Bernarda Lazcano Quintana

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By Yazmin Lazcano

As a young girl, Bernarda Quintana and her brothers and sister carried heavy buckets of water to their father, who mixed straw and adobe to create their home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. When Quintana was 12, her father was shot to death after publicly opposing the 1940 presidential winner. Quintana quit school to help support her family, first by doing odd jobs, then as a seamstress making uniforms for soldiers.

Days filled with bicycle riding, softball and school at the Escuela Revolución were replaced when she was 14 by hours amid the hum of sewing machines at Don Medina's factory. She says she soon began earning more money to help the family than the aunt who’d made the job possible.

In 1942, while working at the factory, Quintana was reunited with former sweetheart Roberto Perea and they soon married. Their son, Manuel, was born in 1943.

Roberto’s infidelity prompted her to seek a divorce in 1944, she says. Not long after, however, she learned Roberto had died in a hunting accident. She was devastated and swore never to marry again.

In 1945, Quintana took a job as Kitchen Assistant at Casa Hogar, a government-funded kindergarten in Ciudad Juarez. She excelled in the post until the director promoted her to teacher. Despite loving her job, she chose to resign after a few years rather than continue to bear the hostility of a jealous coworker.

At this time, she met Fortino S. Quintana, a former Air Force staff sergeant, who was working at the El Paso International Airport as a mechanic. In 1954, after a year of courtship, they married in Las Cruces, N.M. They had three daughters, Carolina Bitar, Edna Amador, and Rosa Maria Cardoza. Quintana says her goal has always been to provide a loving home with the same dignity as her father.

"It was a lot of work," said Quintana of her childhood home. "A lot of effort, a lot of love, primarily."

Mrs. Quintana was interviewed in Austin, Texas, on February 6, 2005, by Yazmin Lazcano.