100 years Later

By. Felix Alvarado



In the late 1800s, the railroad was to communicate what the internet is today, the information highway.  Business people saw the need for a railroad to connect every corner of the country.  Laying the track was labor-intensive.  It required young, healthy, strong men.  Mexico put the railroad to the Rio Grande first.  Once the railroad reached the border, the river was not going to stop American entrepreneurs were not going to stop the railroad from crossing the border and continuing north.  

Going north with the railroad were the Mexicans that had laid the tracks to the river.  They just crossed the border and kept going.  The Mexicans that installed the railroad tracks also ferried information back to Mexico on the availability of jobs in North Texas.  All along the way, the railroad needed two things to keep going, water and coal.  Texas had a ready supply of coal.  To dig the coal, Americans recruited Mexicans.  The discovery of oil led to the layoffs of many coal miners.  With nowhere to go, the miners went to where there was potential.  That was a nascent metroplex area. 

These miners went where there was housing.  That usually was the center of town where Whites were moving out.  There were not those many Mexicans in the beginning, so where they settled could not be called a “barrio.”  It was just an abode.  The actual first barrios in Dallas grew up in Cement City between Loop 12 and Industrial Blvd today and what was once called Eagle Ford.  The Trinity Portland Cement Company (El Cemento Grande) and the Lone Star Cement Company (El Cemento Chico) were located.  The companies actively recruited Mexicans to come to North Texas to work.  Others came because of the rumor that there were jobs here. Stories undoubtedly carried by the railroad.  

One of those that worked his way to Dallas was Jose C. Martinez.  Jose C. Martinez hailed from the small hamlet of San Felipe, Guanajuato.  Jose Martinez, a butcher by trade, and his wife Maria de Jesus Rodriguez Martinez departed the hamlet one day and made their way to the metroplex.  They arrived in 1912.  He immediately found work at the Portland Cement Company.  The company provided free housing to its employees.  From the very beginning, Jose Martinez personified the American spirit.  He valued education, and all his children graduated from Crozier Tech HS.  The first school they went to was the Eagle Ford District 49 School on Chalk Hill Road.  From Eagle Ford, Mexican-American children were bussed to Crozier Tech HS.  Mexican-American children were not permitted to attend Sunset or Adamson HS’s that were much closer.  Being bussed to a distant school was much more than an inconvenience. This was not a barrier to the Martinez children. Jose C. Martinez made sure of that. Feliberto Martinez and Eladio Martinez served in WWII.  Eladio was killed in action in the Philippines.  Henry Martinez Jr. served in the Korean War.  

When the depression hit, Jose Martinez left Portland’s employment and went to work for the WPA.  When the depression ended, he returned to work at the cement factory.  When Portland closed, Jose Martinez bought the house he lived in at the cement factory and moved it to Eagle Ford.  He bought several other houses and relocated them too.  Jose Martinez proved to be a model parent, a model worker, and a model entrepreneur.  

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