Once upon a time, in a land far far away…called México
Sometimes a curious passerby will come to the MobileBooth and ask, “Are you having storytime for kids?” To clarify, the Facilitator will explain StoryCorps’ mission.
Occasionally though, a parent comes in to record a conversation with a child and it does seem like Mobile Booth East is hosting “story time” for a young audience. In Chicago, Cesareo Moreno, chief curator at the National Museum of Mexican Art, came to the booth with his son, Cesareo Diego Moreno, to share a family story about the man they are both named after.
“The story of why we live in Chicago, Illinois is bittersweet, and the sweet part is the part that came first,” Cesareo began in a gentle narrator’s voice, and went on to tell Cesareo Diego the story of the first Cesareo Moreno.
A long time ago, in 1928, Cesareo Moreno left Mexico with his wife and eight children to work in the fields in Texas. Two years later, when he learned about sugar beets growing far north of Texas, in a place called North Dakota, he took the whole family there to live and work on the sugar beet plantations. “That’s why I say it’s sweet; it’s the sweet part of the bittersweet story,” our narrator explained.
The bitter part would come later. Eventually, Cesareo Moreno and his wife died and later on, at the start of the Second World War, the oldest sons went away to the military. The oldest daughter, named Guita Moreno (who would become Cesareo’s mother and Cesareo Diego’s grandmother), was left to care for her little brothers and sisters.
“And that’s kind of the bitter part of the story,” the current-day Cesareo Moreno told his son in a solemn voice. Too little and too few to make a living in the fields anymore, the children had to find work elsewhere to support themselves. Following her father’s example, Guita Moreno became the leader of the family and took her young siblings to the city where they could all find work in the factories. And so they came to Chicago…
Whenever things get tough, Cesareo told his son, he thinks about what Cesareo Moreno and Guita had to endure in the fields and factories, and this makes him realize how good he has it now and how lucky he is to love the work he does and live the life he lives here. Looking at his son straight in the eye, he added: “And so are you.”
“I know,” replied Cesareo Moreno’s great-grandson from across the table.
Now, on to Fort Wayne, IN!
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