Have you ever felt a strong passion for something without understanding why? I am not referring to superficial things but desires such as playing an instrument, painting, writing and even a career path. Times when you’ve said you’ve always wanted to do something and felt sincere disappointment and despair for not having done this. In my case, it is writing.
In 2011, an unfortunate situation bestowed the gift of time. I needed to concentrate on something or succumb to depression. I had always wanted to research my family tree, so I set out to do so with the help of friends from the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Genealogical Society. Hours turned into days, and weeks into months before my research revealed ancestors from the 16th century. It was quite a satisfactory experience. I used Ancestry.com to create my family tree and agreed for the Tapia Family tree to be visible and accessed online.
As distraught as I was I welcomed the free time and realized that blogging could be something I’d enjoy. That is when my life as a writer began in the form of an online blog I named LaVidaValle.com. Writing rescued me from misery and helped me connect with my inner self. The writer in me. My father wrote a weekly editorial for El Bravo newspaper of Matamoros, Mexico, and his father I’d heard, also wrote at one point. Both died in their 50s, my father almost 40 years ago. Their writing did not pass further than being a hobby I believed. It was entertaining but ultimately meaningless.
One day just this year, things changed with an email from someone who read my family tree online. This dear woman, Alicia, and her sister, a professor from California, reached out to me to find out more about my grand uncle Adrian Tapia Guerra and my grandfather Francisco. Who is Adrian? I had no idea my grandfather Francisco had a brother named Adrian. After asking the elders of the family they confirmed Adrian was my grandfather’s brother who once owned a print shop in McAllen, Texas.
Alicia and her sister were preparing for a presentation in Salamanca, Spain about entrepreneur Mexican journalists of the Rio Grande Valley during the first part of the 20th century. It turns out Adrian and his brother Francisco founded a newspaper called Diogenes in McAllen in 1923. It was a weekly publication written in Spanish with a special focus on the happenings of the Mexican Revolution across the border. According to Alicia, Adrian also founded the Spanish newspaper La Patria Chica in Laredo, Texas around 1915. Alicia says that much has been written about Mexican journalists in Texas but never about those from the McAllen area so she and her sister have been digging up information, visiting people and discovering amazing stories. Alicia has an even stronger reason to pursue this project, for her father worked for Adrian and bought the print shop from him when Adrian decided to return to Mier in 1933 where he passed away in 1939.
There is more, Alicia found someone who has stacks of old Diogenes newspapers! You can see the front page of one in the featured photograph. This person declined to donate them to a library or museum and Alicia said she almost cried at the site of the almost 100-year-old papers. She never gave up and she informed me this last week (October 2nd, 2018) that she will be allowed to photograph and digitalize the newspapers. Alicia and her sister strongly believe the lives of these journalists have to be exposed and their work justified.
Alicia has shared some juicy stories and I cannot wait to discover more. It turns out Adrian got into some trouble for writing in support of the Carranzistas at a time when most writers and Mexicans did not support the actions of Carranza and his army. Adrian was summoned to Austin. I would love to know by whom or why and hope it happens sooner than later. I realized that Adrian was the reason my mother warns me against writing negative stories about anyone. She had related this story to my grandfather and not Adrian. Alicia says Adrian owned several newspapers with different names. Could it be that he ruffled some feathers and was pressured to close them down? I may never know. What is interesting is the name of this newspaper; Diogenes. My ancestors Adrian and Francisco are still teaching me things. Diogenes was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic Philosophy. Even better is the tagline “Pro-Patria & Pro-Raza.” I just love it. One of Diogenes’ many quotes says; “What use is a philosopher who doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings?”
Another interesting thing I came upon in my own research is that both Adrian and Francisco had sons in 1929 and named them Ramon. My father was Manuel Ramon Tapia Guerra from Mier, Tamaulipas, Mexico who also raised some eyebrows with his political writings and “made enemies of friends” according to my mother. “You don’t want to get in trouble like them,” she says.
I really don’t welcome trouble, but the desire to write, especially about issues that make no sense or things that seem unfair to me, is ever present to where it burns. I’ve convinced myself that knowing where the passion originates, will help me tame it and shift the focus to something positive. Only life and time will tell.