Friday, 2002 Jul 19
Daily Bulletin, City News Section
American Dream Fulfilled
Mexican Immigrant family settled in San Dimas, grew, prospered
FOUR GENERATIONS OF SAN DIMAS FAMILY UNITE FOR REUNION
Imani Tate, Staff Writer
Leandro and Jacinta Dominguez would be pleased that four generations of their progeny have fulfilled the dream that brought them to California in 1928.
Free public education was the driving force behind Jacinta Dominguez’s desire to come to California. She felt education would be the key to unlock the doors to opportunity.
In late June, under the shade of a pavilion at Ganesha Park in Pomona, 200 relatives gathered for a Dominguez family reunion and proved that Jacinta Dominguez was a maternal visionary.
The young Mexican couple from San Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Dominguez’s younger brothers Juan and Manuel and cousins Gaspar and Bruno, were neutral in the revolution waged by Pancho Villa against Mexican federal forces in the early 20th century.
Family, not politics or war, was their highest priority. So they left Mexico in 1917 to seek a better and safer life in America. After a brief stay in Texas and 11 years in Arizona, they came to California, settling in San Dimas in 1928.
Most of those attending the reunion were descendants of Leandro and Jacinta Dominguez and their 11 children, but there were also relatives from Juan Dominguez’s lineage. The Dominguez matriarch is Rose Martinez of Pomona, 87, Leandro’s and Jacinta’s fourth child.
Martinez was among the first to arrive. She later posed for pictures with the second generation siblings — Mariano Dominguez of Claremont, 86; Vera Perez of Chino, 78; reunion organizer Carmen Nevarez of San Bernardino, 76; Alice Barreras of San Dimas, 74; and Eva Navarrete of San Fernando, 72. Rosemary Martinez Martinez of Simi Valley, 80, could not attend.
Jacinta did more than dream of a better education for her children. She put all her energies into making both happen, her relatives said.
Dominguez’s descendants entered professions including education, banking, medicine, law enforcement and construction.
“We were inspired by my mother and the legacy she left,” said Vera Perez, retired Chino Municipal Court administrator. “She wanted us all to get an education. She even went to school herself to learn how to write and talk English.”
Carmen Nevarez, a retired elementary school teacher, agreed with Perez’s assessment of Jacinta Dominguez’s influence on future generations.
“They always told us education is important for everyone,” Nevarez said. “My mother and father were ahead of the times. My father was educated through the sixth grade in Mexico which was significant in the late 19th century. They knew it would take an education for their children and grandchildren to succeed.”
The first Dominguezes in America felt family was as important as education. Family sustains and supports, many said, and education lifts self and family. Four generations value both.
Leandro and Jacinta had 11 children. The eight girls and three boys, in order of birth were Felipe, Maria, Santiago, Rose, Mariano, Ina, Rosemary, Vera, Carmen, Alice and Eva. There are countless Cousins, nieces and nephews. The youngest child in the family is Danielle Powell Hillerch, born May 4 and Maria’s great-great granddaughter.
The youngest child attending the reunion was Damion Pawlik of San Gabriel, an active 3-year-old who preferred running, jumping and leaping off playground equipment to sitting with his mother, Rebecca Duardo, or playing with sister, Jazmine Pawlik, 5.
Lily Navarrete, Eva’s daughter-in-law, started smiling the moment she entered the pavilion with her husband Rudy, and sons, Ernie, 7, and Eddie, 4.
“There are only two children in my family, me and my sister, so we don’t have this kind of a family reunion,” said Lily Navarrete, a state Department of Motor Vehicles clerk. “I’m lucky and look forward to these reunions. My mother-in-law lives with us, so we have a three generation home. For me, the values of the family come first. Family will always be there for you.”
Family elders symbolize love and guidance for Rudy Nevarrete, a probation officer. He said most of the troubled young people he encounters didn’t have parents and grand-parents to show them the way, so they got in trouble.
The watchful eyes and attention of relatives kept them on the right track, said Chino Hills chemist Dan Barreras, Alice’s son. His wife, Yolanda, owns a bookkeeping and income-tax service business.
“You get use to growing up in a big family, but after a while there are so many cousins you can’t keep track of all of them,” Barreras said. “I always had lots of cousins to play with when I was a kid because most of us lived in San Dimas and they were only a few blocks from me. Everyone lived locally, so you couldn’t go to Pomona or Chino and get in trouble either.”
“It’s a blessing to have a family,” asserted Lily Barraza Mordasini of San Francisco, a retired banker and daughter of Maria, the eldest Dominguez daughter. “Our mother was a Christian. She always prayed for us. We’ve been blessed all our lives.”
Santiago Dominguez’s son Robert of Pomona opted to become a physical therapist, but his sister, Julie Gomez of Diamond Bar, followed family tradition and became a teacher.
Gomez proudly proclaimed, “Grandmother Jacinta wanted to move to California because school was mandatory and she wanted her children to be educated. There are several generations of teachers in the family today. Education has been instilled in us since we were young. There are also lots of relatives from the Juan Dominguez side who are teachers.
“We love learning so much, we want to pass our excitement about education on to other children,” Gomez said.
The reunion provided a chance to recite family stories.
David Delgadillo of San Diego, Juan Dominguez’s grandson and a registered nurse, remembered when his grandfather Juan Dominguez opened a billiards parlor in Los Angeles.
“We were children and he was very strict, so he wouldn’t let us go into the parlor. But,” Delgadillo said, smiling, “he would take us around the back and open up bottles of soda for us.”
Robert Dominguez told a ghost story about a haunted hacienda in Mexico, big enough to house all the children then born to Leandro and Juan and “incredibly cheap, like $2 or something terribly cheap even for the early 1900s.
“They wondered why it was so cheap, but they needed the rooms, so they rented it.” Dominguez said. “Then they kept hearing this noise behind the walls. The family dog ran away. Lots of things were going on. One night they were on the second floor, getting ready to go to bed, and they saw a light coming up the stairs. There was candle wax melting over this hand, only a hand, no body.
“They watched in silence and this thing went past them. They didn’t stay there much longer after that.” He said laughing.
On a more serious note, Rose’s son Al Martinez of Pomona applauded his ancestors’ tenacity.
“It took courage to come here, in the heat, in one car and with no other family already in California,” said Martinez, an auto store manager. “It was just like ‘Grapes of Wrath.’ We owe everything to their courage and conviction that life would be better for us all here.”