Life on a Texas Ranch

The Texas Story Project.

Photo of Maria Magdalena DeHoyos Garcia
Photo of Maria Magdalena DeHoyos Garcia.

My grandmother, a strong woman, has seen and been through a lot of things in her life here in the great state of Texas.

Maria Magdalena DeHoyos Garcia was born in Natalia, Texas on October 23, 1931. She and her family soon went to Uvalde for a few years. When she was four or five years old she moved with her family to Boerne, Texas around the year 1941. Boerne was a German/Dutch town, which had a lot of segregation during that time. My grandmother was just a small girl so she did not realize what was going on. It was there in Boerne where she began to go to school. When she was in the 1st grade her teacher could not pronounce her first name so she changed her name to Helena, which was later changed to Helen in the 3rd grade. Her parents spoke only Spanish so they did not fully understand what was happening. My grandmother, being very young at the time and not knowing much English and only what she was learning from school, did not realize that her name was being changed. This would be the name that she goes by for the rest of her life. Little by little she began to pick up the English language from her classmates. She said, "I saw my classmates raise their hands and say 'be scuse' and they would leave the room. So I tried it and learned that they went to the restroom. For the longest time I thought 'be scuse' was the word for restroom, so when I would say, 'I am going to the restroom,' I would say, 'I am going to be scuse'."  It was in Boerne where my grandmother got a surprise of a lifetime. Her family of five siblings would soon grow to ten. Helena’s aunt had just had a baby and died soon after due to complications so her mother took all of her 6 children in as her own. Helena’s life would never be the same.

My grandmother’s father worked on a ranch. He was a ranchero for a ranch owned by a man named Dr. F. Smith. Her father was a foreman for the ranch and was in charge of the sheep shearing and raising cattle. When she was about ten years old they moved to Uvalde, Texas because her father found a job there. When they lived in Uvalde they lived on the ranch and got many of their sources of food from the animals. They rounded up the cows for milk and got their eggs from the chickens. It was there that my grandmother learned how to ride a horse. Helena and her siblings would spend their summers from May to September helping on the ranch and playing in the creek. These are her fondest memories, being with her family on the ranch. Around the year 1946 Helena and her now-giant family moved back to Uvalde, Texas because her father found a job working on a ranch named Catarina Ranch, owned by a man named Dolph Briscoe. This is the same man that is the late Texas Governor and for whom the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio is named.

Helena later graduated from Uvalde High School where she was one of only ten Hispanics out of the hundred and ten in her graduating class. In 1952 when she was about twenty-one years old she left Uvalde and moved to San Antonio and lived with her aunt. When she was just twenty-two years old she met my grandpa at a dance club and they have been married ever since. Five children, twelve grandchildren, and two great grandchildren later and they have now been married for almost sixty-three years.


A freshman Biology Major at St. Mary's University, Emily Bartlett has lived in San Antonio her whole life. She decided to interview her grandmother, "Helena" Garcia, because she has been a prominent role model throughout her entire life. Bartlett wanted to know about her grandmother's life and what influenced her to be the strong woman she is today.

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