Pauline Gonzales Castillo was born in 1931 and Rosalie Gonzales Alvarado was born in 1934. They both are sisters who went home to live at 1492 Wilson Street in National City. Together, their parents had eleven children: Timotea, Leopoldo, Isaac, Jesus, Maria, Pauline, Victoria, Rosalie, Ramona, Henry and Manuel. Eventually, all of Pauline & Rosalie’s brothers would serve in the military.
The Mexican Revolution
Their mother was Sophia Mondujano (b. 1900 in San Cristóbal, Chiapas). Sophia had about 4 siblings and was raised by a single mother. Her father was a Spaniard who left back to Spain. Sophia’s mother was an indigenous Mayan Indian; her name was Victoria Mondujano and she was born and raised in San Cristóbal where she owned a large property.
Their father was Francisco Gonzales (b. 1890 in Veracruz) and he was raised by his grandmother. As the family story goes, Francisco’s mother had married a Spaniard. After they had two children, Francisco’s father wanted to return to Spain. Devastated at the prospect of her daughter moving so far away, Francisco’s grandmother deliberately hid him from his mother so that she would not leave Mexico. Francisco’s parents, however, did leave to Spain — and they left Francisco behind.
Not much more is known about Francisco’s life until he was drafted into the federal forces to fight against Pancho Villa. Francisco had to go with the troops all over Mexico and eventually he wound up in Baja California and Ensenada. He wanted to leave the service, but when his time was up, they wouldn’t allow him to be discharged.
By that time, Sophia Mondujano had left her home — perhaps at the age of fourteen — and already had a husband. With him, she became a “camp follower,” cooking for the soldiers, loading the guns and taking care of her small child, Timotea. Her husband, however, was abusive and she left him.
After a time, Sophia met Francisco while they were both in Ensenada. Both wanted to escape the ravages of war and in 1920, Francisco went AWOL. They were being helped by other families to get to the border and eventually they successfully crossed through the Tijuana River.
Sophia and Francisco never became naturalized American citizens, however, they learned English well, especially since their children were sharply scolded for speaking Spanish at school and therefore never actually learned to speak Spanish properly. The family spoke mostly English in the home.
Life in Old Town National City
Francisco and Sophia first settled in Logan Heights. Then they came to National City. Although they didn’t own their property in National City, the land behind the house was quite large, so Sophia and Francisco cultivated a large garden.Pauline remembers that the family always ate what they planted. They also raised goats and chickens.
Sophia found a job working for the tuna canneries. Francisco worked picking fruit in the lemon groves of Chula Vista, and during WWII he worked in the Navy shipyards.
Pauline and Rosalie recalled that the Old Town National City (OTNC) community was small. Everyone knew everyone and they remembered a happy life. In many ways today, they lament the loss of the community cohesion that once existed in OTNC.
Rosalie and Pauline went to Kimball Elementary. They recalled that this was where all the Mexican American kids went to school (after it was built in 1942) and the white anglo kids went to Highland Elementary. Thereafter, Rosalie and Pauline went to National City Junior High and Sweetwater Union High School. Pauline graduated in 1950. Rosalie got married at sixteen, dropped out of high school, but then went back to receive her degree later.
Mexican American Women and Education
Pauline recalled that at Sweetwater Union High School the staff directed the majority of girls from Spanish speaking descent into home economics. Meanwhile, staff directed all the white girls into business and typing classes. Although it never occurred to her at the time, it only hit Pauline afterwards that she didn’t have a choice of whether she could be trained in secretarial work. Pauline worked at a laundry to put herself through high school, then worked at a print shop and in some clothing stores in downtown San Diego.
Rosalie said that girls weren’t pushed into going to school. They were pushed into learning how to cook, how to be a good wife and find a good husband. After Rosalie got married, she worked for the schools for 54 years. She worked 24 years at Central Elementary School and then she ran for the National City School Board and became a trustee for another 24 years.
(Interview: November 25, 2016.)