Eustolia Jimenez de Reyes

Eustolia Jimenez de Reyes was born 1930 in the town of Mascota, Jalisco, Mexico.

Her father was Martin Jimenez (b. 1900 in Mascota, Jalisco) and her mother was Augustina Andrade (b. 1910 born at Rancho Agostadero near Mascota, Jalisco).

Martin was probably a rancher or a farmer. When Martin and Augustina married, they opened a small grocery store. They had three children: Eustolia, Francisca and Enriqueta. The store, however, did not do well, so they moved to Puerto Vallarta, opening a shoe store. There, both Martin and Augustina became very skilled shoemakers. Experiencing success, Martin bought a horse and went from one village to another selling shoes throughout the region. Eustolia recalled that the horses would carry the shoes in large baskets.

However, one day Martin left to deliver shoes and never returned. Instead, Augustina received a letter from him instructing her to sell everything and move back to Mascota. Nobody knows what happened to him thereafter.

Augustina Andrade (Eustolia’s Mother)

Augustina returned to her home town and bought a small house. She had family in Mascota, including about ten siblings. One of Augustina’s aunts gave her a big piglet and thereafter she began to raise pigs. She also bought corn at the right time when it was cheaper and began selling that also. Very soon, Augustina became quite a successful entrepreneur. Intelligent and hard working, she even kept one of the shoe machines from her days in Puerto Vallarta and leased it to businesses in Mascota. Eustolia recalls that her mother’s skills were so well-known that she made both shoes and clothing for her children as well as others in the town.

Eustolia went to elementary school and finished her education in the 7th grade because she needed to start working. By 1947 at the age of sixteen, her mother thought it would be better to move to Tijuana in order to find greater opportunities for herself and her children. Eustolia remembers that her mother had a relative already living in Tijuana as well as relatives in the United States. As soon as they reached Tijuana, within days Augustina started working in a tortilleria. Then, within a few years, she bought her own tortilleria, called La Fortuna. The establishment became so popular, people from both sides of the border came to buy her handmade tortillas for which she had a ‘secret’ recipe. Augustina became so successful that she bought a large house in Tijuana.

Eustolia at Ratner’s Chula Vista

As a young woman Eustolia found a job in a Five & Ten (Tienda Cinco Diez), which was a large department store with perfume, kitchen and bookstore sections. Eustolia worked in the hardware section for three years. This is when she met Ramon Reyes Solis. They married in 1949. However, in 1965 Eustolia separated from her husband and became the head of the household with four children. In order to find better opportunities, she went to live in the United States. For the first six months she lived in Imperial Beach and then moved to San Ysidro.

For about ten years, Eustolia worked at the Coronado Hotel in the laundry department. Then, a friend of her daughter Carmen was working at Ratner’s in Chula Vista located behind Broadway and Arizona Street. The friend got Carmen the job and then suggested Eustolia also work there. About twenty women and men worked in her department. All spoke Spanish and her supervisors also spoke Spanish. The work was very hard, but Eustolia also said the people in the department treated one another like family.

Eustolia recalls that she first worked pressing pants. Then she moved on to the legs because they would pay more. (The owners would pay the employees by the piece.) At one time she pressed up to 400 to 500 pants everyday. She went on to the coats, pressing them by hand with a five pound iron. (The difficult labor caused her to have permanent shoulder problems.)

Ratner’s closed down right around the time Eustolia retired. Although Ratner’s children took over the business, the company gradually faded because the maquila industry shipped the jobs into Mexico. Eustolia recalled that towards the end, the company started bringing in very bad material and it would take them longer to work with it, so they pressed fewer suits. When her mother started falling ill, she retired in order to take care of her.

The Coming of the Freeways

When Eustolia lived in San Ysidro, she recalled living very humbly. They didn’t have much, but San Ysidro was a town where everybody knew everybody. Then in 1969 they started to hear rumors. Their neighbors in the 128 East Seaward apartment told Eustolia the government had created a program specifically for those who would have to move due to the coming of the freeway. The neighbors said she could have an opportunity to buy a house. Eustolia, however, didn’t have a car, so her neighbor took her to the Del Sol neighborhood in Otay Mesa. There Estolia applied along with two other families from Seaward. With a $200 down payment, Eustolia was able to purchase a modest house in Del Sol. In April 1970 she and her children moved in.

Construction for the I-805 started in 1972 and the freeway opened in 1975. Residents recalled that the freeway cut right through the small close-knit community. As a consequence, the “small town” feel was lost once the I-805 opened.

(Interviewed: November 20, 2016)