Henry and Lupe Alvarado

Enrique (Henry) Angel Alvarado was born 1935 in Chula Vista. His mother gave birth to him in their home, which was located near the Salt Works.

Henry’s Father Was A Farmer by the Salt Works

Henry’s father was Enrique Alvarado (b. 1909 in Michoacán). Henry never met his paternal grandparents. As the story went, when Enrique was 13 years old his father took him to the border and said, “Now you’re on your own. Go.” Enrique then crossed into the United States and got a job working for the railroads throughout the country until he ended up in San Diego.

Once he settled in Chula Vista, Henry’s father worked as a farmer, often helping the Japanese farmers around the area picking vegetables and watermelons. Eventually, he owned about an acre of land himself near the Salt Works, which he planted with tomatoes, chiles, string beans and corn. Enrique also found additional work as a driver of Cruise Ships carrying tourists around the San Diego Bay.

Henry remembers that families of Spanish speaking descent in Chula Vista usually lived around the Salt Works area. He lived with his family on 395 I Street. Dorthy, Anita, and Aida streets is where most of the families of Spanish-speaking descent lived. Henry attended Otay Elementary School, then Chula Vista Junior High and Chula Vista High School, graduating in 1954. He then became a marine from 1955-1959. Among his many assignments, he was stationed at El Toro, Santa Ana.

From there, he worked at Westgate Cannery for eight years and then went into the civil service. He was a wood worker in the Packing and Preservation Department at the Naval Station in 32nd Street. He was a civil servant for about 30 years. He retired in 1990.

Henry’s Mother Was From San Diego, His Grandmother Worked at the Tuna Cannery

Henry’s mother was Lucy Chavez Alvarado. Although the date of her birth is unknown, she was born in San Diego. Henry’s paternal grandmother, Mary Chavez, was born in Baja California close to La Paz. She moved to San Diego and worked for Westgate, the fish cannery, for many years. Lucy’s father died of cancer when he was about 35 years old, so not much is known about him except that he worked on the street cars in San Diego. Together, Lucy and Enrique had three children: David, Arthur and Henry.

Guadalupe Biaz’s Father Came with the Bracero Program

Henry married Guadalupe (Lupe) Biaz in 1957. Lupe was born 1936 in Mexico City, Mexico. Her father, Jose Luis Biaz, had been a shoemaker in Mexico City. However, life was hard there. Lupe’s mother, Esther Diaz Biaz, had 13 kids and there wasn’t enough food to go around. In the 1940’s individuals came to recruit people for the Bracero Program and Lupe’s father decided to join. He went with a group of Braceros to the United States.

As a consequence, Lupe moved with her mother and siblings to Tijuana where she went to high school. She remembers that her father loved his family so the Bracero Program was very difficult for him because it took him away from the family. The work was also very taximg. He never knew how much the farmers were going to pay him. The family wouldn’t hear from him for long periods of time. Her father worked mostly in Santa Ana in Orange County.

“It was hard not having the men in the household. Sometimes we wouldn’t see my dad for the whole season. Sometimes there was no way to send money for us. Things like that you remember. But my dad and mom wanted us to have a good school. All of us went to school. Some of us went to college.”

Lupe went to High School in Tijuana and recalls that the kids who were able to attend American schools considered themselves superior to those who attended Tijuana schools. After working for an extended period of time with the Bracero Program in Santa Ana, Lupe’s father was able to get his papers thanks to the help of the farmer he worked for. Eventually, Jose Luis was able to buy a house in San Diego.

Henry and Lupe Married in 1957

Lupe recalls that Mary Chavez worked at the cannery, but then on weekends she would go to Tijuana and bring items for those in need. At that time, Mary met Lupe’s family and ended up introducing Henry to Lupe.

When Lupe met Henry, she didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Spanish. They met in their teenage years and married when she was 21 years old. Lupe then moved to Chula Vista to be with Henry. They had two boys.

Lupe recalls that her boys loved visiting her parents in Tijuana, so they would take the bus and go over the border frequently. Eventually, her parents came over to the United States and she started going over the border less and less frequently.

(Interview: July 28, 2016)