My grandmother Josefina Alvarado Almaguer was born March 19, 1918 in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. In 1937 she married Francisco Vitela Landin of Del Rio, Val Verde, Texas. Francisco (Pancho) was a professional wrestler living in Mexico when she met him. Pancho abused alcohol, drugs and in a very cruel way would parade prostitutes in arm to my grandmother’s doorstep. My grandmother describes Pancho as an abusive husband. Her father witnessed the abuse and got into an argument with Pancho who became so enraged that he pulled a knife on her father Manuel. Disgusted by Pacho’s behavior Josefina’s father had the marriage annulled and used his political ties to have Pancho kicked out of Mexico. They were not aware that my grandmother was already pregnant with my mother.
Adding insult to injury, Josefina was unfairly treated as a woman who mothered a child out of wedlock. She was a sinner in the eyes of a predominately catholic country and her daughter was treated as a bastard child. Despite these hardships, Josefina began a successful career in fashion design. Her business originated in her own neighborhood in Cadereyta when she was a teenager. Her first clients were the ladies from the brothel down the street wanting custom made designs. She had been hand picked for the job by a man employed by the prostitutes as their shopper. With her eye on success Josefina left her judgmental small town and opened a factory in Monterrey, Mexico creating her designs.
Mexico fell into financial crisis during World War II. If not for Franklin D. Roosevelt approaching Mexico as an ally, Josefina’s business would not have survived. Mexico’s government took over Josefina’s factory and she was ordered to design and make new uniforms for the women in the Mexican Army. Having been elected to a second term, President Roosevelt, used both the F.B.I and U.S. military intelligence to assist the Mexican Army in their struggle against the pro-Almazan forces.
An issue in 1940 was the question of how to handle Mexican citizens who chose to join the U.S. Armed Forces. It was resolved by Mexico becoming the beneficiary of Lend-lease assistance, allowing the country to modernize its Air Force, Army and Navy.
Josefina later moved to Mexico City and opened her own high couture fashion design company.
Photo of Josefina circa 1938 from my family archives.
10/18/12 Audrey B