Gloria Casas (born 1947)
Written by Catherine Babikian
“Estaba duro, pues así era la vida,” says Gloria Casas of her childhood—it was hard but that was life. Every April, Gloria and her family would leave their home in Crystal City, Texas to work on farms throughout the Western United States. They traveled to Washington and California, Montana and North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The days, Gloria remembers, were long. When not working in the fields, she often stayed home with her mother, minding her younger siblings and helping cook food for the workers on a small stove.
In October, the family returned home to Crystal City, Texas so that the children could attend school. “Yo veía como mi papa sacrificaba mucho para mandarnos a la escuela [I saw how much my father sacrificed to send us to school],” says Gloria. But it was difficult. When Gloria’s sewing teacher asked her to bring a pattern and pin cushion for sewing class, Gloria knew her family couldn’t afford it.
Mi la maestra de sewing, que traes material, que traes tijeras, que traes un pin cushion, que traes un pattern, que traes, que traes… y de donde agarro dinero si mi papa muy apenas ganaba pa’ que comiéramos. [My sewing teacher asked us to bring material, that we bring a pin cushion or a pattern, and where am I going to get the money for a pattern if my father hardly has enough for us to eat?]
Another time, Gloria took a black crayon to a drawing of a blonde girl in her schoolbooks, wanting the girl’s hair to be like hers. But her teacher reprimanded her. “Recuerdo que vino la maestra y lo agarró así y me lo rompió y me agarró el color amarillo y me hizo así una raya [I remember that the teacher came over to me and broke the crayon, handed me a yellow one and made a line through my drawing].”
Gloria left school in order to help provide for her family, hoping that her wages could allow her brothers to receive an education. After marrying and settling in Muscatine, Iowa, Gloria earned her GED by taking night classes after her shifts at the Louis Rich Foods, Inc., turkey plant in West Liberty. She has been active in community education—not only by working as a translator and teacher’s aide, but also by teaching classes to English language learners and helping new immigrants arrange their citizenship papers.
(Oral history interview conducted for the Mujeres Latinas Project by Iskra Núñez, June 16, 2005)