Vallejo, Martina Morado
Martina Morado Vallejo (1897-1969)
Written by Catherine Babikian
On the eve of the Mexican Revolution, Martina Morado left her home in Guanajuato, Mexico, and headed north with her mother to Horton, Kansas. The year was 1910 and Martina was thirteen years old. In 1953, she wrote about her journey in her memoir, “La Obra de Una Mamá" (The Labor of a Mother).
Soon after we left Mexico, the war of 1911 started. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had not come with mother when we did. We arrived in the United States on April 11, 1910. I was thirteen years and five months old. We settled in Kansas, a place mother didn’t like much. We lived with mother’s relatives and she worked to support me and my brother. We ran a rooming house and did laundry for people. As time passed, we got used to living in this place that we found so cold.
When she was sixteen, Martina married Julio Vallejo, who worked as a pipefitter in the Rock Island Railroad’s roundhouse in Horton. They had eleven children. Like many railroad workers, Julio was laid off during the Depression. When he could not find work in Kansas, Martina and the children headed north to Minnesota to work in the beet fields. Martina's daughter Florence Vallejo Terronez recalled, “There was a family from St. Paul that we knew. And my dad was getting desperate because [there was] no work. [But] they knew that there was work up there in the beet fields.”
After many setbacks the family had to work in the beet fields of Minnesota. In May 1939, we left [Horton] in a tarp covered truck. The trip was very tiring because of a heavy rain that fell most of the way. There were twelve of us; so you see it wasn’t easy. For two years we had to work in Minnesota.
In 1941, the Vallejo family moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where Julio once again found work as a pipefitter for the Rock Island Railroad.
“Mom and Dad always opened their doors to strangers,” remembered Florence. “Anybody needed help, they’d help them. [My mother] was very religious. She [told] all of us children that we were worth something, to value yourself as a child of God and be good to people.”
(Martina Vallejo's daughter, Florence Vallejo Terronez, donated "La Obra de Una Mama" to the Iowa Women's Archives in 2012 and translated the original diary into English)