This is the Industrial Age.  American industry is expanding, and transportation is a driving the expansion.  The horse and buggy and wagon train have died a natural death.  Railroads are the transportation of the future.  

By Felix Alvarado



Coal is needed to fuel the hungry train locomotive. Coal is needed by the trains that travel west to El Paso north to Chicago and east to New Orleans.   In 1882, a coal mine opened in Bridgeport. It was the first coal mine of North Texas. There would be more. There was an immediate need for experienced miners. The nearest place to find miners was Mexico.


This is the small town of Monte Blanco. A Gringo has posted signs all over the small town. “Busco trabajadores.” “Quien le gustaria ir a America a trabajar escarbando carbon, favor de reunirse en el centro del puebleo a las 2 de la tarde.” There was a lot of commotion in the center of town by the water well. Almost the whole town showed up. The gringo had everyone’s attention. The Gringo is speaking in Spanish. 


They, Maria and Jose, approach cautiously to see what the Gringo had to say.  They listened attentively. The Gringo speaks of going to America to work. He is recruiting experienced miners. He offers them a job in Texas. Jose is an experienced coal and copper miner. The miners from Monte Blanco will be the first Mexicans to go to North Texas. They will go to a place called Bridgeport. Jose and Maria glance at each other not knowing what to think or what to say. 


The only thing Jose and Maria know about Texas is what Manuel, their cousin, told them. Manuel worked on the railroad installing the tracks until he got injured. With a bad back he could not drive the spikes into the railroad ties. Manuel painted a bleak picture of Texas.  Nothing there. He recalls seeing Indians. 


Life is not great at Monte Blanco. But it is home. Home to all the family for generations. Life is quiet and tranquil. There are few amenities in Monte Blanco. The most excitement is at the canteen on the weekend when the men go get drunk. Still, on Sunday everyone has to attend church. One person you do not want to get mad at you is the padre.


This is a political period called the “Porfiriato”. Porfirio Diaz was the president of Mexico. He was also the dictator. Jose and Maria think of Nestor. Nestor criticized Diaz and, in the morning, he was found on the outskirts of town beaten to death. The beating was not to teach Nestor a lesson, he was dead. The town people got the hidden message that denigrating the government was not a good idea. 


The Gringo explains, the mine operators take safety very seriously, pay is much better.  Those that volunteer to go will be allowed to bring their children. Every family will have a home. They will have medical care. The children will be able to attend school. Language will not be a barrier because miners will be assigned work groups according to language spoken.


The Gringo explains that he will return next week. Those that want to go need to pack their personal belongings. They are to travel light. Take warm blankets for the children, take enough water and food for the trip. The trip will take over a day. The company store will extend credit so they can get the immediate necessities.


Jose and Maria are faced with a decision.  Looking at each other they can only ask themselves a question; “Que hacemos?” 


This is a decision many Mexicans had to make. The first Mexican families to come to North Texas came to Bridgeport to work on the coal mines.  They were not in search of the American Dream, they just wanted something better than what they had in Mexico.  They could not speak English and could barely read and write. They did not even know what the American Dream was. For most this was a one-way trip. The children would be American citizens. There would be no looking back. Eventually, their children will have access to the American Dream.


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