The Northside Oral History Project
By Jose Posadas
It was March 1966 when a young Mexican couple loaded their Chevy station wagon in Juarez, Mexico and began their long trek across the American Southwest through El Paso, Texas before finally arriving in the Valley of the Heart's Delight. In the station wagon were their eight children, later to be joined by a ninth, two years later. They came to America, as all immigrants have, searching for a better future and a better life for their family.
Jose and Martha Posadas, with children in tow ranging in age from ten to two, arrived in San Jose on Friday, March 31st. For Martha and the children, it was their first time in the city which was to be their new home.
Jose had arrived in San Jose two years earlier, in May 1964, alone, in his 1955 Ford. He found work in the farms and orchards that once blanketed this fertile valley. Back then, he would stay in hotels that line Santa Clara St. where the San Jose Arena now stands. The price for a night's lodging: $5.
It was Jose's time spent here, several thousand miles from family, that led him to want to bring his wife and children from his Acambaro, in the Mexican State of Guanajuato.
On that first Friday night in San Jose with his entire family, Jose had only forty dollars in his pocket and no promise of permanent lodging. He learned quickly that in San Jose rentals available for large families, especially those of Mexican descent, were few to none. After repeated denials by property owners, Jose made it a point to hide the fact that he had with him a family of eight children. When asked if he had children, he would answer: only one.
For the weekend, Jose, his wife Martha, and the children found refuge in the garage of a friend who was living in Sunnyvale. By Monday, good fortune and persistence had led to an offer to rent a home on N. 21st St. for a hundred dollars a month. With what was left of his forty dollars, Jose purchased food for his family and they moved in that afternoon. While the children have grown up, Jose and Martha have not left since.
The house itself was not in the best condition in April 1966, having been vacant for several months. The owner had built it in the 1920s, at the time one of only two homes on the block. The original occupants owned vineyards that lined the surrounding neighborhood between Washington and Empire Sts. In the cellar, they made wine and stored it in barrels for their personal consumption.
When the Posadas family moved into their new home it was empty and would stay that way for the next six months until Jose had saved enough money to furnish it one item at a time. Upon their arrival, they became only the third family of Mexican descent to take root in the Northside community, which was back then a predominately Italian-American neighborhood. In 1966, the Posadas family joined the Gallegos family and the Macias family, who welcomed them into the neighborhood and offered their assistance to the young couple.
With few other Spanish-speaking people to socialize with, the Posadas family pretty much kept to themselves. Life in the neighborhood was traditionally quiet except for the annual street festival that would line the block of N. 20th St., where the Italian-American community would come together in celebration. For Jose's family, celebrations were limited to what one could afford on $10 a day as a construction worker, his new occupation after bringing his family to San Jose.
After three months in their new home, after negotiating with the owner who wanted to unload the property, Jose was able to purchase the family home for the sum of $14,000. In the fall of 1966, the family celebrated its first Thanksgiving followed by their first Christmas on the Northside. Today, when the family celebrates the holidays it is not just nine children who gather around the table or the Christmas tree. Jose and Martha have 26 grandchildren.
As the years progressed, Jose continued to work in the construction industry, becoming a cement mason and then a foreman during the housing boom of the 1970s and 80s. In the summer of 1991 he retired and has spent the past decade traveling frequently to his hometown in Mexico where he grew up and where his brothers and sisters still live.
The author, Jose Posadas, the son of Jose and Martha Posadas, still lives in the Northside. He is an aide to downtown Councilmember Cindy Chavez.
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