DELPHA MORAN BARRERA
There is no one I look up to more than my grandmother, Delpha Maria Cristina Moran Dominguez Barrera. My family calls her Maye. When I was a little girl my parents had a backyard with a pool in it. Maye would watch us swim, sit on the edge and let her feet dangle in the water. I remember once I swam up next to her and she showed me her hands. She had let several small ants crawl all over them. She told me “they only bite you if you let them.” I have never forgotten that. It was the first time I experienced her strength and resistance. One time she asked my cousin Pablo for a glass of iced tea. When he returned back with the tea, she replied with “ayyy Pablo I am forever grateful.” As funny as it was, she was serious. She lives life with constant gratitude. As a true Leo, she embodies so much radiance, loyalty, and pride. My Maye is eternal and it is my honor to share her story with you.
What is your name? How did your parents choose your name? What are your nicknames?
My full name is Delpha Maria Cristina Moran Dominguez Barrera. I was the second daughter born and apparently my father was disappointed that I was not a boy. My parents lived in a Port of Mexico, Tampico, Tamps., and when my Father heard the news he went to a bar for a drink, where he met a sailor and he told him the reason for being there. The sailor asked my Father how I was going to be named and he told him that I was going to be named after my mother's name, Delfina; the sailor who was from Greece then suggested to name me Delpha with a PH and my Father liked the idea. Eventually my parents had five daughters and all of us were named Maria as a middle name, I never knew how are nicknames came about, mine is Bebe during primary, later on, I was called Delpha to this day; however during the fifty's when I lived in Acapulco my friends called me Dona Delphita.
When and where were you born? What kind of things did your family do together when you were young?
I was born in Tampico on July 23, 1930, and according to the horoscope I was born a Leo. I do not remember doing anything together as a family because my mother died when I was six years and a half, and after her death in 1937 our vacations were always in December and January. All four of us were sent to Tampico with my mother's relatives, her cousin Maruca and her Aunt Maruca. Later on, we were sent to Veracruz to my stepmother's family for the next three years. Finally, as we were a bit older, my Father would rent a house in Cuernavaca and again … we'd be sent during the holiday season with a maid to look after us, do the cooking and the wash. We would entertain ourselves in a pool, walking, and playing. Because of the cold weather in Mexico, the schools closed. This is why we didn't spend Christmas or the Three Wise Men Feast days there; we did get some nice presents and sometimes my Father would visit us on a weekend. I always told myself that if I were to write a book about my life I would title it, "A Life without a Summer."
What schools did you attend? What were your favorite subjects?
When my mother died my sister, Annie and I was sent to Incarnate Word as "interns" at the time the total students were only sixty-three, a very small beginning named "Instituto Miguel Angel.” The sisters were very strict and we'd get up at the same time they did, at 5 AM in order to go to the Chapel, pray the Rosary and attend Mass in Latin, have breakfast and begin classes at 8 AM. We had piano lessons, private devotions and we were put to bed around 5:30 or 6 PM. Some days we'd have private piano lessons and we hardly ever practiced as there was hardly any time. Later on, we were transferred to Colegio Hispano Americana, run by Sisters of the Josephine Order, a more humble and larger school. These Sisters were just as strict; there was complete silence during our meals except on Thursdays when we were allowed to converse. Everyone dressed alike, white knee stockings and navy blue uniforms with white starched collars just like at the other school, we were always in line at a special distance from each other. I stayed at this school until my High School graduation with a class consisting of 23 students and made lifetime friends. It was our first class to graduate and we celebrated each other's debut into society. My favorite subject was always Literature and History, only the Teachers had books and they would read Chapters from "Quo Vadis,” "The Odyssey,” and the "Iliad.” There was no library available, luckily my father had the morning and evening newspaper for me to read besides U.S. magazines, no encyclopedias.
How did you meet Papo? How did he propose? When and where were you married?
I met him at the College school I attended, Secular Bancaria y Comercial, a two-year complete school all of my courses were for girls. This was the first school I attended where there were boys attending, actually young men. Manuel was just out of the service from World War II and his tuition was paid by the GI Bill. On my final year he enrolled, he was using his Navy uniform and Juan my cousin met him first. By the end of the school year, my father sent me one year to study in Chicago and work. This was a very happy year in my life as I became a bit independent, and upon returning to Mexico, Manuel and I dated and he moved to Acapulco to start working. Manuel didn't propose until he asked permission from my father at the Regis Hotel and together we purchased the engagement ring.
Our courting was in the living room of my home, always supervised by my sisters, a Governess or a maid, an occasional meeting or a dance. A memorable date was a "double date" with my father and his then-girlfriend Lucero. We went to a nightclub and danced interchanging partners. my Dad was a great dancer.
We had two wedding ceremonies, the civil wedding by a Judge in my home on October 6, 1950, because the Government didn't recognize Church ceremonies. My Catholic Wedding was on November 4, 1950, at the Immaculate Concepcion Church that my mother founded in Claveria. The Reception at noon was held at the American Club with a small orchestra, a little dancing, champagne, light meal, not very elaborate like the one my sister Annie had.
How has your devotion to Catholicism changed your life? What callings have you served in?
Catholicism was embedded in my life because I grew up during the Catholic persecution in Mexico that began in the I920's as imposed by Mexican Presidente Plutarco Elias Calles. Priests were killed, churches were closed. It eased in the thirties, my early years. Even then the Priests did not dare to wear their collars and Nuns could not use their habits. Crucifixes were not hanged on school walls, Inspectors made periodical visits to our schools, however the Sisters attire was long black skirts with black pantyhose, evidently they overlooked this fact that they were actually nuns and had a small Chapel.
As far as callings, one of them was the beginning of a Farm for Orphans in Acapulco. Boys from the street and from the market. It began with the raffle of a diamond bracelet donated for a special purpose and the proceeds were used to buy the land. There were five women involved in its beginnings: Sarita Proenza, Letty Tiburcio, Vivis Conde, Delpha Moran Barrera and the donor of the bracelet. A young Diocesan Priest from Chilpancingo was called to serve and grow fruits to be consumed and sold from the coconuts, papayas and mangoes trees, corn and fish from the Pacific Ocean that was abundant. I visited this place about five years ago, now at a different location that is still in operation.
The Priest Fr. Angel Martinez Galeana, the "Granja Hagar del Nino" also worked hard to obtain help from Hotels and the private sector. An interesting article about the farm was published in National Geographic Magazine the October 1964 issue titled ''The Two Acapulcos" which I own.
The other calling was my work with DCCW/NCCW and CRS (Catholic Relief Services) that began since 1961 and have remained active. First I served representing the women for the Diocesan Council from the different parishes of the Corpus Christi Diocese, later on I became NCCW Province Director representing all the Dioceses in Texas, fourteen, at the NCCW Board in Washington, DC and later on as NCCW International Concerns Chair representing it three times in the United Nations, the last time I served as Chair. This last office was most fruitful and eye opening. As I have traveled through different countries that do not allow freedom of religion, for instance China, or if you speak against the Government you are jailed, like Cuba and places mainly in Italy in Vatican City that inspire Catholics throughout the world. I value the freedom of religion that we enjoy in the USA.
There was a time when my faith was tested because I had a boyfriend of a different denomination and neither one of us was willing to compromise with the marriage requirement that both of us had to sign that our children would be raised in the Catholic faith. I believe it is no longer required. I found this decision very hard and I was tearful and heartbroken, neither one of our parents tried to influence us.
What was your favorite memory from your teenage years?
My high school years were fun and a distraction from home but I didn't apply as much as I should have in spite of having had excellent teachers. There were constant parties from classmates, debuts, posadas at Christmas time, dances, afternoon tea dances, beautiful balls in places like the University Club, in our home and exposed to a society that no longer exists. World War II had just ended in 1945 and some royalty came to Mexico to get away, they wanted to join the social circles, formal dances, dance the Waltz, the Blues (because we could dance cheek to cheek) Jazz music, Swing, Conga, and Rumba. At times there was a small orchestra or a Marimba, all we could think about of was pretty formal dresses and boys, of course always strictly supervised. Yes, I got married at 20 years old, perhaps too young for today's standards and it was very hard leaving the social life in Mexico to go to live in Acapulco and make new friends. However, the best part was the beach, eating ceviche by the sand on Sundays, shrimp cocktail, coconut drinks, watch the sunset in Pie de la Cuesta, or even rent a hammock.
What do you consider your hard times? How did you get through them?
The first difficulty was not knowing how to cook, how to shop or what to tell a maid to do or prepare. In three months I went through 13 maids until someone referred a woman to me who had been a cook in hotels. Adjusting to very hot weather was another situation, the fan didn't give cool air, there was no breeze in the apartment located on the first floor, besides there were a couple of very hard earthquakes at the beginning. I was in a constant panic and found spiders, scorpions and occasionally a tarantula at our place. There was no remedy for any of this … hard beginnings, things did improve after we moved away to the mountains, renting a couple of much nicer homes with pleasant surroundings, viewing the ocean until our house was built in 1954. Some of these things persisted except for a nice breeze and a beautiful 180 degree view of the Acapulco Bay. It was just as pretty in the morning as it was in the afternoon and at night … I loved it, besides having friends who have lasted all these years. Like in everything, it takes time.
Who were your pop culture idols? Growing up to your adult life? Did your tastes change?
For me - it was the movies that have remained in my heart forever, Van Johnson, Tyrone Power and others, music from Frank Sinatra; as a youngster I'd listen to the Hit Parade on Saturday nights and they played the best songs from 10 to 1. My Dad would buy records from the US, like one called "Daddy," "Fascination," "Poor Butterfly," "La Vie en Rose," and also music from the great bands like Tommy Dorsey and Harry James. After I got married and I lived in Acapulco, there was no music! The little radio would not pick up the music stations from Mexico and there was no TV. Sometimes we'd go to a nightclub in the beautiful hotels and dance or watch the views and attend the movies on Wednesdays. My music taste has never changed, although now I enjoy classic music, piano and some operas if available near here.
You have traveled everywhere, what are some personal trips/vacations you remember most?
Our family vacations were very enjoyable while the children were growing up, visiting my sisters and their families demonstrating our love for each other. Group trips were special because they gave me an opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and speaking other languages and sometimes letting go of one self by being open without reservations. It amazed me how much we all have in common because at the beginning of a trip everyone seemed reserved and by the end of the journey we were all friends and we didn't want the trip to end.
As far as favorite places … China was one of the longest tours, all new to me, especially crossing the Yangtze River for five days. I amazed at the views left to right. Another one was the three week cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Buenos Aires, Argentina, relaxing in the Atlantic Ocean, the entertainment and fancy food. Another special place was Cairo in Egypt where I stayed close to five weeks on the top floor of the building which had the views of the three famous pyramids. I'd stay for hours looking down the street to see the pedestrians, handling the camels and listening to the Muslim Prayers several times a day. It was fascinating; the place was very warm and luckily we had air conditioning in the apartment. I was among great friends.
What are some personal trips/vacations you remember most and touched your heart?
One of them was meeting and being blessed in 1987 by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in the Clementine Hall of Vatican City in Italy, he touched my forehead; this blessing still gives me chills since now he has been beatified. The other one was finding the girl near Nairobi in Kenya who my friends from PA had supported. We located the twelve year old, her school and met her teachers and her mother. Her head was shaved and she was wearing a school uniform. The teacher asked all the students to stand up and sing for us. I gave her a picture of my friends in PA and she put it on her chest and kissed it. My friends could not believe the miracle that I had found her in Africa. I think The Lord had a hand on this meeting that brought joy for so many people.
What do you enjoy doing now?
Definitely being with my family, getting in touch with each of them whenever it is possible. Besides that … calling my family in Mexico. I like communicating with people, writing notes daily preferably by mail or e-mail, going to church, watching PBS, TCM, and reading all type of biographies.
What do you hope for your children and grandchildren?
I hoped for their education. They have acquired it brilliantly and pray for their happiness, health, love among themselves and unity. Try to stay happy, pray every day and take time to make choices, the right choices.
One thing I regret now is not having kept a diary, so much has happened … not just in my life but in our countries (USA and Mexico) and in the World with all the technical advances from the 30's. I'd love to go through pages of daily world events that have changed the world quickly, hopefully for the better and to bring Peace above all.