“La Grande,” Francisca O. Galvez: Oct. 4th 1859-Sept.15, 1964. Permission of Alfred J. Quiroz, Tucson, AZ.

“She had a thing about ants.  You didn’t mess with the black ants.  “Deja esas hormigas, limpian el mundo, no estes fregando con ellas” (leave the black ants alone, don’t bother them, they are the cleaners of the earth)—veras cabrones (you will see bastards) she didn’t do that with me. 

My uncles at the time used to make fun of me—“estas metido en las nahuas” (you’re hidden in her thighs) of La Grande. Where’s Grande to protect you [they would mock him]?  ‘Leave him alone, don’t mess with Alfred,’ La Grande would say.  

La Grande was always putting things in my mind, being graceful, moving in and out of things and at the same time, being forward and honest about who you were.  And I carried this with me all my life.  My half-brother, Phillip, muy travieso (very mischievous), started to burn the ants with gasoline—she went nuts!!!  He was about nine- or ten-years-old, I was about 14, and in junior high. 

She went after him, “What are you doing, oh my god!”  So, he made fun of her, ehhh, ehhh, ehhh, ehhh, you can’t get me…  This was in a field. We had a big vacant lot in front of our house in Tucson.  He’s making fun of her—you can’t get me, ehh, ehh, ehh… 

La Grande reached down, picked up a rock and she said I’m going to get you.  He started running away from her.  She threw the rock at him [Alfred makes a sound of the rock hitting its target], knocks him out—hit him with a rock in the head—and this was a lady who was 85, 90-years-old! 

She was a hundred and something when she died.  I saw the gravestone when she died, she was already in her eighties when I was a kid!  So, she smacked him, then she went over, dragged him by his legs, tied his legs together, and hung him from a tree upside down.  This is the story I heard—that my half-brother was hanging from a tree upside down and my grandmother was walking away saying, ‘there you go mess with me!’  My grandfather freaked out! “You can’t be doing that here, this is the United States, no puedes hacer esas cosas aquí, esas cosas antiques que se hacen en México para curarlo” (you cannot do those things here, those things that are only done in Mexico to cure him). 

My grandmother said, “lo tengo que curar, porque si no se cura, se va meter en mas daño” (I have to cure him because if I don’t he will be involved in worse things).  She was curing him–they cut him down before the cure was finished—he’s in Marion Prison.  I don’t know if it has any connection, but I believe a lot of stuff she would tell me because she was a very powerful woman, very, very powerful.”

Excerpt from an interview with Artist Alfred J. Quiroz, March 2004, Tucson, Arizona by Miguel Juárez.

Miguel Juarez

Miguel Juárez was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. He is a multi-disciplinary scholar, artist and Paseño (El Pasoan) and the Editor at El Paso News. He has an Master of Art degree in Library Science...