This Land Was Made For You And Me: Dulces Rubio Castillo and His Photographs

The Texas Story Project.

Dulce Nombre Rubio Castillo was born to Carmen Rubio and Carmen Castillo on a crisp January evening in the year 1946. He called the little-known town of Palomas in Chihuahua, Mexico his home for two years until his family of 7 brothers and 2 sisters immigrated into the United States. The first destination of the Castillo family was Anthony, New Mexico, a rather humble municipality on the border of Texas and Mexico. The Castillo family resided here until 1956 when Dulces and his family traversed the wastelands to Texas.

The majority of Dulces’ adolescence was spent in Dell City, Texas, where he flourished in both his studies and his extracurricular activities. By high school he metamorphosed into quite the social butterfly, having taken a liking to golf, track, football, and to many people’s surprise, drama. Upon graduating, Dulces felt that it was not enough to simply be a scholar. The United States of America was now his home and he would do all that he could to prove his ardent devotion to his country. The very same year of his graduation (1965), he joined the Air Force and was almost immediately sent to begin his training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Upon completion of his training he was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base, which incidentally, is around the time he met the love of his life, Oralia Garza in Marlin, Texas.

If one were to ask Oralia how the pair met, she would tell you in a rather no-nonsense tone that her sister’s husband had introduced them in 1967, she made him a bologna sandwich, and the rest was history. However, Dulces’ variation of the event seemed as though it were something out of Tim Burton’s classic, Big Fish. The moment he was introduced to Oralia Castillo, the world seemed to slow around him. He heard little else but her voice, and he saw little else apart from the smile she gave him as she handed him a sandwich made from what must have been the finest meat at the local delicatessen. “No,” he thought to himself, it was not the meat that had delighted his taste buds, but the mere fact that the woman who crafted this sandwich made it with such passion and tenderness, it could only be described as love!

Alas, nothing stays perfect. Hardly two months had passed since the newlyweds’ nuptials before he was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas in order to learn the inner workings of the F105. You see, Dulces was now a trained mechanic, meaning that he was to be sent off to Thailand to aid in the Vietnam War. Death. That is all that Dulces can recall at the mere mention of the Vietnam War. He lamented the loss of children he had seen give their lives for a cause that they we far too young to understand. He often awoke to sounds of explosions or cries in the middle of the night. Still, this would not deter him from attaining the green light that Jay Gatsby had sought. No, his aim was not to own an extravagant chateau on West Egg, nor to drive whatever outrageously expensive automobile had come into circulation, but to own a house and land that he might call his own.

Now, some might think that this isn’t precisely an achievement worth celebrating, as it is almost a given to own a house by a certain age in this country. To Dulces, this was something that had always seemed far away. His father was a sharecropper in the town of Palomas in Chihuahua, Mexico, which meant that he was to plant the crops for others on land that did not belong to him, and he was paid with a portion of the crop after each harvest. This was something that was never far from Dulces’ mind. 1969 was the year that Dulces left the military in search of a job that would offer him a salary large enough to support his family. That very year he resolved to find a lucrative job by any means, and given his ability to understand machines, it seemed only natural that he should become a mechanical engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad.

1971 was a rather interesting year for America. Richard Nixon’s team installed a secret taping system in the White House; Stanley Kubrick’s classic, A Clockwork Orange, was released in cinemas; and Yvonne Estrella Castillo was born to Dulces and Oralia Castillo. He swore that he would do everything in his power to ensure that they were given a home with a backyard where the family could host BBQs and where they could play with their newborn. Nearly seven years passed until he was able to purchase his first house in 1978. While it wasn’t ideal, it was somewhere he, Oralia, and Yvonne could call home.

Unfortunately, in 1988, when Yvonne Castillo was in her Biology class, she was escorted into the office of St. Gerard High School where she waited in silence. Seconds seemed more like hours for her, uncertain as to why she had been pulled out of her class without a moment's notice. Finally, her school counselor informed her that her father was in an accident, and they had no word on his condition. Tears began to fill Yvonne’s eyes and her heart sank into the pit of her stomach. She could do little else but pray to God that her father had been spared, that he had somehow managed to pull through. Perhaps some higher power was indeed watching over Dulces on that fateful day. While he had not managed to escape from the collision of the two trains without injury, he had survived. Not only had he survived, but he had managed to save the only other life on that train before the explosion. If this sounds like something out of Hollywood blockbuster, I can assure you that the scars are quite real, and that there was not an immediate happy ending to this catastrophe. Some nights Oralia awoke with a start when her husband thrashed and cried out in his bed, forced to relive that hapless day, night after night.

For years, it seemed as though there was no escape from the terrors which haunted his mind. PTSD was a relatively new concept in the psychiatric world. In fact, it had only just been recognized in 1980 in the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The man who once had a sparkle in his eye and a spring in his step no longer wished to smile. Then the death of his father in 1991 also hit him hard. Indeed, the greatest tragedy of all, he said to me, was that his father could not see the land that he had bought just two years before in Floresville, Texas—a plot that he jokingly called the Ponderosa. After all of the hardships he had been through, the silver lining had always been that he would one day show his father the house and land which he owned. Dulces’ eyes watered as he held the picture of his father in his hands, but he said that over time his regret faded, knowing full well that his father had been proud of him long before then. “He was strict, but firm,” said he, still tracing over the cracks of the old photograph he had been given after the passing of his father.

While Dulces was unable to show his father the house and the land that he bought, he came to see that he had been blessed to show his granddaughter, Madeline Alyssa Ochoa (born 1994), the land where they now spend almost every 4th of July and summer enjoying the patio that he had built on the plot of land and fishing in the pond. In fact, his granddaughter is the author of this colorful piece. I now attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas and a Psychology/Public History major. My PawPaw, Dulce Nombre Rubio Castillo taught me the same valuable lessons that his father taught him. One must work hard in order to achieve anything in this world, but there’s nothing wrong with stopping to smell the roses along the way. The photographs that my PawPaw has allowed me to share were both taken in the town of Palomas in Chihuahua Mexico by his aunt, Lola Castillo. The date is located on the back of the photograph of Dulces’ father, Carmen Castillo, but there was not one written on the back of his Uncle’s photograph with his cousins around the man. If you were to ask me to pick a single quote that describes my grandfather, I would choose the lines written by the playwright who inspired Dulces’ love for theater arts in high school. “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

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