Gabriela Ventura and Georgina Baeza

Recorded December 13, 2009 Archived December 13, 2009 28:02 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY006052


Gabriela Baeza VEntura (39) talks with sister Georgina Baeza (27) about her academic success.

Subject Log / Time Code

Gabriela is originally from Ciudad Juarez. She tells the story about learning English in school and only feeling comfortable in her mathematics class when she didn’t speak English.
Gabriela tells a story about being forced to wash windows with her mom (who was a maid) and knowing she didn’t want to do that for a living. It was the inspiration for her desire to get educated.
Gabriela is the Executive Editor for Arte Publico Press and she’s also a specialist in U.S./Latino Literature.
Gabriela tells a story about one of her proudest moments as an editor. She talks about having to contact Isabel Allende for a book they were publishing.
Gabriela tells a story about her favorite memory with her brother George.
Gabriela offers advice to her sister Georgina.


  • Gabriela Ventura
  • Georgina Baeza

Recording Location

MobileBooth West

Partnership Type



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00:04 Hi, my name is Georgina Baeza and I'm 27 year old years old today's December 13th 2009. We are in Houston, Texas, and I'm here to interview my good sister Gabby.

00:15 My name is Gabriela y Sal Ventura. I am 39 years old today is December 13th 2009. Where in Houston Texas and I am here with my little sister, Georgina?

00:28 Gabby do you have any favorite stories from your childhood? I have way too many stories. But one of my favorite ones was when we were growing up in what we originally from from widest to be no end when we came over to the United States. Just you know, what learning how to speak English. I remember that one of the maybe it wasn't a really good story, but it was one of the stories that really emphasized like my who I was going to be and what I was going to do and an English and Justina learning learning strategies because when I went when I came too late when we came to the United States and I had to translate a lot for for Mom and Dad I remember that as I was learning English one time when all the kids in the class when we were doing math homework via, that's basically the only the only subject that I was able to participate in in my all English classes. And so when we had

01:28 Give back the answer to the teachers. I said something. I don't remember what the answer was but it wasn't part of the answer was half. And so I replied to the teacher when I gave us at the answer I said something and then I said hi. Oh my God those kids in class were just so rude and this one kid, but ugly as ever. I remember I do. I remember his name. I know I shouldn't say it. But we used to call him Eminem and he was such a little pain-in-the-neck. He started calling me how to fur. I was a hot Affair for like the whole the rest of the year because I said have and so that's one of the stories that I remember from coming into the United States, but I have lots of us a lot of stories from us growing up.

02:13 As a child wouldn't you think you were going to do what are your life is going to be like when you got older? Well, one of the things that I knew I didn't want to do that. One thing that I always told Mom is some you know that Mom used to clean houses for a living and I've always felt like this necessity to or the the need to always help her and I feel like I feel responsible that I wanted to know. I didn't want her to just do all the work by herself. She was getting paid $20 a day and whenever we would go shopping. I always see how much you know, she had to work at stretching those dollars and it was just hard and so when I started going to help her because you know, I just feel bad and I what was I going to do on the weekends just sit back and watch TV while she went to work. So on one of those times that we went to to work to to clean out this lady's house this

03:06 Damn, you know Mexican lady as well, you know just makes again like we were she's so she told her after we finish we finished like two hours. She finished two hours earlier the lady told her well, since you brought your daughter, you guys should go ahead and also clean the windows.

03:22 And I was so angry with Mom. I told her you have I'm one of those kids does Ian lucky and then she was like no, I'm not okay at the hospital then go get that you talk on upper class in you Anime boy. He got in trouble and I was so I was infuriated when we left and I didn't I eat on later on I realized I was the hardest thing I could have said to her. I was I told her I'm never ever going to be a maid. You know, that's the one thing. I'm never going to be in so afterwards I said, you know, that's that's it. You know, I'm going to go to school and I know you just always had so much respect for my teachers that you know, maybe it's something that mom taught us from the Raby any night. I always value the work that teachers do it from any level and so when I started going to school as I figure that if I could, you know, I'll go as far as possible in teaching in the education field. I was going to do it.

04:12 So what are you proud of the most proud products of in your life? Well, I'm proud of I don't know. I do have a lot of things that I'm you know, physically that I'm proud of the day, you know, I'm a 39 year old that is pretty healthy. That is you know them pretty well for herself economically, you know us a Latina.

04:34 Maybe one of the things that really stands out is that you know, we came from we were we were in very poor we were in like, you know people that work that suffered a vino things, you know where you couldn't swear we didn't like food or anything like that, but it but we had some pretty hard conditions, you know, and that's maybe that the one thing the things that I did I feel on the products for that. I'm able to look back at some of these things that we all went through as a family and then and things that I went through, you know when my child who didn't that I was able to overcome on my own. I think you know what that being an alcoholic, you know with us being going from being pretty well-off to not having anything at all in and just, you know, I'm being able to find the value of in education and learning for really early on, you know, the dino learning early on that. I wanted to learn how to read that. I wanted to be empowered by knowledge that I wanted to

05:34 To have the the power of 5 of just learning on my own that to me makes me very proud when he succeeds up when I succeed in doing something by my by myself didn't cuz that's the thing that makes me the most product is on. So what are some of your best memories from school like either from grade school or high school or college or post-credits? One of my best memories is probably when I was getting my masters.

06:08 When I had that long long list of books that I had to read. I mean I had to I don't remember how many books are on that list, maybe a hundred and seventy. I don't remember last night classes and I think that's like one thing that I remember the most that I had, you know that you can when you came to visit and we have those piles of books on top of my desk and I was just going to do one right after the other and it wasn't just that. I was just reading them, you know, because I was in a hurry to finish them, but it was at I was finishing them and I was understanding and I was learning and I was enjoying every single one of them and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next one and that is free. Now. That's one of the best experiences I think cuz you know, we just being in the car loving with that was fun. I think that's also when I started to like literature because I was there with you experiencing all those things and then everybody coming to your office to get your books from you and then you say

07:08 In that class on Donkey Kong thing you were so excited and then you took me to that class and that was just a little while and you got to meet one of the most important Professor son on Don Quixote Avenue. Thought I liked how he was himself you was he had been studying them Quixote for the past 150 years yet. He was and he still found many things on it that we know that if you read it already know if you read it at you know, you think Orwell there's nothing else on this post, but he made it so so valuable for me. I mean, I still keep that notebook, you know, and I passed it on to other to some of my students and two other people because they so that they know exactly what they're eating. Do we have to sign a contract?

07:52 Alright, was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence on your life? Yeah, I think when when we were at when we lived in when we came to a passel, of course mystery with the others. Do you know we torture that poor man? He was he I mean he was just a fantastic person. I don't think I've ever ever told them. You know, I I'm going to have to be after this. I'm going to have to go and tell him or write him a letter or something. He was just fantastic. He was so patient with us as we were learning English and he took on this whole group of students that didn't really want to be with him. They thought you know because he was yelling you they could do all crazy things to him and he answered all that in them and he encouraged us to learn and to be very become a better student.

08:39 And then of course, I'm in my graduate work, you know, of course, dr. Sebi another with yellow. She is one of the best did, you know professors female professors there is and she encourages she encouraged us to do so many things for ourselves into learned so much. I remember when I took her class and feminism. She told us, you know, she looked at as each one, you know it straight in the eyes and she said after this cuz you're never ever going to be the same and there was true and you know in the NFL and then that my last years of study of doctor canelo's, you know, he said his laid the foundation for all the work that I do and without him I think a lot of us that are in the field of view as Latino literature would be nothing. So do you want to tell people that your job is Yah Mo specialist in the US Latino literature in a Spanish Department, which is a difficult thing to get to do at least until

09:39 2009 it's still it's pretty difficult to do there's still a lot of marginalization and criticism. And and what is what is

09:55 I wouldn't miss Mystery Men not mistreatment, but misconceptions and and a lot in there in there still a lot of kid of of of lack of recognition of Latino literature as part of curriculum and and US Labor & Industries General literature in the unit of the United States as well as Latin American literature. So it's you know, it's that bastard child and nobody wants to recognize its the the literature that is written in English and in Spanish or or mixed or or a the characters, you know, there is there are people would likely like just like anybody else who comes to the United States and there's all different areas that are covered different characters that are covered in this type of literature that is just below left out and marginalize because you don't they don't you know the difference

10:49 Mainstream literature don't want to recognize it and so especially in a Spanish Department that's even worse because we have a lot of higher keys and we have a lot of disrespect for anything that is not proper Castilian literature. And so that's that's been a little bit difficult. And so that's what I do. I'm not a specialist in u.s. Latino literature in a Spanish department where I teach I'm not teaching my graduate students in my undergraduate students that you as Latino literature has existed in the US since before the US was was created us as the country. You know, this is what Latinos were riding in the US since before the US was considered a country into a lot of students come out of these classes and they wonder you know, why didn't I read about this? Why didn't I know? Why didn't I know about all this the stuff that was going on? Why did I know about all these literature? I really wish I would have known that and so that's part of what that's one of the things that I do and then I'm also

11:49 The executive editor at Acapulco press

11:56 So, do you have any favorite stories from your work life? There's some from from my experience as a as a professor. There's a lot of always if you do really good good good stories from students at the very rewarding stories about students that didn't really know what was going on, you know and in their learning about this new literature and there is just opening their eyes and and they're on their what is wonderful is a lot of them can can extrapolate some of the stories that were reading in the characters to some of the work that they've already seen it. So that's always very rewarding and then we have in the as an editor. There's a lot of stories about crazy about the co-authors play free sample the time that this is not a crazy author but the time when we were working on a book by Isabella and there was a biography and an autobiography a children's biography that somebody from Calif

12:56 Hydrating the body shop. So we decided to do the to publish it and and I figured you know will Isabella and they still alive I might as well contact her and see if she if if I can maybe even get her to look at the at the manuscript and see if she approves of it if she has any changes. Well, you know, I was able to contact her we have published another author who had also worked on her on her on some of her her essays on her work but she had written essays on her work and so she put me in contact with you with these have a life and this was once like during in the first time during the first few years that I was an editor. I one of these the one of us all of a sudden I get this cough and in any I had sent her the manuscript I get this call at my office and then and then I said hello and then she says I got a deal and I said, yes, she says this is he saw me and I said no.

13:56 Call you you're kidding, right and she said no this is he was already getting upset with you. So I couldn't I froze. I just didn't know what to say is I was like, you know, my my fingers shaky and I have what I have all my notes from that time. I still having to because I was so nervous, you know talking to her. She was very nice very very nice and just recently work. We're going to publish a book by and Rockefeller a book on the art of Arts of Mexico that her father collected in the book was previously published by we're going to reissue the book in English and in Spanish of this is the first time that it's going to be done in Spanish, which was her Rockefellers dream. So when I got to speak to her last a couple of weeks ago, I was just as nervous to do is lose a very nice lady. She was just need to know she ain't that we started talking about about the Arts and in about her father and in the end we were just now I was very exciting to do not get wet.

14:56 I was nervous but I wasn't as nervous as when I talk to you. So but it's hard to tell these people about mistakes that they've made or repetitive repetitions that they made underwear when and Rockefeller. First, She said well, I want to talk talk about all the Christians to do you have for my forward I was very nervous.

15:20 What are the most important lessons you've learned in life?

15:28 Maybe not to take things too. Seriously, you know when to just to let go of some things you do not let you know just to figure out figure out figure out a way to make yourself healthy and not keep things to do in on your head and let you and let them bother you if you know something doesn't go this and go their way you wanted to go because I'm me know very much of a control freak. If it doesn't go the way I wanted to go, you know, I should be and you know things are going to be fine. And and I think you know what this whole thing that you're working with the in the US Latino field. I find it is it's coming around, you know, and so and I I feel that there's a lot of struggle that's been going on by many of us many of us have always been saying you no respect Latinos for who they are. Let us value our language, you know when we were little and we we

16:22 We were learning English. We were always very concerned about not losing our Spanish in about keeping her Spanish into acted about, you know, being proud of who we were even the people around us in the communities around this really really try to repress that we always see no kept it even though it might have been hidden we still kept it and I think that's what's going to come. You know, that's what's going to happen. If you just not let not worry so much about and not worry about fighting for Annie every single man and not being very reactive. You don't do whenever somebody doesn't like you or doesn't like something about about what you're saying you just you know, if they'll come around, you know, they'll see the the point of it.

17:08 How has your life been different than what you imagined? It's been very different because I mean I imagine that I was going to become a professional anyways, because I was going to fight for it. We got it. We are regardless even if it took me twenty thousand forty thousand, you know dollars of loans, even though I didn't think it was it's just different in that things don't always work out the way you imagined that they're going to work out, you know, you feel that you're going to do this and do things by a certain age and they don't happen. And so when they do happen, you know, you would you just have to be patient, you know, so that they happen when they're supposed to happen, but I think I've I've pretty much the chat achieved what I what I said I was going to do professionally. So at one point I said to Pisa what is next. What do I have to do now? So I have to go back now and then start all over and instead out, you know a new set of gold.

18:07 Because then I don't want to just sit back and relax and say okay I did but I didn't go back. So I'm learning that I have to keep myself depression keep on you know, not not just sit back and and continue continue working. So what does your future hold for you? I think I have to definitely do a lot more research. I have to go back and I didn't and ecology about you as Latino literature where I discovered that they were the mecca of us Latino. Authors was in El Paso. So I need to go back and then start looking at that a little bit more and really

18:50 Maybe start I believe I've already valued, you know the who and what he'll pass aways from for me and in my life and I think I need to go back in and maybe start thinking a little more about it as part of a research project. So that's something that sits in this, you know in the future and then who knows, you know, I hopefully eventually one of these days become a full Professor. I would be nice and helpful and hopefully see you graduate from graduate school with a creative writing degree.

19:23 Who has been the biggest influence on your life lessons? Have they taught you?

19:30 Probably the biggest influence has been

19:34 My little sister and when when when you were born, it was like this whole wonderful thing open than in our lives than in all of our lives and in our family and me know we were going through a lot of hard times and and I think it was like a way to to solidify, you know, all of our goals are not that time we move to the United States, you know, you were just a year old and and I remember just thinking, you know, we have to you know, she's going to she's she's going to she's not going to have all of these experiences these wonderful experiences that I had growing up in in what is because we had so much fun. You know, my parents are parents were totally different than when then from what you experience when when you were when you were my when you were ten by the time you return, you know, where parents were a complete dysfunctional family died when I was ten, you know, we had a blast and so I knew all of these things were going to be we're going to be changing and

20:34 When when we move to El Paso, you know just having to take care of you being so, you know, the probably like the the people that were always around you having to take care of you having to teach you all these new things it just you know, it just became like a like a like like the other reason, you know to tube to do better. And so that's a that's a very strong something that I value as a as a very strong influence because it influences or not necessarily people that or they don't they're not necessarily pass that are laid out so that you follow their there they're laid out there so that you may inspire you to do better things and I think that it made me become like more responsible person, you know a better person I think and and then when I saw you you don't become now that you are, you know, now that you're a teacher, you know that now that you're a successful teacher and also a successful writer. I think that can only in

21:34 Fire me to do better because of you a successful successful writer than I have to become a successful going on. That's right. I am sorry. You are there any words of wisdom that you would like to pass on either to me or to your daughter or to those students who are in your class and don't really ever listen, but would maybe hear this one day to just you know to always keep on keep keep on reading to always be curious to never never let it let that Curiosity die down think of we the minute that we become that we become these these people that are not curious about what's going on about we don't care. We don't care to watch the news. We don't care to know what's going on outside of a world outside of our immediate world. If we if we lose that then we become just machines.

22:34 That are going to know to the regular make any sense of life. And I think that's if you're curious you're going to want to do many more things. You're going to want to read you're going to want to explore other worlds. You can explore other things. Even if you love to watch TV, the one day switch switch a channel, you know, if you're used to watching I don't know what every day you every Sunday you watch Desperate Housewives, you know, when Desperate Housewives is not is not their watch something else, you know, watch another show that you would have never watched and then you're going to start exploring other worlds that are that are Beyond near you have to start with little little little steps and but of course, you know, the the most important thing is is to just be curious and and hopefully that'll lead you to reading I don't know how

23:22 It should.

23:25 Let's see.

23:28 So do you deserve any other stories you want to share it? Maybe about George or yes, or will this was as Wily the one of the best stories I have in my did I ever did ever and I think it's I didn't want to necessarily sure because I think it makes me out to be a lot of you'll really see my my inner workings. But when we were growing up my get my youngest brother and I were very very close you were so we were so close. We're only a year-and-a-half apart and he is very sweet and loving he's have a wonderful wonderful. Wonderful boy. He was a CEO of a very much of a Mama's Boy in Luv does dearly and so he he and I would do a lot of things together this one day my parents had left us alone, and they had gone shopping grocery shopping in my brother and I we've had to do chores. I don't remember but I'm washing the dishes and all of a sudden my brother comes and he's like heavy you can buy food. That's how you know, I don't know.

24:27 What's going on with me? And then I looked at it at the back of his foot at the at the gym already had her and I remember that we have been bike riding with somebody had let us borrow a bike in and you know, it was one of those old bikes that the chain would fall apart into the pedals would hit you so I know that he got hit on the back and it scraped them. And so I had I looked at him and I said what's going on and then he said yeah, I know. I don't know what's going on and he had like a bunch of little dots and I said,

24:59 I think maybe you have gangrene.

25:03 Oh my God, my poor brother paraphrases by saying that in in in El Paso. And in Seattle part is they have they used to have a show called. I don't got no look at what I wear people in what is would go to him in and ask him for you know for anything that they needed for food, you know, somebody was missing and your family it was it was like a public service work community community type of thing that where people would go and ask him for it for helping in the community would come in and and and you don't get donate money or a wheelchair or whatever so they all went needless to say they always had at the case where somebody had gangrene in their foot are falling off and they would even show it and you know, the camera would focus on it. So here's my brother. I tell him that I think he has gangrene he starts crying. He must have been late like 13 or 14. He cried and cried and cried. He could I I mean I couldn't make him stop crying and then I told him, you know, I'm sorry. I'm just kidding.

26:03 This up. I was just lying. I don't think it's gangrene. Remember it yourself with a pedal, you know, it's probably just us guys and then he would just cried and cried. He couldn't stop crying. So my parents get home by he still crying. This is like 30 minutes later. He said I'm just going to die and I'm going to die. Nothing maiden maiden. Stop crying. I even told him, you know, I told him that that I was sorry, you know that I had lied to him that it is that it wasn't true and then he would say he told his reply was it's just that you love me so much and you don't want me to die. And you say you're lying to me and let you know I'm going to die and he just anyway my parents came home and I got in so much trouble. I went outside as soon as they came in as soon as they drove up and you know, I started helping them with a grocery so that they wish they wouldn't get suspicious in my mom said you don't call you or call your brother to come and help and then I tried right there. I told her I don't know what's wrong.

27:02 So when he went they went in and found out what I had told him. They just couldn't believe it. And you know, I'm finally I think my dad convinced him that he didn't have got gangrene by telling him to go outside in hell.

27:14 Yes, I got in a lot of trouble he still remembers and he he hates me for it, but that was our life.

27:24 Well, I just wanted to thank you for coming here with me and I really wanted to interview you because you're the person that I think has helped guide me so much in life. And I'm glad I got to do this with you because I don't think I would have done it with anybody else. You still have a lot of you know, a lot of it if you provide me with a lot of inspiration in and focus in my life, and I am very grateful that you're my little sister. I'm grateful. You're my big sister.