic, intelligence, and creativity as shown by this one family. Indeed, there is a Red, White, and Blue Border Thief who’s robbing us of greatness.
*Ronald Spores. “La Mixteca Y Los Mixtecos.” Page 3, Arqueologia Mexicana, Vol. XV Numero 90.
Gerald F. Cox is a resident of Navarro, California, presently living in Guanajuato, Mexico with his wife, Kathleen. He can be reached at KCox@mcn.org.