animated gifsJose Antonio Romo's biography


 


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A brief history of a lost child who is yet to be found....

 

This is a picture of my first communion

with my best friend Fernando  Gomez (RIP) and

my sister, best friend, Rossy.

 

 

This is a very convenient way to get to know the beginnings of Jose Antonio Romo.  Currently on my ninth year teaching Spanish Literature  at Leuzinger High School.   Involved with Students Run Los Angeles (SRLA), Sponsor of MEChA, Editor of the Newspaper La Antorcha, Former Soccer Coach, now just a fan, and a very intresting kind of guy.  Keep reading about how I have become what I am, there is a great deal of mistery and magic as well as sad and entertaining parts of my life.  You are her already, welcome to my place and I hope you can enjoy learning about me and hopefully I will also learn about you as well.

 

 My beginnings.

I was born in Jalostotitlan, a small town in the State of Jalisco.  I will not say the year but it was around the time that Mexico was a host of the famous World Cup... (no, not that one, for those of you that are thinking the 1986,; it was the earlier one 16 years earlier).  My father is Miguel Romo Estrada, son of a farmer and successful business in the now ghost city of Real de Catorce, in the State of San Luis Potosi.  This was a prolific mining town in the late 1800's.  It reached its peak in the 1850 when the population was over 120,000.  Since then the place has slowly decayed and refused to die.   There  town is almost deserted now.  Other than the 10 or 15 families who still have remained there and who make their living from the scarce tourists who manage to endure the grueling  5 hour drive  on a 4-wheel drive vehicle of hellish dirt road from the nearest paved highway.  There is almost no vegetation here.  This desolate place is located about 10,000 above sea level.  The summers are dry and warm, but the winters are windy, cold and many occasions snow  dissembles the abandonment and suffering that has taken place for generations making this an eerie scene.   What brought the living to Real de Catorce was the money but many found death instead.  There are no crops, the only wells are those inside the mines. There are no cows, and very few chickens.  People raise goats because they are more appropriate for the climate and the lack of food.  At the cemetery, the caskets were not buried underground; they were covered with stones because the ground is made of granite.  There was a railroad to carry the material and resources back and forth but now only four wheel drive vehicles can have access to this place.   Several years ago the place was revived shortly by the making of the movie "The Mexican" starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. ( When they were filming, my uncle Jose tells me that Julia Robert complained about a donkey that could not let her sleep because it kept braying all night.  The filming crew offered to buy the donkey but the owner refused since the donkey was his livelihood.  In short, they ended buying him a new house far away in the outskirts of the town so both Julia and the donkey's master could be happy).  Now back to my story. 

 

This is the town of Real de Catorce in 1930, around the time my grandparents lived in this place.

The abuelos, part I.

My father's father was a traditional  man in every sense of the word: harsh, dry, serious, handsome,  and respected for his money and influences; his name was Jose Romo. He wore a big sombrero, always rode a horse and had enchanting green eyes.  He was the owner of a pool house and a grocery store.  He also lent money and settled every sort of dispute.  When a person was to get married,  or a baby was to be baptized, they asked him for his blessing (and permission, since he was like a sort of authority somehow).  Many say that his family came from Aguascalientes, a neighboring state.  My father's mother was a humble, old fashioned woman from the lowlands.  She dedicated, as most women in those years, all her energy and love to her husband and children and then herself. . . in that order.  She had several children and when she was pregnant with Tia Chona, the youngest of my father's sisters, she developed complications.  She could not get any medical assistance when having her baby and as consequence died.  Her name was Antonia Estrada. 

My father does not recall anything about his mother;  only  the absence of her fills his recollection.  His memory of those times is that he and his younger brother, Felipe,  were asked to take their new born sister around town.  They had to go and knock at every possible door asking women to wet nurse the young one.   "This is the reason why your 'Tia Chona' has that lunatic personality: she was fed by so many women that each one of them gave her all the traits that she now shows",  my  father tells me. 

After the death of abuela Antonia, my grandfather remarried a 16 year old girl.  He had more children with her and his business prospered.  He bought horses, expanded his store, made more deals and kept working hard.  A family from out of town moved in and my grandfather  made new acquaintances quickly.  This relationship was the demise of the entire family.  My grandfather had to go once a week to the town of Matehuala to bring products for his store so he had to leave his business to the children.  This was one of those occasions.  He left and was to return until the next day.

 My father was working on the field, and Tio Felipe was in charge of the store.  He recalls that this was the saddest day of his life.  My grandfather kept his earnings hidden, no one knew where the money was... or so was the belief.  During his absence a group of thieves came and robbed the store.  Tio Felipe remembers that they had their faces covered and carried guns and ordered them to lay face down on the floor.  He could not see any of the faces but could tell each of the voices: they were members of this new family from out of town.  Tio Felipe tried to stop them but was hit several times,he was helpless;  My grandfather's new wife could not do a thing either.  She was ordered to keep her children quiet or they would be shot.  At gun point they took everything they possibly could.  Tio Felipe tells me in detail how he counted 7 mules being loaded with sacks of 'reales' (silver pesos used during those days).   "I know to this day 'mi'jo' that it was them"  he tells me.  The family who months earlier had arrived, were not to be found that same day.  They disappeared as if by a strange magic.

My abuelo Jose returned the following day to realize that literally his lifetime savings were gone. . . He was a man, a respected man, a man with a reputation, a man who was important, and as such, he had to do something.  Abuelo Jose Romo was a man indeed, but he was a strange man, I know.  He was reclusive for days on end.  He told his wife something that bother her much.  She was pregnant and he insisted that she take care of the children  specially the one who had not yet been born.  Where are you going?  What are you going to do?, she would ask, but the response never came.  One clear morning at the time when the sun starts to bathe the hills with gold, when the day starts with anew, when people would get up and go to work, no sun shone on my grandfather's heart.  A cry from his wife was heard all around the houses and people were alarmed.  They noticed Jose Romo, running desperate.  Calls, demands, begs for him to stop were useless, he kept running.  Then other men went after him and kept following at a distance with no way of catching up to him.  He literally ran to his death.  He was runnig toward a precipice, hundreds of feet deep.

It is one of the mysteries that I don't really pay much attention to, and in a sort of sickening way, am attracted to.  It fills my mind, it overflows my capacity to comprehend, and in a strange way,  is part of me  since I am telling it and writing about it. . . I guess it helps me to bring peace and recognition to a man that not only because I am named after should matter to me, but because his existence and lack of it affected an entire generation, specifically my father.  He has never spoken about this, and I will not dare  ask him.  

 I can say now that I am very proud of having in my name the memory, mysteries, lives, and deaths of my paternal grandparents. 

End of this part.

To find out about Real de Catorce, or Jalos,or any other thing... google it!

 

 

 

Next: 

My maternal grandparents.

The meeting of both my parents.

Midwife's Disciple.

Time before school.

The circus years.

Primary school.

Secondary school and two years in the seminary.

My near death accident.

Visit to the stars.

My long visit to California.

From class clown to teaching clowns.