¿Que? is not for Queso

The Texas Story Project.

As a young girl in a small, West Texas elementary school in the 1970’s, I was intrigued with Texas history. When we learned about the Alamo, I couldn’t wait to ask my grandmother about it.

"Granny, did we have any family in the battle of Texas?” I asked, my tiny fingers tightly crossed behind my back, hoping for Travis or Bowie or Sam Houston himself. I just knew there had to be some connection.

“The Alamo? I don’t think so.” She told me. “The earliest ancestors we had in Texas came during the 1860’s a few decades after the Alamo.”

I was crushed. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” she laughed.

My maternal grandmother, Jewel Patterson Robinson, was a student at Mary Hardin Baylor in the 1930's. She went to college at the height of the Great Depression and paid her way through school by working in the campus cafeteria. After graduating with a degree in home economics, she lived in various Texas counties working as a Home Demonstration Agent. She taught rural families how to can food and sew and other skills to enrich their lives.   

My grandmother’s revelation that we had no ancestors at the Alamo meant I could not return to school and proudly declare that my family was part of the famous battle. In fact, when I returned, I was not highly praised for my link to Texas history at all, but punished for an ugly confrontation.

While standing in line in P.E., two friends started fighting. One was saying the other cut in line. I knew better than to get involved. I knew that I should mind my own business, but I didn’t. One of the friends spoke angrily in Spanish. I was jealous that she could speak another language and I was mad and confused that I didn’t know what she was saying. So, I mocked her. I spoke my own “Spanish” making fun of her in a sassy tone. When she said, “¿Que?” I answered with ¡Queso!” and other words from Tex-Mex cuisine.

The two of us were quickly yanked from the line by the P.E. teacher and sent to the principal’s office. I was paddled and sent back to class. I was ashamed. I sat with my head on my desk and cried. I was a disappointment to myself and my family.

Years later in high school, the friend I had fought with, whose last name was Longoria, stood next to me in the hallway and said, “Remember our fight in elementary school?”

“Yes.” I said, still ashamed. “What were we thinking?” I was glad she had spoken to me.

Many years after that, I became a genealogist as my grandmother, and my Texas history teachers, had instilled in me a love for studying the past. As I researched my father’s side of the family, I found not only ancestors who had been in Texas during the Battle of the Alamo and fought for Texas Independence, but those who had been here over one hundred years prior to that.

A few generations back in my dad’s “Welsh” family were many ancestors who held names such as Delacerda, Flores, Luna, Perez, Padilla and….Longoria. I was shocked and overjoyed! I knew all along that my Texas roots were deep and to possibly share those with my childhood friend made the discovery even sweeter.  

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