Victoria Manrique Bata (born 1924)
Written by Catherine Babikian
Victoria “Vicki” Bata was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1924. Her parents, Soledad and Rafael Manrique, were originally from central Mexico. They had worked in Texas and the Quad Cities before coming to Sioux City in 1923. Her family lived in the South Bottoms, a close-knit Sioux City neighborhood on a bend in the Missouri River, and her father worked at the Armour & Company packinghouse.
Vicki’s formal education ended after the eighth grade, as her mother did not allow her to continue. “But then I did a lot of homeschooling. I sent for books,” she remembers. “I enjoyed school.” She began working at the Tri-State Produce Co. at fourteen, even though the plant required its workers to be sixteen or older. “My godmother got me in and told them I was sixteen,” Vicki remembered. “And I started working, candling eggs and picking chickens.”
After working at Tri-State, Vicki worked in the Armour packinghouse, a job she quit when she married Efren Bata in 1945. Less than a decade later, the South Bottoms neighborhood was demolished to make way for Interstate 29. Consequently, Vicki, her husband, and their extended family moved to Morningside, a neighborhood in southeast Sioux City.
We were one of the first Mexicans in Morningside…I can remember hearing that one lady said, oh, we’ve got some darkies moving over there. I vowed that I’d never coffee with any of them and I never did. I never did coffee. But when we had things out of our garden I’d have the kids take them up to their door, but I never went into their homes and coffee’d.
Efren became a police officer, and Vicki stayed at home to raise their seven children. As her children grew older, she became more involved with the community—starting with her membership in the Sioux City YWCA. She served on its Board of Directors starting in 1967 and was named YWCA Woman of the Year in 1979.
Well, my daughter got married. One day, she said, Mother, let’s go to the Y. So I asked my husband if I could go and he says all right. We went and that was my downfall. I get involved in everything. I don’t know why. We enjoyed it. We joined the craft club and then afterwards I can’t remember who the director was and they asked me if I’d be on the board…I was the only Mexican…All the clubs, like my sewing guild, my quilt guild, the PTA, wherever we went the Mexican people just did not.
Vicki began working outside the home after her husband retired from the police force in 1980. “There was a store opening up right here on Morningside Avenue,” she says. “I asked them if I could work. I told them I never worked before…but that I loved to sew and I liked color.” She worked four days a week on the sales floor and traveled to Minneapolis and Omaha to help select the store’s stock. “I was glad to have had that opportunity,” she says.
“Sioux City has been good to us,” Vicki says. “We’re lucky.”