“Rain of Gold” by Victor E. Villasenor

Rain of Gold

Copyright 1991, 562 pages, including photos, map, family trees, author’s notes and acknowledgments.  Made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and the Texas Commission on the Arts. Publisher Laurel/Dell/Bantam Doubleday. (Go figure that out.)

Here’s a NEW reason to buy a book! A late colleague of ours, Alphonso Corpus, Stockton University Associate Professor of Art, painted the picture used on this paperback edition of the book. We bought a used copy.

This book is the saga of Villasenor’s ancestors. His parents came as children, with their families, to the United States around 1910 to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution. I quickly realized I know almost nothing about the Mexican Revolution. Wikipedia describes it as triggered by failure of the regime to manage the issue of presidential succession, with agrarian insurrection as an opportunistic reaction to the social unrest. I don’t think Villasenor’s family would agree! The Revolution was presented in Rain of Gold as struggle of the poor against the wealthy. The violence and suffering were immense, which sometimes makes for harsh reading.

This history of two families is packed with energy and love. They were among 200,000 refugees who entered the United States in the course of the conflict (Wikipedia again).

Both of Villasenor’s parents were considered exceptional within their families. His father was the last child of 14. His mother, also a youngest child, was conceived when a meteor strike caused her terrified parents to assume the world was ending. One of his grandmothers was an indigenous child (Yaqai tribe) adopted into a Hispanic family.

Villasenor dedicates his book to his two grandmothers. They and many others in the extended family were powerful storytellers. Villasenor initially thought much of what they said was exaggerated or fanciful, but as he investigated, he realized most of what they recounted was true.

One thread through this account is the evolution of gender roles in a variety of settings, from remote Mexico to the tumultuous border region and into the Prohibition era in the southwestern United States. Now I want to learn more about the impact of Prohibition on American society.

Another thread in this book is the role of religious belief among “marginalized” families.

I certainly recommend this book highly, and suggest you check out Victor Villasenor to learn about his current activities and interests.

Note! A very interesting feature of this used book is the presence of an embossed seal on the front page. The occasional “Ex Libris” sticker is to be expected, but a high-quality seal? It says “Library of Catherine A Brazil – CAB”. Who was this unknown bibliophile? The “usual sources” do not provide any hint. Rest in peace, unknown friend.

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