finding your roots

Henry Gomez, Man among men

Monica Gomez September 5, 2012

My father was born in Piedras Negras Cuahila on Sptember 28, 1913. His mother named him Enrique. He never knew his father.
My father was a child during the Mexican revolution. He said nothing about his childhood. We know that he lived with his mother, grandmother (who he proudly said was pure Indian) brother and sister. They were very poor. My mother said there was talk that his father was a rich rancher.
He walked over the border with his family in 1922.. They came to Chicago where they were welcomed with rocks in there windows. He went to school until he became a US Steel strike breaker. He worked until the Depression when no Mexicans had jobs. He hung out with his friends. They gave each other nick names my father’s was cabbage (I think because of his thick, curly hair).
He was drafted into World War 2 by the Army. He said it was no fun. My mother later told us that he had been alienated by the white soldiers in his barracks. She said that this made him feel alone and freightened. The Army told him he needed a last name when he was discharged. He chose his favorite step father’s name-Gomez. The Army changed his name to Henry. Decades later the President (Johnson) wrote a letter of thanks for fighting in WW2.The Army paid for his funeral.
My father was a loyal, proud man. He took care of his sister and mother – even after he married.
My most memorable memory of my father’s pride was demonstrated in a grocery store. A customer spoke with the cashier. I heard “dirty Mexican” this and “dirty Mexican” that. I think he saw the fear on my face (I still remember the fear I felt looking at the hate in the angry women. My father was light complected, and they probably thought he was white and agreed with them. After the cashier rang his grocery, my father told her “I have something to say. I am a Mexican, and I’m not dirty.” He grabbed my hand and we walked out the store.
I have always wondered what my father’s roots were. We went to Mexico to look for his birth certificate. He was disappointed to find nothing.
I don’t speak Spanish, and my research attempts haven’t provided me any information.
Any history I can learn about my father will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.

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About the Series

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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