What’s Your POV About ‘Calavera Highway’?

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The seven sons of Rosa Peña, a migrant worker and single mother, were raised in the Texas border towns of Hidalgo County, the poorest county in the United States. She worked hard, had two husbands — she chased off the second one with a knife when he beat one of the boys — and instilled in her sons a strong sense of family and ethnic pride. With Rosa’s death her grown sons were left adrift. As recounted in Calavera Highway by filmmakers Renee Tajima-Peña and Evangeline Griego, Rosa’s funeral and cremation brought the boys together — and tore them apart again.

Brothers Armando and Carlos go on a road trip to reunite their siblings, and return their mother’s ashes to South Texas. Their journey takes them across the American west and central past, and they probe not only Rosa’s life, but their own struggles to find identities as men and as fathers.

Armando, the family bookwork (and filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña’s husband), is anxious to find out what happened to Pedro Peña, Rosa’s first husband, who disappeared decades ago. Was Pedro swept up in the notorious 1954 government deportation program, “Operation Wetback”? And what happens when Armando gets confronted with the possibility that Pedro wasn’t his birth father?

Carlos, the funny and volatile brother, hides the pain of a childhood bereft of a father behind a jovial manner. A migrant counselor who still lives in the Rio Grande Valley where the boys grew up, he thinks it is best to leave some memories alone

Filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña says, “We called the film Calavera Highway (Skeleton Highway) because of the ever-present sense of ruins and ghosts, and public and private histories, along the way.”

Filmmaker Evangeline Griego says, “The joke in the editing room was that this is a movie where every man cries. It’s so poignant when they each talk about how they knew or didn’t know how to be fathers, and they said things that not a lot of men would cop to…for me, this film is about masculinity, about family, about fatherhood.”

What did you think about the Peña family and the relationships between the brothers? Who did you identify with most in the film? Does your family have a complicated history that you’re not completely aware of? Share your thoughts about the fascinating Peña family and Calavera Highway with us in the comments.

Ruiyan Xu
Ruiyan Xu
Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.
  • Fay

    FOREIGNID: 15545
    I continually thank the PBS stations that bring us programs like POV. Last night’s Calavera Highway was a beautiful story of a family’s search for peace and closure for Mom and her seven sons. This spellbinding story swept me onto the dusty roads of California and Texas, feeling the hot sun when we stopped in the cotton fields. Videography was exceptional, the interviewer was perfect, not too much, just enough. I loved the ghostly images of the past blending with the present. The music carried us up and down the west coast and then back home to Texas. I loved Mom’s gritty responses to the Border Patrol. Nothing was going to stand in the way of that hair appointment. But in spite of her struggles she was able to pass on a sense of warmth and love to her boys which gave them the courage to explore their own cautious emotions.

  • renetta E.

    FOREIGNID: 15546
    As usual PBS has given us a gem of a program….. I have a great friend that says we are a child for such a small number of years and what happens in thoses years can effect us for the rest of our lives.. I saw that the pain of childhood not only effected Mrs. Pena but also trickled down to her sons lives. Family is so important and at times we hurt or hurt by one another I hope these brothers find a way to begin the healing process so their children can know their cousins to build hopeully close relationships.

  • Brian Evans

    FOREIGNID: 15547
    I thank the filmmakers of this documentory for tackling a subject that really strikes home for a lot of people. It really showed the humanity and the hurt that boils from the past. My own connection to this story is that I myself grew up in a broken home where my father left and my mother was the head of the house!! Working a minimum wage job, on her feet all day, then coming home to 4 kids and the issues that came from that. She was a strong woman just like the brother’s mother. I can remember she would mix powder milk and whole milk in order for it to last a bit longer!! Kool-Aid was a staple in our refrigerator!! When our mother died in 1995 there was a lot of anger toward our father and each other, putting blame on each other etc. To me it was like watching a documentory about family’s life but altered!!!! I have no idea what kind of experience these filmakers had prior to this film but I would definitely give them a thumbs up for how they incorporated the present with the past. thanks so much for making a great film.

  • http://www.biggolddog.com/streams.html Wallace

    FOREIGNID: 15548
    Having lost my Dad in the last several years, I could identify with the Pena’s. There are so many things that the children of parents who pass away start to think and wonder about concerning their Mom or Dad. It’s sad that we can’t…or don’t think to find these things out while our folks are still alive.

  • Roslyn

    FOREIGNID: 15549
    This could be anybody’s story. I am an African American female and through my family research I am finding so of the same things. My great-grandmother was a concubine and my I suspect my grandmother never divorced her first husband. People in the family new but if not confronted, they would never tell. My sibling and I are also trying to resolve issues with our mother. She had 3 children by the time she was 18 and we all have different fathers. Where Armando and Carlo had a strong mother, we did not. We are not close and we were not all rasied in the same household. I admire Rosa for keeping her family together, what a great lady!

  • Billy

    FOREIGNID: 15550
    Cavalera Highway, it was like looking in a mirror. Not that the specific circumstances were the same, but the over all situation. The details of a working mother raising children on her own, working 12,14,16 hours a day, then coming home and crashing, stroke a cord of familiarity with me. The alienation of other family members and the continued estrangement that has continued ever since with no real explanation for why, other than thatÕs just the way things are.
    At the end Armando said, Òall she had was us, and all we had was her. How to become a man and a father I had to learn on my own.Ó Or something like that, not good at quoting, but thatÕs not the point, I just wanted to say thank you for your story it made me feel a little more comfortable with my own.

  • Elizabeth

    FOREIGNID: 15551
    Thank you to PBS for providing another interesting program. I was drawn into the story and before I knew it an hour and a half had gone by. The story was very well told and Renee did a great job with the film. Thank you for reminding me to document my own family history.

  • Judi

    FOREIGNID: 15552
    Thank you for capturing a moving journey and sharing it with us.

  • Marsha

    FOREIGNID: 15553
    The filmmaker did a fantastic job of making this story a living story for the viewer. I stayed spell-bound as I watched every scene…always anxious to find out about the next mystery. Thanks for giving the answers…Where did Pedro go? Who was Armando’s dad and what were the circumstances of his birth?…Where was the final resting place for Rosa? etc. etc.
    Thanks for showing the different feelings of the sons…it was easy to empathize with each one…a great job done in showing the raw emotion re. rejection by other family members and the joys of finding other family who were accepting and embracing.
    I just wanted to share this with others. Wishing this wonderful family all the very best. Please continue the up-dates…how thoughtful!

  • catherine

    FOREIGNID: 15554
    Latino culture is an integral part of Texan culture: no matter one’s ethnicity, we are enriched by being interwoven into the same sturdy cloth. The Pena’s story, if we pay attention, is really a universal story; the journey to understand the family’s secrets is merely the access to the memories that united them in the first place. Like us. each has to decide how much influence the new information will have in his life.

  • eddie

    FOREIGNID: 15555
    Greate Job to PBS and the film makers. The journey to finds one’s past is difficult and humbing. it was nice to see how other people have experienced this just like our family has.

  • Bettie

    FOREIGNID: 15556
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.Thanks so much to the brothers and wives (filmakers;et al)for this excellent documentary. A story of one family will somehow, always, hit upon every family’s story, in that in the telling, warts, challenges, aspirations and finally, the love and caring that continues on generation upon generation, whatever race, and culture we come from, we all persevere for dignity in our lives. I am humbled by the courage of this family in telling “our” story. Thank you.

  • sylvia

    FOREIGNID: 15557
    My thanks to the film maker for bringing this wonderful journey to the tv screen. These men had painful childhoods and it was wonderful to see how they have managed to overcome so much and yet retained a strong sense of family and a strong bond tied to their love of their mother. My prayers are with all of the brothers. God Bless all of them.
    Two thumbs up,
    Sylvia from Del Rio, TX

  • http://maxine Maxine

    FOREIGNID: 15558
    I thought this was a touching film. I grew up on a farm in Kansas and while we were poor I did not realize it till I was in High School. We were never hungry as mom canned everything she could and like another comment she stretched milk with powdered milk.
    I related to family secrets as long after I grew up our mother told us that our paternal grandmother had told her that my dads father had inpregnated a local teacher. The family had to sell off some horses to help her. The other cousins reacted in various ways . some wondered if we might find a long lost half cousin. My elderly aunt was wondering why her husband had not told her. There was no way of knowing as all of the older gneration were gone but her. After that revelation I understood why my father had a poor relationship with his dad.

  • Henry Pruneda

    FOREIGNID: 15559
    I was captivated by the film, thank you for sharing your life story. the film makers did a great job.

  • sb

    FOREIGNID: 15560
    This film hit very close to home for me because my biological father abandoned his six children to a life of poverty. Not knowing why has always haunted me, although I guess it wouldn’t matter. I completely relate to having to learn to be a man and a father on my own. It is very hard. My two sons watched it with me and I know they could tell I was very effected by the film. Thank you for a great great story of a great mother not unlike my own. I found it helpful for me as I am still working through my childhood at age 46.

  • John Thomas

    FOREIGNID: 15561
    Calavera Highway was an excellent film by an excellent filmmaker. Even though I am not Hispanic, I was raised in South Texas. Seeing the low income neighborhoods and parts of Mexico and hearing how people had to work hard for low wages brought it all back from the past.
    Unfortunately, many minorities think they are the only ones who had a hard life or think it is unique to their race. The family in the film is at approximately the same stage my family was in three generations ago.
    Regardless, I commend PBS and the filmmaker and hope you continue with similar films hopefully with others (not necessarily a sequel) from the same filmmaker.

  • Pedro Olivares

    FOREIGNID: 15562
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    I can try and find your father for the seven boys…Pena.

  • Sandra McVey Pettit

    FOREIGNID: 15563
    I was raised in the Rio Grande Valley (McAllen). Though not of the same descent as the Pena brothers, I totally related to the complex family history and the journey these brothers took. Their history is simultaneously unique and the same as every other person. The film perfectly captures the essence of the Rosa Pena family and is a story for the ages. Well done, film makers! Perfect narration. Hope you receive manyy awards!

  • Juliann

    FOREIGNID: 15564
    I am very thankful the Pena brothers permitted their journey to be filmed.
    Unfortuately, those not being of color., (as they would say “minority”) never want to admit that prejudice was had by all “minorites”. And sadly to say still exisits today. Anglos never want to hear the wrong they’ve done.
    Bravo to the Pena family and Evangeline for sharing a story about a strong Mexican Woman. God Bless You.

  • Andrea Farias Zaragoza

    FOREIGNID: 15565
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    I was ready for bed after the 10:00 PM news when I started flipping channels and somehow the story at PBS caught my attention so I decided to watch for a while. What a beautiful story. Many cultures I’m sure will identify with this one. I was surprised to know that the Pena family was actually from the Rio Grande Valley which is where I’m from and it turned out the same highschool that I graduated from only I graduated in 1962. Some of us can relate to many instances, the poverty level (which many of us did not realize) the dividing line, tracks, paved roads on one side and caliche roads on the other, but most of us had strong mothers which made alot of difference. We were fortunate to have a strong father who worked very hard to put food on the table and Mom that kept the family together. My congratulations to the film maker and to PBS for such a wonderful film presentation and for bringing back some buried memories long time coming.
    Andrea Farias Zaragoza

  • S. Grover

    FOREIGNID: 15566
    As I was watching “Cavalera Highway” I was intrigued by the similarities in the family dynamics as compared to my own family. Though I am not from a Latino culture, I grew up in a small agricultural town with five siblings, having a mostly absent father, and a working mother who tried her best to provide and care for a wild bunch of kids. We also had experiences with child labor exploitation as we worked in the surrounding orchards, but not nearly as poor of circumstances that the Pena kids lived through.
    It seems that growing up in a large, poor family had the same effects on the members of the Pena family as it did on my own family… the eldest child holding life long resentments against his mother, several with substance abuse issues and serving prison time, one actually receiving college diplomas, and all very hard working individuals trying the best they can to be better parents. I also have spent my life trying to figure out my childhood experiences and why they have affected my siblings and I so differently. This film was a great example of the challenges single parent families are confronted with today, no matter your cultural orientation! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • David

    FOREIGNID: 15567
    Im a Texicano and i was moved by your journey.I relate too the way the brothers embraced each other.Very stand off”ish.I have 5 bro’s and it’s the same.I realize now that comes from the lack of physical touch and huggs and love in my younger days.My mom and dad never gave us that kind of attention.I guess the apple does’nt fall far from the tree !

  • Mondi Chavez

    FOREIGNID: 15568
    I completely appreciated and enjoyed Calavera Highway, I also grew up with migrant parents. Fortunately for us four kids, we did not work the fields, another similarity is that my absent father was also from San Luis Potosi, I also made the trip to Real de Catorce and Matehual to meet my relatives. Unlike the film my father is still alive and although I do see him yearly or maybe bi-yearly we do not have a close bond, a father-daughter bond, and this also caused me to have difficulty in relating to the men in my life, my husband and my son, another issue was the foreing concept of love between a father and daughter.
    Thank you for sharing your story, I loved it.

  • Susannah

    FOREIGNID: 15569
    As I was watching “Cavalera Highway” I was intrigued by the similarities in the family dynamics as compared to my own family. Though I am not from a Latino culture, I grew up in a small agricultural town with five siblings, having a mostly absent father, and a working mother who tried her best to provide and care for a wild bunch of kids. We also had experiences with child labor exploitation as we worked in the surrounding orchards, but not nearly as poor of circumstances that the Pena kids lived through.
    It seems that growing up in a large, poor family had the same effects on the members of the Pena family as it did on my own family… the eldest child holding life long resentments against his mother, several with substance abuse issues and serving prison time, one actually receiving college diplomas, and all very hard working individuals trying the best they can to be better parents. I also have spent my life trying to figure out my childhood experiences and why they have affected my siblings and I so differently. This film was a great example of the challenges single parent families are confronted with today, no matter your cultural orientation! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Chris Smith

    FOREIGNID: 15570
    Outstanding film! Great job of exploring many of the layered stories that are always present in families. Great warmth and attention to the sensitivity of many of the memories, and feelings connected.

  • Roland Balero Sosa

    FOREIGNID: 15571
    I Just finished watching this film and really appreciated it. I am also from south Texas, San Antonio, and can relate to the culture and times reflected in the film. I too come from a very complicated background with many unanswered questions and am amongst siblings who were not raised together. I really enjoyed Calavera Highway, and was emotionally touched by it. Bravo!!

  • Dallas Martin

    FOREIGNID: 15572
    I really identified with the Pena brothers. While my own family was never separated, my father’s family mirrored the Pena experience.
    This program helped me to understand my father own journey.

  • David

    FOREIGNID: 15573
    Im a Texicano and was moved by the Pena story.I have 5 bro’s and can relate too the way the brothers greeted each other.Very stand off’ish! Very reserved and defensive.I realize now why im that way.My mom and dad never gave us that kind of love,no huggs and kisses not much affection.Im strong for it but im a hard man too love.The apple does’nt fall far from the tree!

  • Barbara

    FOREIGNID: 15574
    I watched the film with my foster daughter who is the daughter of Mexican migrant farmworkers. She worked in the fields as a child. We laughed out loud so many times. Tthe film was so awesome. We loved it to death. I called my mother and she watched it, too. My mother and me and my foster daughter – three generations – loved this film. Now I am telling one of my young clients (I’m a Social Worker) – a Mexican girl – about this film. Bravo !!!!!!!! The film was great. Even though he subject matter was potentially depressing, the film was filled with light and funny moments, tender moments of joking and laughing in Spanglish, which made it a light and joyous experience to watch with my darling Mexican foster daughter.

  • Felicita

    FOREIGNID: 15575
    I greatly appreciate the willingness of Pena family members to share their story. They bared their souls for us. It brought me to tears as this type of life and family dynamic happens so very often – and in all cultures. As for me, my parents are from Puerto Rico and I know they experienced a lot of the same rejection from everywhere as well as from within their own family. Opportunies for advancement, education, better jobs, better healthcare, understanding of those in authority for the others ethnic culture, etc, were just not afforded and one made decisoins (not always the right ones) while in survival mode. There were many who were wise beyond their years (and circumstances) and came through it with less trauma but the severed family relationships always left scars.
    Thank you – all of the Pena’s for giving us a glimpse inyour lives and hearts.

  • Janet

    FOREIGNID: 15576
    What a moving story. It’s interesting to see how siblings move and change, becoming different people from who they were growing up. They all survived but somehow carry around the hurt of growing up without a father. I wonder what would’ve become of them if their mother wasn’t such a strong woman. Although I didn’t think Armando looked much like his brothers, I wasn’t expecting to hear that he had a different father! Also, the background music was astounding. I really thought the songs chosen fit well with the scenes. I especially loved the little snippet of “Beautiful Boy” sung in Spanish. Very moving story.

  • KJ

    FOREIGNID: 15577
    This was an excellent program. My compliments to the film makers in capturing the emotion of their family. I hope this journey gave Calavera brother’s have some closer to their past. It was nice to see that all the brother’s had families and living the “American Dream”. I am sure their mother is proud of all them.

  • DO

    FOREIGNID: 15578
    I really enjoyed your program, I saw it last night I was just changing the channels. I didn’t know what time it began, so I decided to watch it online today to see what I missed and watched the whole program again with my three kids this time. I really enjoyed the film, and told a few friends at work to watch it. Great Job!!!

  • Nicole

    FOREIGNID: 15579
    Thank you so much for bringing to life such a familiar and complex story that so many families go through. My family is Mexican American and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought you were talking about us. As others have already posted, the story is both heart wrenching, and touching, it made me laugh and cry.. My father was one of nine children and he and his siblings were often shunned by their TIas, Tios, and primos because they were ” poor dirty mexicans” , and when you, Carlos, described being shunned by your mothers family, it felt all to familiar. Thank you so much for bringing this film to life.

  • Olga Galvan

    FOREIGNID: 15580
    I happened on your film early this morning (3:30am) as I was clicking thru channels (I couldn’t sleep). I was caught up in the story almost immediately because of the similarities between our lives. My mother died almost six years ago this November as well. I come from a large family of 12, mexican american, former migrant workers, strong mother who like Rosa was head of our family. She had an interesting past as well, come to find out. We searched for answers, truth, like these brothers as well. I suppose we all have this need to validate our existence by retracing our roots, even if it means exploring all the “colorful details” that come with it. I , like Armando, sought truth about my mother for alot of the same reasons. I was the product of short affair with a married man as well. I, like him, was always a little different, a thinker. I am one of three siblings, out of 12, that got a degree in higher education. Our family also, had a tendency to fall apart after she died. She also, had been a fighter for migrant workers in the labor camps. We also, were in a march, to protest the conditions of these camps. She, like Rosa, had been as valiant as a man, because she had to mother and father to us all. She worked hard, at any job she could get to keep us housed, fed, clothed. Like this family, it was about survival, there wasn’t hugs and kisses either. I’ve had to struggle to find myself as an adult, like Armando and the rest. Yet, my mother was able to instill in us a strong work ethic, empathy for others, pride in our ethnicity, and a simple but deep wisdom of life. She had been such a center to everything and everyone that it just seemed like we were fractured and in pieces when she died. Watching Armando visit their old home, remembering the times the family had spent there, reminded me so much of our home and our gatherings. My stepfather kept the home with the help of my younger sister and her husband. I have to tell you, that was key for many of us to at least have that much to come back to. I don’t think we could have coped with her death as well as we did, had we not had that house to come back to. I don’t know how to explain it, that place just seemed sacred after she was gone. It has been sheer determination on the part of my sisters and I, to keep us together. It seems we continue to still lead the effort on every occasion to organize and pull everyone together for any gatherings.
    I have to say, there was some relief/confirmation/validation to all that we, as a family experienced with my mother’s death, having watched your film. I suppose we felt isolated in our grief, having no families around us with similar circumstances. We live up north and mexican families, especially with our number and background, are rare or we’re unaquainted with them.
    Thank you so much for this film. Watching it has meant more for me than I can say. Truthfully, it has taken six years to be able to talk freely about my mother, other than my family and very few friends, this is the first time I’ve reached out with information about her. I’m glad to say that like Armando and his family, we are moving on and living life more fully now than in the beginning, cherishing all of mother we carry around in us.

  • Ulises Uribe

    FOREIGNID: 15581
    Often times we all are reminded of our diferences: Chicanos, Mexicanos, South americans, Asians, Blacks, whites and so on. But what I find in Calavera Highway is a definitive and solid answer to the universal questions about who we are and where we come from. The answer is that there isn’t much, but rather the process or searching.
    Many questions will always remain unanswered, but the process that the Pena brothers undertook, specifically Armando, create an atmosphere of peace and sense of belonging that make us realize that a complete decoding of the past would be almost unecessary. It’s all about the journey not the destination, and apparently Armando and his family are closer than ever to live in peace, regardless of the past.
    As an immigrant from Mexico City, I,ve experienced similar “Secretos de Familia” to the point that until this day we are not sure exactly about my grandmother’s past, all we know is that some aunts are from a different father, alluding to the Pedro Paramo ghosts still at odds with the material world.
    Congratulations to POV and PBS, Armando and the filmmakers for this honest, tender and hard-to-forget documentary.
    Felicidades y mucha suerte!!!

  • Christina Bauman

    FOREIGNID: 15582
    I watched this documentary last night and was blown away by the brothers. I come from a middle-class two-parent household, but I could relate to the ambiguity the Pena brothers had towards their family. The scene when they visit their aunt and they’re told that she can’t be found hit me on a deep level. The same thing happened to me and my mother when we went to visit my uncle.
    My mother, in some ways the black sheep of the family, was the youngest of five children and her family survived the great depression. Seemingly overnight, her family lost all its money and was fragmented by need and want. My grandmother, a graduate of Wellesley College, kept the family together by working in the high school cafeteria.
    I think in some ways that the Pena Brothers’ story is universal. I admire them for having the courage to have their story recorded.
    Thank you for a wonderful documentary.

  • sergio cuevas

    FOREIGNID: 15583
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.
    I got caught up watching the Pena’s Story. I am a Puerto Rican male with two silbing who was raised by a single woman who was abandon by her Husband when we were very young. She came to the states after my father stole our youngest brother. She did everything possible to provide for my brother & me. My mother was also consisted the black sheep of the family. Thanks to Mr. Pena because our journey was different , but the end result was still the same. Thanks

  • Zepeda

    FOREIGNID: 15584
    I was born in Elsa, Texas in 1962. My parents migrated to Chicago in 1965. Rosa’s story has opened my eyes into how my life could have been had my parents stayed. I remember the dust and the smells (from previous visits) and always wondered how our lives (seven children) would have turned out had we grown up in Elsa. You have given me a view into what could have been. Thank you for opening your window to the world. I’ll never look at Hidalgo County the same way again.

  • Angie

    FOREIGNID: 15585
    I was amazed by the similarities between the Pena family and mine. This is a wonderful way for me to put into words for my children what it was like for my grandparents, aunts and uncles and parents to live in the Valley as immigrants and migrant workers and persevere through hardships. Thank you for the show. Sadly I will miss the Chicago screening this weekend because I am working but I will be looking out for the dvd.

  • heythere

    FOREIGNID: 15586
    First of, I’m a fan of Rene’s work since “My America…” and was so happy to see her Evangeline chronicle such a touching, personal story.
    The intereaction b/t the two brothers was so intriguing — Carlos’ struggle throughout (and sometimes against) the journey to the past was as moving as Armando’s need to explore it. That’s something I rarely see in docs where people are seeking to fill the spaces in their family’s narrative: the fear, the doubt, the anger at reopening old wounds. Also, seeing men deal with these issues is rare for me, so I was even more captivated.
    It was wonderfully done, and reminded why I love documentaries, and love PBS for sharing this with us. I’m forwarding the streamed movie link to all my dear friends who I’m sure will enjoy as much I did.

  • Minga

    FOREIGNID: 15587
    When my daughter called me to tell me there was a special program on PBS I searched for the channel and found it. I started watching the progran and founf it so very interesting ,for the reason that my ex-husbands’ family were also migrant workers from “EL VALLE de Tejas”. The Pena’s Family story is a great one. Please do more stories like this one . Thanks PBS and the Pena family for sharing part of your life with us all.

  • Michael Van Pelt

    FOREIGNID: 15588
    i grew up in the inner city in new jersey in the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s. i am white. i lived in the projects and in racially mixed neighborhoods. my father lived with us until i was 14. he might as well have been on the moon. i am one of six children.my mother raised us. my father did his own thing because he didn’t understand that his job was to teach us about life. i learned the hard way about being a man. i almost became my father. somewhere i took the right road and ended up here in suburbia with a career and a beautiful family. the disconnected siblings, the feelings of ailenation, the shame, the life on the streets, the search for my roots, menial jobs, being victimized… all resonate. sometimes i stand in the yard looking at my family and my home and wonder how i got here. thank you for sharing such an intimate point of view.

  • miguel pena

    FOREIGNID: 15589
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. I would like to thank the pena family for sharing with the world their story. My moms family comes from the valley, and they were migrant workers also. My mother married my dad and he was from Monterrey, Nuevo leon. His father was born in San Luis Potosi, and his last is Pena. (maybe somos primos). I just want you to know i was very moved by your film, this is something we mexicans,chicanos.latinos still experience. we most of us did not have a strong mom to look out for us ,where would most of us be (en el bote). i just want you Armando and Carlos to know. how much i appreciate the film. this really hits home in all aspects. Keep up the good work. By the way I have a lots of family that live in Elsa, Mission, and the rest of el valle.
    Good luck to you guys.
    miguel pena

  • Ernesto Garza

    FOREIGNID: 15590
    Yet another good good film, about the great mexican/American strugal
    to find ones roots & hard ships that Mexican/Americans endure.we are
    proud people. I could be one of those Brothers. I too am from Texas
    Alpine Texas. Ernesto Garza

  • cheryl Insalaco

    FOREIGNID: 15591
    Thank you for such a wonderful Americna Story of Family, Struggle, Evolution and Healing….

  • Ralph Bonds-Vela

    FOREIGNID: 15592
    I watched ‘Calaveras Highway’ last night and I can’t remember seeing a film that mirrored my own family’s experience in terms of migrant workers, absent father and cultural and civil right struggle. My family grew up in Rio Grande City in the 40′s, 50′s and early 60′s. Our parents were always working and our father’s efforts to support us meant he became the ‘migrant worker’ of the family and as such he was almost always gone.
    As the oldest child I felt the stresses of parentification and the insecurity of great financial need.The story of the Peña family and efforts of Carlos and Armando to ‘figure things out’ reminds me of how my siblings and I have talked at length in an effort to understand our own childhood experiences. The ‘Calaveras Highway’ is a story told in an authentic way that describes the challenges faced by the Peña family. The Peña family reminds me of my own bilingual-bicultural family and we encountered many if the same challenges living in South Texas and Southern California in the 50′s-60′s. To Carlos and Armando we say thank-you and to the film makers – a special debt of gratitude for bringing their story to us all.

  • oscar g. deleon

    FOREIGNID: 15593
    Iwas born in Texas and raised in cal,We had a big famliy I can relate to every part of this story. I really like it. I have work in TV news for 33 yeas in Fresno I think I hvae a story to tell.

  • Oscar “Coy” Hurtado

    FOREIGNID: 15594

  • Virginia

    FOREIGNID: 15595
    I LOVED every minute of watching this documentary about the Pena brothers and commend them for being so strong in sharing their story with the world. Watching the Pena brothers through this journey, I felt as though I was right with them. My eyes were glued and fixed on my t.v.trying to capture every word, every picture, and studying every person’s face relating to their story as well as trying to read between the lines. My heart goes out to them because my father comes from a family of 10 brothers and 5 sisters and his family history is filled with its own less than ideal family history. THANK YOU FOR BEING BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS PENA BROTHERS and thank you Evangeline and Renee for making the film. Thank you PBS for great programs like this!

  • http://www.jimsimonson.info jim simonson

    FOREIGNID: 15596
    my first POV show. if calavera highway is the benchman you folks have much to live up to.
    a wonderful story of a family, as family and as individuals. a journey through time and place. i too loved everyminute of it. a story which left me wanting to understand more of the pena’ brothers and their courageous mother. courageous though i would imagine rosa would say she just did what she had to do to survive with her sons.
    again, POV, congratulations are in order for bringing us such a wonderful story.

  • tony

    FOREIGNID: 15597
    Many thanks for this good hearted and valuable production. I come from an anglo but not too different situation, although you guys had it harder than I did. God bless you all, brothers.

  • Phyllis M Gogerty

    FOREIGNID: 15598
    I loved the film about the Calavera Hwy, The Seven Unique brothers and sons of this very strong woman. I was impressed with every aspect and I watched three times because it was so moving and hard but all of those men were better for it because of their Mother. I am the youngest of seven and I did have my father but at an early age , my father almost lost his life so that bonded us even closer and Thanks to my Mother we manage to get through it, because she took us into her confidence. I have been acquainted with Mexicans in my town and found them to be hard working and very proud and they do hold a grudge especially with each other. It was an excellant film and I thank the filmakers for their very good work. Phyllis M Gogertez.

  • http://microsoft Joy

    FOREIGNID: 15599
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. Rosa was a remarkable woman, she will not be forgotten (as she feared).I was in tears from the way her sons wanted to protect her memory, and especially the way they wanted to take turns keeping her ashes in their homes. This flim answers the question,what is love? In the heartbreaking absence of affection as children,the sons none the less hold a deep love for their mom. May this love bring peace and healing to the present for each of them. I thank them for sharing their story.

  • staci

    FOREIGNID: 15600
    This is the kind of filmaking the world needs more of! What a painfully beautiful piece inside and out. Like wounded hearts in gilded frames on display, this show captured the brothers feelings; unabridged. I found myself on the road with the travelers and actually felt the anxiety in the small Mexican village. I was intrigued by the layers of their past. The filmwork was perfectly matched and symbolic. The characters were fearless and transparent. And the story was unforgetable! What more does viewer require? I feel like I know this family, (and can’t believe I got online to write a review), when can I come for dinner? Thank you for sharing your story, I was both touched and taught. God’s Peace,SM

  • Donna

    FOREIGNID: 15601
    I too like to keep my ghosts close to me. I will now endeavor to make sure they have place to dance. Thank you.

  • Ruth

    FOREIGNID: 15602
    What a beautiful story; what a beautiful family; what a beautiful film. I was mesmerized. I want to thank the Pena family for sharing with us. I hope they can step back from the difficult details and see in the big picture what a lovely family they are and have.

  • Rodrigo

    FOREIGNID: 15603
    I was totally taken by watching Calavera Highway. The Pena brothers and family represent a real facet of the American experience. Their story best represents my reality better than any ‘Reality Show’ I’ve watched. I realize that their experience is not common to everyone but the one common thread we all have is family and the struggles that arise from it. Great show.

  • Drew

    FOREIGNID: 15604
    I felt a lot of resonances with the Peña brothers’ story. I too am the son of immigrants, and my mother died a few years ago, leaving a lot of things unresolved in my family. When I was younger we were a tight-knit family, but over time we grew up, became less dependent on each other, and drifted apart. A lot of untold family stories went with my mother to the grave, I’m afraid.
    The Peña brothers, Armando and Carlos especially, showed a lot of courage and tenacity by poking into the shadows of their family history in search of the truth, even when the truth may have been difficult to take. I admire their example, and I hope I can approach my family’s history with the same fearlessness.
    As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize how deeply I am shaped by events of my early life. I think our “skeletons” — the things in our past that we are most reticent about — are often crucial to shaping us as people, and to ignore them is to miss an important part of the story. I’m glad the Peñas have opened this window into their lives and allowed their family’s fascinating story to be told, skeletons and all.

  • Cesar

    FOREIGNID: 15605
    I’ve waited all my life to hear of other Latino experiences, and I’ve finally found some sense of belongingness; Thank You for bringing the Pena story into my life.

  • Phyllis

    FOREIGNID: 15606
    I just wanted to comment on the excellent film on the Seven Mexican Brothers and the relationship they had with their mother. What a great film. I watched three times because it had so much to it. I come from a family of seven and I did have a father who nearly lost his life at a early age but that experiance only bonded closer to each other. My Mother was the soul of the family because she instilled in us a trust and confided in us and brought in to the hard situation. I will always be grateful to her, because in essence she kept us all together when my father was fighting for his life. We were poor but we did not suffer the awful discrimination. I have been aquainted with Mexicans in my town and found them to be hard working, proud and were capable of a holding grudge, especially with each other. Than-You again for this wonderful film making. It was wonderful

  • Velma Valdez-Morales

    FOREIGNID: 15607
    I read about this documentary in my local paper but it wasn’t until tonight that I came across it. It was an amazing piece of art. Im a mother of 3 toddlers and I actually have lived in Monte Alto all my life. My children will definetly see this film when they are older. I also come from a poor migrant family but that was not what I related to. It was that sibling bond that can easily be unglued when the family patriarch is gone. I thought all seven brothers were amazing to allow themselves to open up in front of a camera. My sisters won’t even allow me to write about them with their names changed.

  • Kathryn

    FOREIGNID: 15608
    Thank you for this very moving story. It left me contemplating the skeletons along my own highway. My dad left before I was born, and I could feel Carlos’ shaking in his knees when he was about to meet his uncles. I would feel that way, if my uncles were still alive and I had a chance to meet them. I know my father had two other families, but my half-siblings don’t want to know me. I’m the single mother of four kids I worked hard to raise and educate. They live far apart and don’t talk to each other now. If my death could bring them together…if my children ever feel half the love for me that the Penas felt for their mom…it would be a miracle. As I watched the film, I cheered for Rosa and her beautiful sons, each strong in his own way, each coping with the fact that she gave them all she had, and it still wasn’t enough. Still, it was all she had. And they get it, now. A beautiful, haunting film. Thank you.

  • Mike Rogow

    FOREIGNID: 15609
    Thoughts Concerning Calavera Highway
    I just had the opportunity to view Calavera Highway this evening and was moved to offer a few of my own thoughts that surfaced from the film. This very insightful examination of one Mexican American family brought back to me a flood of memories and feelings that stem from my own experience with a Southern California Mexican American family that I came to know many years ago.
    Years ago I had the privilege to marry into a Mexican-American family in Southern California; a family not unlike the Pena family, and yet somewhat different in that it was less fractured in terms of extended family relationships and familial support.
    The comments offered by Renee Tajima-Pena concerning the Pena brothers and how their family’s past was, and is, incorporated into a current cultural perspective in my opinion touches upon an important characteristic of Mexican American culture. Strong extended family and non-family yet familial-like relationships (i.e., God parents) are cherished and serve to strengthen identity within the greater Hispanic community. Patriarchs and matriarchs serve to enhance both patrilineal and matrilineal lines of descent which underscore the importance of family history. Lineage remains very important for Mexican American families in that distinction between Mexican and American origins remain important identifying factors.
    As a young man I had the opportunity to befriend the patriarch and matriarch of my wife’s family. I remember spending many summer days sitting with Grandpa on his front porch sipping Nescafe and listening to stories from his past. The paternal line had long historical roots that were related to the old Camarillo land grant and ranchero days. However, what struck me then, and what Calavera Highway vividly reminds me today, is the wonderful cultural flavor that stems from both the need to maintain family relationships and the celebration of labor. In music and dance, in family traditions, gatherings, and holidays, both family relationships and work proved to dominate discourse. Meager family incomes colored gatherings yet enhanced the importance for family members to meet and share food, mutual help, and conversation. These were important times for family to pass on important news and renew relationships; members would often seek help or exchange needed items or skills. And, more importantly, it was through the sharing of food, conversation, and drink that family members could exercise their family role or position; Grandma, uncle, aunt, elder brother or sister could fulfill their position within the greater family.
    It seems that when we can consider the importance of extended family relationships within Mexican American families, we can come to better appreciate the importance of Calavera Highway and the plight of the Pena family. I wish to extend my thanks to Renee Tajima-Pena and Evangeline Griego for making this important film possible and to the Pena family for sharing their story.
    Sincerely, Michael Rogow

  • Emma Arenivas

    FOREIGNID: 15610
    Congratulations with the film….I was surfing through the channels and as I started watching the begining of the film I was immidiately hoooked. The film had a wonderful way of helping us understand the daily struggles of trying to live up to the American Dream as well as keeping our identity as Mexican Americans. I was very moved by Armando, he seems like an amazing man and father. Wish you all the best in your life journey. Rosa must be watching over her sons and must be very proud of them. Through her struggles and suffering she was able to overcome all the odds, and helped her sons to achieved and obtain that sense of unity, pride and dignity and above all a love and respect for their FAMILY. Amazing film it touched my heart. once again great job, to the Pena brothers and everyone involved in the film, my sincere gratitude for allowing us to continue the search for our roots. Gracias y Felicidades!

  • Sylvia

    FOREIGNID: 15611
    I really enjoyed this documentary. I also came from a past full of ghosts. I have spent the last 25 years identifying them, from scraps of paper, an old envelope with my natural grandfather’s name and address, the name of the town in Mexico my paternal grandfather was born-Teocaltiche–so exotic to a elementary school child, the oral tradition of my maternal -maternal side from Zacatecas via Tejas. My mother was widowed at age 33 with 4 children. I was so touched by the same experience as the Pena boys, who saw their mother, “as one of the working stiffs.” My mother also did not hug us but worked hard to provide. She was a “working stiff.” She did have her flaws, relationships we rather leave buried. I am possibly now at the end of the line so to speak. I have travellled to Mexico and dug up unsuspecting Tejano cousins who did know their grandpa had other children and me a grandaughter. I have ghosts, most of them revealed during road trips, archives and on the internet. I say I am possibly at the end of the line because life at my age has become so fragile, I have lost my mother, many of my friends and I am only 56. I thought there was still lots of time. I know now time is gamble. I have great satisfaction in knowing who I am and who my people were, seeing the towns they came from has left me satisfied. These ghosts now jockey for space with the new ghosts, lost parents and friends. It is getting a little crowded. New life beckons in the form of many grandchildren. Ghosts take the night and grandchildren the day.
    I am glad our story as a people is being documented. Thank you.

  • Margaret

    FOREIGNID: 15612
    I was drawn in completely watching this film. I grew up in Texas and now live in another state, so I miss the Hispanic part of the daily life there. This film reminded me of the book ” The Joy Luck Club ” in the subject as well as the very high quality. There is so much love and yearning in people to be a close family, even if there are borders or distance or part of the family closing you out. I, too have a divided family. My father had been married before he married my mother. He died before I was able to ask him anything.

  • jaime guerra

    FOREIGNID: 15613
    Great story. I went to school with carlos and some of his brothers and I new there mom too. I first saw the film about two years ago and it took me awhile to recognize Carlos it has been more than 30 years that I had seen him. The film reminded me of all those who did migrant work and struggled at that time. It was good seeing everyone. Good job!

  • nef garcia

    FOREIGNID: 29692
    is the longoria father of Armando of the well known longoria’s of the valley? i.e. Eva Longoria?

  • Aaron

    FOREIGNID: 30627
    Powerful beyond words. Moving. Heart rending.