García, Lus Lopez
Lus Lopez Garcia (born 1918)
Written by Catherine Babikian
Lus Lopez Garcia was born in Fairport, Iowa in 1918 to Antonia and Federico Lopez, who had recently emigrated from Mexico. The Lopez family remained in Fairport for nearly ten years before moving to Nahant, Iowa, and later to Cook’s Point, a Mexican neighborhood in Davenport.
As the oldest daughter, Lus helped her mother manage the household. They washed clothes and scrubbed their home from top to bottom—although Lus’ mother took care of the outhouse. When her younger siblings were born, Lus helped her mother by making tortillas; she learned how to roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cook the tortillas slowly without burning them. “My mom [said], 'You’re gonna have to learn how to make tortillas because sometimes I’m not going to be here,'” Lus remembered. “She was gonna be down with her baby, so she wanted me to take care of the family.”
Although Lus enjoyed school, her responsibilities at home prevented her from finishing high school. “My mom wasn’t very well at that time,” Lus said, “and whenever she needed help I had to stay home from school. After a while I just stayed home.”
In 1941, Lus married Lloyd Garcia, also of the Quad Cities. Lloyd's mother was Anglo and his father Mexican; they met while working in Ottumwa, Iowa. Like Lus' parents, Lloyd's father had left Mexico for Iowa during the Mexican Revolution.
When Lloyd joined the army in 1942, Lus was left without an income and a young child to support. “They didn’t even have the government checks for wives,” she remembered. Lus began working at the Rock Island Arsenal, the only Mexican American woman in her department. “I was alone. I needed to eat,” she said of her decision. The job paid five or six dollars an hour, where a previous job at a local nursing home had only paid four dollars. “It was a lot of money to me at that time,” said Lus.
Lloyd returned to Iowa three years later, and Lus subsequently left the Arsenal to raise their three children. She encouraged them to attend and finish school, an opportunity not available to her, and she kept the family running—through both good times and bad.
(Oral history interview conducted by Janet Weaver for the Mujeres Latinas Project, July 9, 2007)