Lydia Arballo Rodriguez

Claudio Gonzales had 10 surviving children. One of his daughters, Esperanza Gonzales married Jesus Cosio Arballo (also known as J.C.). Together J.C. and Esperanza had four children— Victor, Lydia, Mary Jane and Rena.

Jesus Cosio Arballo was born 1903 in Santiago, Baja California. In 1921 he arrived in Ensenada by boat and then he immigrated to the United States.

J.C. was also a member of the Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus starting in 1925. J.C.’s daughter Lydia has papers that tell the story of how J.C.’s father was murdered when he was only nine years old. Always seeking revenge and searching for the man who had killed his father, J.C. went to Mexicali where he met Antonio Nava and Ramon Ocampo. Nava and Ocampo convinced him to give up his quest for revenge and become a man devoted to Christ.

J.C. and Esperanza Gonzales married in November 1928 when Esperanza was sixteen years old. J.C. began working for an English family, Whipple, on Third Avenue in Chula Vista as a gardener. Although not too far away, Esperanza wanted to live even closer to her family in Otay, so they moved into a little house on Montgomery Street. J.C. then built them a little house on 314 Zenith Street and began to work at the Western Salt Works. The work was heavy and difficult.

In 1934 J.C. came down with double pneumonia. Esperanza needed to find employment and decided to open a grocery store. As Lydia explains, her mother Esperanza had befriended Howard and Violet Banks, owners of the Otay General Store; this was the only grocery store in Otay. She asked them how she also could run a small business and they helped her open a small one-room grocery store of her own. The family then lived in the rooms behind the store. About 1940 Esperanza was able to rent and then buy a corner grocery store at 307 Montgomery Street & Third Avenue in today’s Chula Vista.

Esperanza ran the grocery store until about 1945 when her fourth child was born breech. Both she and daughter Rena were injured due to the birthing process and Esperanza could no longer work. In the meantime, J.C. — who had recovered from pneumonia in 1947 — began working for his father-in-law Claudio Gonzales. J.C. was in charge of irrigation. In addition, J.C. founded the first Mexican-American Boy Scouts in Otay.

Like Claudio, J.C. spoke Spanish to his children. Esperanza spoke Spanish to her husband, but English to her children. When Lydia first started school, she remembers her father saying: “You’re going to start school. You’re going to learn to read, to write and you’re going to learn so many good things. And you’re going to respect your teachers. But you must remember, you’re Americans. Don’t let anyone tell you, you’re not American. You’re American, but you have Mexican heritage. Always be proud of your Mexican heritage because I’m from Mexico.”

Lydia remembers J.C. and Esperanza taking their children to Tijuana often in order to minister to the poor. Esperanza would bring brand new clothing as well as other goods while J.C. would preach.

J.C. was very organized and adept at harvesting celery and understanding farming, so Esperanza encouraged him to begin working his own farm. J.C. leased a farm in Jamul where he planted corn, tomatoes and celery. He then leased property from Will George in Nestor and started growing green beans, tomatoes and celery. He later became the exclusive tomato grower in the South Bay and shipped throughout the United States.

A native of Otay, Lydia first went to Montgomery School. In 1947 she was one of the first students to attend Chula Vista High School, the same year it opened. She graduated in 1950.

Lydia married John Ysais Rodriguez in 1957. He worked for Rohr Aircraft in the hand finishing department where he became a supervisor. In 1979 he dedicated himself to pastoring in Solana Beach at the Apostolic Tabernacle. Lydia had four sons and was a secretary for a time at John J. Montgomery and the new Otay Elementary School when it opened for 15 years. Lydia moved with her husband and became the secretary and teacher for the Sunday school.

(Interview: April 24, 2016)