Viola Garcia Garza, Maria Solone Peck, Diana “Didi” Garza, and Alma Coplen

Recorded November 26, 2005 Archived November 26, 2005 00:00 minutes
Audio not available

Interview ID: wtc000266


Three sisters interviewed by daughter/niece about growing up on a cattle ranch in south Texas as a Mexican-American family. Stories about their university educations, traditions, pranks, and life on the ranch.

Subject Log / Time Code

Father insisted that daughters were educated. They must have a degree before marriage
Grandmother hunted while she was pregnant and was bitten by a ratttlesnake. The subsequent son was immune to snake bites.
Pranks that each sister pulled: hiding a prized cottonball, flipping over the napping cooke, putting eggs in to-be-borrowed riding boots
Sisters call their husbands “parches” (patches)
Father took pictures of all the bulls (not his daughters) because they were his “bread and butter, and yours too!”
Sister wanted to be a girl scout but was not allowed at first because she was Mexican
Father went to Brazil to get herd of Sobu cattle, the first in Texas.
Collecting sap and beans from the mesquite tree
Becoming coffee drinkers at a young age because they had to drink coffee to be polite when visiting ranches
Father punishment for fighting: kneel and pray next to each other


  • Viola Garcia Garza
  • Maria Solone Peck
  • Diana “Didi” Garza
  • Alma Coplen

Recording Location

World Trade Center StoryBooth


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00:01 Hello, my name is Didi Garza. My name real name is Diana Garza. I'm 53 years old today is November 26th. 2005. Where is the World Trade Center storyboard booth and I'm here to interview my mother and her two sisters.

00:24 Next

00:26 Maria pick Maria Salome Peck and 82 years old or will be today.

00:39 November 26th

00:44 With my niece and my sister's I'm Viola Garcia and 78 and today's November 26th 2005 and we are at the World Trade Center and I'm here with my daughter and my two sisters.

01:04 I'm Alma Lidia Copeland. I'm 74 years old. Today is November 26th, and we're at the World Trade Center. I'm here with my sister's Malia and Theo and with my niece DD.

01:21 And I thought we would start by talking a little bit about the history of your the rich history of your family and then we'll talk a little bit more about family life in South Texas growing up there. So why don't you start and I'm Viola and it's my understanding that our ancestors were here in the US and Texas in the 1400. There were three brothers that came from Spain and they were surveyed and the king of Spain gave them all this land grants as payment for their surveillance skills. So they settled in South Texas and one of the earliest places or little towns was come out of them and that's where their life started.

02:19 Oh, and we still have some of the land it has been passed from one generation to another and as my father said I did not come to Texas Texas came to me.

02:36 And speaking of our father. I think the three words that that really give an indication of our background are the fact that the three words that were most important to him or love loyalty and commitment loyalty being very important. But the main thing and education he in fact he was not able to finish his education and therefore was committed that his daughters that his family would all have degrees that that was difficult for for girls during those times wasn't it his all of his competitive criticized him for sending my oldest sister to Austin Texas to go to college. They thought that they were sending that he was sending her to a Sin City. But in fact you were all very successful tell us about a little bit about that.

03:36 How he made you go to school. Well, we all went to the University of Texas. My oldest daughter Alicia got a degree in Pharmacy sister my sister my sister Alicia and got a degree in Pharmacy. My next sister Maria. She got a degree in bacteriology. I got a degree it it I was a business major until I got a BBA degree and then I'm a God and education degree and then my brother went to A&M Graciela my other sister also got an education degree. So all of us got degrees and he would always say I want my five daughters to get their degrees because I feel that no man is good enough for them and that way if they don't treat you right sweeties you can work and make your way, but you'll never have to live under

04:36 A man, that doesn't treat you, right? Well, but one thing that he did say was you cannot get married. I would not allow you to get married until you have a degree in your hand and when he came to our houses first thing he did to see if they were treating us right was to open the refrigerator if it was okay. That's at why don't you tell us a little bit about growing up in South Texas and then the diversity there some of your experiences we lived on a ranch and there was no teachers there. And until my dad did finally bring the teacher in in a little school house and and but it was all Spanish and so my other sister's can tell you about how they started their education in Mexico. I would I was going to go ahead to go to multi-play where my grandmother was because she

05:36 He wanted us to know about our heritage and just speaks good Spanish.

05:43 And this is why we even from kindergarten I was sent there with my grandmother and my other and my sister and two of my sisters and my brother the first languages were first language in Spanish. And I mean, I didn't want to go I wanted to be with my parents but they kept telling me no you have to go and learn how to read and speak in Spanish and then we'll bring you back. So we stayed there for quite a while but then the government and the church were in strive the Mexican Government actually the church got very very strong. And so the government didn't like that. So then they made him close the Catholic schools and we had to go underground and we would stay the nuns wore a long dresses.

06:43 Author habits and we would meet in basement but then the fitted I live with come and raid and so he got very very dangerous. So finally my daddy said no will bring you back and that's when he brought us back to the ranch and he got a tutor for us and we were in this little wooden school house that he had built and that's where we first learned English.

07:09 Terrifics know what kinds of relationships did you have with other family members cousins and and and other relatives because you had we were from a large extended family. I think we haven't mentioned the fact that our father was the oldest of 13 children and they all survive to adulthood which in those days was very unusual. I appreciate it to my grandmother skills. I think she was like a medicine woman because she was you know, they were out on a ranch and yet she had 13 children and they all grew up to adulthood in in those days. That was very very unusual. And of course, I remember just liking any family we had good times and we had our little disagreement. We didn't always get along but for the most part is as we were loyal to each other because they were family.

08:04 I'm just going to say that my father and my husband said I married the Republic of Mexico because we got so many relatives. It was a large large extended family events and weddings and baptisms with collar my Medallia and she was quite a Woman They said she would hunt I knew her in later life. But when she was young with 13 kids, they say she would get it done and go out and hunt for rabbits and and shoot and one day she and one of her little boys were out in the woods hunting and and she was pregnant. She was always pregnant as you can well see the 13 children so she was out hunting and this rattlesnake bitter.

08:58 And so she took out a little knife and then and doctors herself so that all the Venom was out or thought it was and and she told her little boy don't you dare? Tell your dad that is snake a rattlesnake bit me. Well lo and behold, you know, where the long skirt her husband never found out the baby that was born with was what who we called deal at least him Uncle Ali him and he became a big rancher in later years and he was bitten by rattlesnakes about five times. And do you know he never got sick from and he never had to do anything. He was immune to the rattle snake bite terrific. Now, what are some of your earliest memories of living living on the on the ranch?

09:58 Is that really it was wonderful because we had such respect for the people that work for us and we rode horses and we had parties and we celebrated Easter big time and Christmas and and it was fun my dad and mom always thought it there were presents for all the the workers at the ranch and there were wonderful times very innocent Carefree days in a way, you know.

10:26 We didn't have TV. We didn't have radio so we would play outside all the time and it was wonderful, but I'll never forgive. My mother would say now when you walk from the kitchen to the front yard on this little path in particular around noon when the sun was found and it was pretty be very careful not to step on a rattlesnake and sure enough ever so often there would be rattlesnakes and also coral snakes.

10:55 What about other types of entertainment with your cousins and things what kinds of activities I know you are sort of pranksters to say the least you want to tell any prankster stories and we would dance the conga at you knowing and we would dance together and we did you know, we have a music and it when we didn't have music we would sing but my father did go and get a big victrola is that she just adored and this is when she was still pregnant with us some some some of us are like that but we never got any spankings or anything like that except one time. I had one spanking in that was because they had my father had had a cotton.

11:55 Field had a great big cotton ball, and he wanted to show it to everybody and I took it and I hit it.

12:05 I couldn't find it. And so he came where's my talking about? Well, that's the only time I had a spanking. My favorite part was when my very good friend that I learn to speak English Mary Kay and I were at the ranch. We had a cook and his name is Joe and after he work very very hard. He would take a nap on his long long bench and she get on one end and I'd get on the other one would flip ear over a relative kind of a far relative in his name was enriquito and he was an only child and very spoiled and his mother just treated in Royal Well, my parents invited them to come to our range and sew intricate the always wanted my horse alphabetical and enriquito. They had just bought him this beautiful ride.

13:05 Outfit with this riding tall boots and so every day my dad would say no girls. You have to let him choose his the horse. Will he would choose my horse? I think it was doing it on purpose. But anyway, so I said to my sister Graciela I said we got to take care of this fella and so I went that night when he took off his boots wheat put eggs around his raw eggs in his boots and the next morning he put his boots on. You know, he thought he was real big and good-looking hoochie. We really wasn't sure enough. He just crack those eggs and he was Furious and he started screaming and we said don't you dare tell our dad because of you do will do a worstest trick on you.

13:56 Yes, I can I can just imagine that picture actually owe me any other Traditions family traditions. You want to share with us things that have been passed down or I know it's kind of cute we didn't talk about this earlier. But you call your your husband's patches. You want me to punch as well. It's something that's at it on or up. Like when you meant when you mend something you put a patch on it and in Spanish that Nate is Apache and I don't know who started that tradition of calling all the people that came into the family spot itches and it became got bigger and bigger and bigger but we did have the cousins all get got together and then they decided that they would have the patches on one on one side of the room.

14:56 And the other legitimate friends on the other side. It was just real real funny how they would do that. And this came up. This was every every year or every other year and part of the time. I was in Missouri, so I missed out on it. So when I moved back to Missouri that stopped because a lot of them have it so we haven't had any more but we had people that played guitars and we decide a wonderful wonderful time and when my brother passed away, he said I want to make sure that one of the girls plays the guitar for me when I die and she did in the ads were very Furious that we were we were singing and dancing but this is what he wanted that we must explain that we had a lot of our relatives half of the 30.

15:56 Children stayed in Mexico and my dad since he was the eldest had to stay in Texas because he had to see after the lands cuz we didn't want anything to happen. So he was the Rancher and so he had to provide for education for some of his brothers to love them became doctors dentist. And then he sent the girls to Incarnate Word in Corpus Christi, which in those days it was very hard to do but he did as being the eldest. So now when we do have the reunions and we had one about a year ago my gosh. I don't know how many of us there were about four hundred and some we call him are Mexican customs and they called us a Texas cousin. So we do get together every so often.

16:51 Oh, I know one of the things that we used to fuss to talk to Dad about was that he had all these wonderful pictures of all the the cap of the bulls and when we approached him on it and said dad, you know, this really isn't right. You have all the pictures of the both of what about your daughters and so his reply his quick reply was well, that's my bread and butter and your bread-and-butter now is as you were growing up women at young girls and in South Texas, what were some of the things they taught you

17:26 Of course, we had a very strict family and we'd served at the table by Ages which I don't think is done anymore and being the youngest of six. Guess what I got the chicken wing and to this day. I love chicken. So the oldest got the biggest piece, right?

17:49 To school in McAllen, Texas at the time there were not a lot of Mexican American families living close to us. We were kind of in an Anglo environment. However, it was a very very difficult time in those days. There was a lot of discrimination against mexican-americans High ever because my dad was so well-known and they had you know, they respected him very much. He was quite a fellow and we did run into several incidents of discrimination one being my sister wanted to be a Girl Scout and there was a little group of Girl Scouts in our neighborhood. And of course, they were all Anglo and when my mother went to get her in the Girl Scout Troop the woman

18:49 What's a very was it immigrant her to meet her parents were immigrants? But she said she was sorry but they just couldn't have a little Mexican girl in the Girl Scout Troop. Well next thing we know I don't know how my dad did it but he wouldn't talk to to the Girl Scout leader and Graciela God in the Girl Scout Troop. So I felt that he opened a lot of doors for us and showed us that in life. You have to do this sometimes and then another time my brother had a friend from dream of some Mexico that they had invited to her house. And so he invited him to go swimming at the Cascade swimming pool in McAllen will at that time. They didn't allow Mexicans but somehow or other they would allow us but when he brought this other little friend who was kind of dark in skin color they refuse then they told them they could not go swimming. Will they went home and told my dad and I tell you

19:49 Flight from then on there were a lot of little mexican-americans going into that swimming pool.

19:57 That's any other accounts. They know of one other thing was this business of a kills my father wanted good diction. And so Chic he had a specialty teacher to the new readings and stuff like that. But she also taught dancing. I learned this other as children and so we're going to do the makeup for dance and at the casa Palmas, but because I was Mexican I was not going to be one of the ones that that jazz and Dust on the Bottle. So just at the last minute one of the girls broke her arm, and she couldn't dance will I knew all the steps and everything like that could guess go dance band after all because we had such a loving family and lots of cousins we did see

20:57 Leading away the Discrimination but we were kind of above it. I always felt better than anyone else because I could speak two languages. I could speak Spanish and I could speak English and they couldn't and so through life. He didn't affect me as it must have affected some other families that didn't have the family that we had.

21:22 So family expectations, we've talked about that before you want to come in tomorrow. I mean, you know, even my own children, it was just a given they knew that they didn't want to disappoint find cat in my husband with the you know, nobody wants to be the first one to do something that he would be ashamed of and I think with the grandkids they couldn't say bye-bye get on there which means grandfather and so the first grandchild being Sonia shortened it to find key and it was so interesting that even in later life everybody that loved him and respected him still called him find the key and fortunately, you know, my dad would say, I hope that I never see one of my children or grandchildren have a drug addiction and he died and he was so happy. He always said I want to die knowing that all my children and

22:22 Children are good.

22:26 Let's see tell us a little bit about the religious and spiritual beliefs. We know being Catholic we lived across from the Catholic church. So, of course we got to go to church practically every day and they wanted me to tell about the confession years old and I have to go to confession. I had no no no sense of course, but he decided my niece so she took me across and so when I went to the priest instead of a boost if you wanted to do Compass me face-to-face and I took a look at him and I started running him a ride back home.

23:22 And didn't confess what religion was very important church because you know, it was expecting when we did catechism and we did first the first communion and confirmation. I mean it was an endless and religion. My dad did tell me that you know, I have to marry within my religion and fortunately I did.

23:55 But now my children each one has chosen their own religion, but they're all Episcopalian or Catholics Christians who I think that so much you know that you don't realize when you're growing up that is just kind of permeates the whole atmosphere of the family and I think it is important for our young families to realize that you know, you have to live the life. You want your children to live the only thing that he's stressed very much for us was education because no matter what you do is that this is something that I can leave you everything that I own and everything like that. But but education is something nobody can take away from you and this is why he made all of us go to the university before getting married. I think that's I've carried that on with my kids, too and they know that

24:55 Patience the most important thing in life are unhappy with a pretty proud grandpa couldn't afford it a go to college.

25:13 Now I was thinking maybe you should tell the story about him bringing the Bulls from South America into Texas. Can you tell that story do you remember the year?

25:26 There were key since he was a Cattleman. They had told him that they were these beautiful Cebu Catalin in Brazil and that it would be very good to cross breed with the framer. Because of what they were more resistant to disease and whatever so my dad went and and to this place in Brazil and bought this Bulls so then they brought the Bulls I think 13 pools to Mexico. Well the Mexican Government quarantine them for a long time and at that time it was very difficult for my dad because he was having to pay lots of money to for somebody to take care of them and to feed them and finally they they brought them down to the border of the Mexico and Texas Tofino. So well all the cattle Association found out about it, and they said no way.

26:26 We don't want those Bulls to come because they have hoof and mouth disease. Well, they were tested and tested and tested and through many hardships. They finally got permission from the US government in the Texas government to bring the Bulls over when they brought the Bulls cross the bridge Cowboys had to bring them in the actually crossed the bridge into Texas and then they were put at our Ranch and do you know that those Bulls were like a monopoly because me and they were used for breeding and through my father's first 13th of the Cebu cattle in Texas group, and it's recorded.

27:26 Mainly because of the drought resistant qualities and they were very resistant to diseases from ticks. If there was a book written about the the 5 Kings of the Cattle Baron septic got Coke Kings of Texas said he was one of them you have also told me you got to go on cattle drive sometimes so sure that sure that was so we have ranches in Texas and we had ranches in Mexico and they would have a cattle drive to bring from from the ranch all the way to Reynosa and then I guess they would ship them elsewhere it to Market and so my dad since we all had horses my dad would let us the first day start.

28:26 Get out and so we would ride with all the there the Cowboys Cowboys and it was so much fun because there were thousands of cattle and they would all make this funny noise the cattle make and lots of dust and so it was very exciting, but then we had to turn back and then they would go on for days and days and days.

28:53 Good. Well. Are there any other stories you want to share? I think one of the things that you mention was about what you can tell that one to okay, a lot of people don't know how lucky we are in Texas to have the Mesquite tree because a Mesquite tree gives us lots of things and it it gives a shade but his kids it gave us some other Delicacies that we thought you had to get above you had to climb a little bit because the cattle would scratch themselves on the bottom part of the bark but the Mesquite tree secretes its it's a liquid assassin. It secretes a sap and it's kind of sticky and kind of like a caramel and we would go around with a little can and get this app that some of it had hardened and then we would trade you know, it was a good deal because you two had a piece that I wanted and so

29:53 There was a lot of trading going back in the Mesquite Bean when it's right you chew on it and it's very good sweet. Is it sweet? We also love the big fire in the booth ideas were from a big Cactus but the cactus crew on the ground and then these were almost like strawberries and we would all we would fight over in anybody that would fine appetite because we would run and whoever could grab the most because cuz they were like strawberries. They were delicious.

30:29 Well, we had one up.

30:31 A ship a sheepherder that always would go and and and get some of the favorite battaglia's for us too. And so we had to do that but also he had a little Hut in which he made this bread that he wanted to share with us and we were sort of afraid to eat something. My father said you have three that you're not going to insult him by not eating any of these things, but you would also get all this Battalion 1st. And and and so it was it was a good deal additional was you know, he would always take one of us with him on the grounds that he would make and we became coffee drinkers very early in life because the minute you came into a little hard or just you know, they didn't have very much but they offered you a cup of coffee and they were very insulted if you didn't take it so, you know from early age we learn to drink whether you like it or not.

31:31 I don't know where the story will be mentioned. Something bad is girls you learn to so you owe me and my mother decided that if we get a new dress or something, she would make it for us, but we either had to either to start bye-bye.

31:53 What makes up a sewing either the buttons or or what? We learn how to sew and we also just beautifully I used to make stuffy even for my husband later coats and stuff like that. One of the things that I remember my brother used to because we could not go on dates and stuff like that. Like he always would take us but he would say well if you do if your shampoo my hair I might do that if you do my toenails and it's a one day and then shorts and so was gone and stuffing it was the other one of them. I found a daisy button.

32:53 We were all dressed ready to go to the day. I don't think I feel like I'm going and my father were talking about family life very very strict, but he never did spank cuz I mean except on extreme extreme cases, but his punishment for us. We had to kneel right next to each other if we had been fighting and we would just have to kneel there for a long time and pray about it and think you know what we had done wrong. That's how he punished self-reflection this soon will I think we're coming to a close. So there's the last opportunity if you want to share anything but something that you're most proud of or with your family or me, so many things are in your hair.

33:53 Good art education education where my mother always made us do housework, even though we had a maid in a cook but used to do you have to know to learn how to do this when you throw me when you get up when you grow?

34:13 And have your own home, you won't know how to do this thing. That's a bad mother you teaching them you're paying them to the Dustin to clean. Yes, but you have to learn how to do it in on Saturday. So we had to do all our drawers every Saturday. I appreciate everything that you did for us because she did but she also played with us a lot to I mean if later when she would go to the Missouri at end haven't seen snow. She would do snow angel songs by no means that the chi just adored. I'm going to follow my heart and so what

35:07 Yeah, that's enough. I think so, but now it's been wonderful interviewing you it's my honor to do that. So did a good job ladies and we've had a ball.