Alright, so the title of this post carries just a tinge of hyperbole. But, I won't deny that these words did float across my mind as I heard my husband's aunt relate the tale of "Uncle Natividad" and his brother Juan, El Asesino del Machete. (Go ahead. Google him. But, don't get too excited. We'll come back to him a bit later.)
Let's begin at the beginning.
My husband was born and raised in Guadalajara, Jalisco - a beautiful city with Spanish architecture, legendary music, and equally legendary food. His parents' families are from small, rural towns on the periphery of the big city. I've been fortunate to not only hear stories of these romantic Mexican villages, but to visit them, as well.
My family hails from north of the border. On my father's side, after living for generations in Oklahoma, they traveled west and landed in Marysville, California, a small agricultural town near the state capital of Sacramento. (Rural, yes. Romantic, not so much.)
Our heritage could not be farther apart - in distance and in culture. And, if you had asked me 3 months ago if it were possible that our families crossed paths over 60 years ago, I would have dismissed the idea as statistically silly and basically impossible. The world is simply not that small.
And I would have been wrong.
From Guadalajara, Jalisco to Marysville, California
During a recent visit to Guadalajara, my husband's aunt shared a few stories from her experience working in the U.S. I had always known that she spent time working in Chicago, so when I heard her mention taking a bus to her destination, I had to inquire: "you traveled by bus from San Diego to Chicago?!" Her response was quick: "Yes, but not on that trip." This time, she was referring to her first venture to the U.S. as a very young woman, to work with her father's relative, Natividad Corona.
In Marysville, California.
I nearly fell out of my chair. Marysville? Near Sacramento? A town with a population of only 7,800 in 1950? The same town that my grandfather lived and worked in for many years?!
The answer to all of those questions, of course, was yes. It was the very same place. And who would have guessed it? My husband's aunt and my grandfather were in the same small town, at the same time. Incredible. But the story did not end there. This stay in the U.S was with Natividad Corona. And there was so much more to tell about Natividad and his notorious brother, Juan.
According to the family, these brothers were cousins (2nd or 3rd?) to my husband's grandfather - though, no one was able to define the exact relationship. Natividad traveled to California in the 1940s and after working in agriculture for some time, became a labor contractor for migrant farm workers in the region. While staying with Natividad, my husband's aunt's job was to cook and serve three meals a day to the farm workers - 90 of them, three times a day. She also worked with Juan, Natividad's younger brother. As she recalled the difficulties of this work, she mentioned the scandal and "horror" of Juan's acts, which occurred years after she had returned to Mexico. There seemed to be an assumption that I was aware of these events and the connection to the family. But, I was in the dark - and my interest was piqued. Who was Juan Corona, and what, pray tell, did he do?!
Then, she showed me a small booklet she had saved from the year it happened.
A search for the truth
Thus began a 3-month search for Juan Corona. I was intensely curious about the crimes. I wondered whether he was guilty. I wondered if he were still alive. And, perhaps most importantly, I was determined to prove (or disprove) the family connection between my husband and this mysterious, alleged murderer.
Lisa Medina, here to share the history of families - one story at a time. .
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