Gomez, Luz Salazar
Luz Salazar Gomez (1900-1956)
Written by Catherine Babikian
Luz Salazar Gomez was born in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1900. While living in Mexico as a young woman, she married [first name not given in interview] Nuñez, and had her first two children—Philip and Efren Nuñez. However, Nuñez died shortly after the children were born, and Luz headed north to the United States, where she met and married Pedro Perez. In 1919, she followed him to northern Indiana, where he worked at a ship canal complex on the shores of Lake Michigan. Luz and Pedro had two children, Cecilia and Pedro Perez, but tragically, Luz’s second husband died soon after the birth of their second child.
Luz later married Peter Gomez. Originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico, Peter had come to the United States as an orphaned child; as an adult, he worked as a section hand on the Rock Island Railroad in Davenport, Iowa. Peter and Luz made their home in a Davenport barrio called Cook’s Point, where they raised four children—Joe, Florence, Otilia "Tillie," and Arthur "Archie."
Tillie remembered her mother as smart, resourceful, and hard-working. Although Luz did not speak English, she could read and write in Spanish; her penmanship, Tillie remembered, was like calligraphy. Luz taught her youngest daughter to grind corn on the metate (a grinding stone) and to pound out flour tortillas. She showed her how to peel potatoes and the best way to kill a chicken. Most of all, she instilled in Tillie a strong work ethic. “She believed in the hands-on,” Tillie remembered. “You learned by doing.”
We had chickens, and I remember, oh my goodness, my mother taught me how to kill a chicken. We raised our chickens for food, and we would kill our chickens and prepare our chickens, pluck the feathers off the chickens, in the hot water, dipping them in the hot water, plucking the feathers—those smelled—and preparing the chicken, removing the insides and everything. But she would teach me how to cut the neck off, and after we would chop the head off the chicken, she would hold the chicken from the neck down on the dirt, and make the sign of the cross with the blood. Always. I guess she was sending the chickens to heaven!
Luz did not have any extended family in Cook’s Point, but she found a welcoming community in the barrio. “If you needed something,” Tillie remembered, “you could knock on [any] door and they would help you.” Luz soon became close friends with Basilisa Herrera, who lived “across the street.” Like Luz, Basilisa had come to Cook’s Point from Guanajuato, Mexico, and had been widowed at an early age.
The City of Davenport repossessed the neighborhood land in 1952, serving all Cook’s Point residents with eviction papers. Although the family relocated to a house on Davie Street, they still kept in touch with their former neighbors and maintained a warm connection to the barrio they had once called home.
(Oral history interview with Otilia Gomez Savala conducted by Laura Nelson for the Mujeres Latinas Project, March 25, 2013)