Chicken Beaks Forever: An Hispanic Migration

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Trafford Publishing - Humor

In the 1960's a depressed economy in the southwestern United States created an accelerated migration to California. Countless families pulled up stakes and looked with hope toward a land where jobs were plentiful and food affordable. Despite the trials and struggles, families found humor in everyday life. Unity became the foundation for strength and survival. This book retraces experiences of a Hispanic family leaving New Mexico and relocating in California.


On Labor Day weekend of 1968 my family traveled toward a dream we believed would be found or made in the land of gold. I had lived my entire life in Northern New Mexico and never traveled more than 150 miles in any direction. My parents had suffered a few financial setbacks and my father and eighteen year-old brother, Louie went to California to find work. Two months later, my father returned for the rest of the family.

My two younger brothers were soon asleep with the hum of the motor and movement of the car. My seventeen year-old sister, Marcella was irritable, but quiet. It had been a tiring day, renting and hitching the tiny U-haul trailer and stuffing our belongings, before driving three hours to the airport to pick up Dad. He had worked in the morning and taken a late flight from San Francisco to Albuquerque.

"How long will we be on the road?" asked Marcella.

"We should be in San Jose by Monday morning," said Dad.

It was a long trip, compounded by the slow speed we were forced to travel. The U-haul had signs painted on all sides that read 45 MPH. Dad violated the limit most of the time, but not by much.

Although there were six of us in the car, we were not crammed. Joseph, being only three, sat in front, between my parents. There were no seat belts to worry about at the time, so he was able to stretch out and sleep.

"Mejór ladeate (You'd better pull over)," said Mom, when she noticed the car weaving.

Dad drove the car off the shoulder of the highway where we'd be safe from traffic.

"Are we going to sleep in the car?" I asked.

"No," said Dad. "Vámos a sacar un colchón (Let's pull out a mattress)."

Dad and I unlocked the trailer and tossed a twin-size mattress on the ground. The night was dark, but warm and comfortable. The only noise was the occasional sound of passing cars. We stretched out, with a thin blanket and a couple of pillows. The rest of the family stayed in the car.

Dad shook me.

"Vámos (Let's go)." I felt a chill as Dad pulled off the blanket. I wanted to sleep longer. The darkness was disappearing.

"Ahorita paramos a comer (We'll stop to eat soon)," said Dad, starting the motor and pulling onto the highway. I envied Johnny and Joseph for their peaceful sleep. Marcella was curled up like a possum.

"Give me room," I said, claiming space with my elbows.

"Why don't you ride in the trailer?" grunted Marcella.

Dad looked at us through the rear-view mirror and I held my tongue. Although I was nearly sixteen years old, I knew better than to make Dad angry.

A few miles inside Arizona, we stopped at a service station. It had clean restrooms and an outside picnic table. We enjoyed Mom's baloney and green chile sandwiches and apples we'd picked from the trees back home. The morning chill gave way to a harsh sun.

"We have to get moving," said Dad. "We'll rest later, when the day gets hot."

We had never owned a vehicle with air conditioning and had never missed it - until now. The mid-afternoon sun beat on the car, threatening to melt the windows.

"It's like an oven in here," said Marcella. She rolled down her window and a gush of hot air assaulted us like a torch.

"Close it!" cackled Johnny. At eight years of age, his shrill voice annoyed everybody.

I had my shirt unbuttoned and wat

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