David Lopez was born 1939 in National City. At six months he and his family moved to 1277 Elm Street, Imperial Beach. David attended Imperial Beach Elementary, Emory Elementary, Southwest Junior High and then Mar Vista High School. He graduated at the age of seventeen and in 1956 went into the Marine Corp where he served for almost 4 years as a communications specialist. When David got out of the military he went into construction and was part of a labor union, Local 89. He worked all throughout San Diego County, building bridges, among other things. After 23 years he retired at the age of 56.
David’s father was Angel Lopez (b. 1900 in Mexico City, Mexico). He came to the United States, crossing in El Paso, Texas at the age of 18 working. Census records show he had nine children, a son born in Texas, another son & daughter born in Arizona and the rest of the children, including David (the youngest) born in California. Angel worked on the railroads in Texas, in the coal mines of Arizona and then likely followed the crops until he settled in National City. Census records show that in 1940 he was a railroad worker in National City.
David’s mother was Rita Cazarez (b. 1896 in Rio Florio, Chihuahua, Mexico). David believes Rita and Angel met in El Paso, Texas and married around 1922. It’s unclear how they met or how Rita made it to the States, but she worked for a time in a restaurant in Texas. Rita’s mother was a Tarahumara Indian from Chihuahua.
Angel Lopez in the South Bay
The family first settled in National City and David was born at home. When he was six months old, the family moved to 14th and Elm street (Imperial Beach) where they lived on a farm. The block where they lived had mostly Mexican-Americans, although Imperial Beach had a predominantly white anglo population.
After working for the railroads, Angel found a job working for the American Processing Company in National City. This was one of the well-known slaughterhouses in the area. David remembers going by horse with his mother and sister to bring Angel lunch. He also remembers riding a horse to school by himself and then their dog would bring the horse back home. David’s parents never spoke English, so David remembers speaking Spanish in the home.
Rita took care of the 9 living children. David also recalls that she had a wonderful singing voice, so Angel took her to a Tijuana radio station where she performed. David remembers his parents walking up the cobblestones to the radio station and how proud the family was of her talent.
Tragically, Rita died of cancer when David was only 12-years-old. One of David’s sisters, Stella, had to step up and take care of the home. Angel quit his job at the slaughterhouse and started a business called “Angel Lopez & Sons: Cesspools and Septic Tanks.” This was during a time when Imperial Beach didn’t have the kind of underground sewer lines that exist today.
David’s other siblings had to work, including a sister who became a riveter at Rohr Aircraft. Some of his sisters worked at a National City company that sold cosmetics to Mexico. Two of his brothers, Raul and Al, went off to war in the 1940s, serving in WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Raising Chickens On The Imperial Beach Farm
In addition to his company, Angel went into the chicken business. He would raise hundreds chickens on his property and then sell them and their eggs to restaurants. Angel would buy chicks and put them in incubators. The whole family participated in cleaning the pans and moving the pans down the incubators as the chicks got older. Angel would then sell boxes of eggs to stores such as Piggly-Wiggly.
Angel was considered very successful to his neighbors as well as very generous. He bought the land by Elm Street and then grew vegetables, tomatoes and corn. The corn was often so big, one ear could feed two or three people. David says many families from Palm City would often come to his house in order to eat food. What’s more, his father never went anywhere without bringing food.
Growing Up Mexican-American in South Bay
David remembers that as a child he didn’t feel any discrimination. However, he did remember waiting with many other kids on Fridays to go into the National City public pool. The Mexican-American and African-American children would be allowed to swim for a little while on Friday afternoons and then the pool would be drained. The children would be handed rags and brushes to clean the pool. Then the pool would be re-filled and the rest of the week only white people would be able to go in. David says eventually his father got sick of it and created his own little pool for the neighborhood children who would all then go to his property.
In addition, David remembers that when he was little his brothers were not allowed to go into a certain bar, the Red Spot, in Palm City because they were Mexican-American.
David & Margarita: Married Over 50 Years
David married Margarita Enceso (Taylor) Lopez (b. 1949 in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico).
Margarita’s mother was Teresa Taylor (b. 1927 in Tempe, Arizona). Margarita’s grandfather was from Canada and her grandmother was a Yaqui Indian from Sonora, Mexico. Margarita’s grandparents married in Sonora, but not much more is known. We do know that Teresa became a midwife in Tijuana.
Margarita’s father was Elias Enceso (b. 1912 in Puerto de San Marcos, Sinaloa Mexico). He married Teresa in 1942. Thereafter, they had 9 living children. (Teresa actually had 19 children, but of the 19 she had five sets of twins and from those 5 pregnancies only 1 child survived.)
Elias came to the United States through the Bracero Program. When Margarita was only 15 days old, the family moved to Tijuana (Colonia del Rio Parte Baja). Margarita remembers that her father would leave for three or four months at a time. She went to school in Mexico until 1964 when she married David at the age of sixteen. She remembers that David’s father would visit Margarita’s aunt and bring boxes of vegetables and fruits, including fresh apples and oranges. Through this connection, David’s brother became close friends with Margarita’s family and this is the way the couple was introduced.
David and Margarita first moved to Logan Heights. Eventually, they moved back to David’s hometown of Imperial Beach where they reside today.
Margarita recalls how much she loved Tijuana. When she grew up, she felt it was a safe place where everyone knew everyone. She says living at the border, she enjoyed the dual culture. In Tijuana, as opposed to the rest of Mexico, she always celebrated Halloween and every year she would bring her family a turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving.
David and Margarita have a total of 23 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They have been married 54 years.
(Interview December 18, 2016.)