Rosa Garduño is my best friend (after Taffy). She has shiny black braids, black eyes, and is a cautious, sensible girl. She’s always cheerful and smiling, in spite of the hard times her family has been through. Rosa is shy, but maybe that’s because she doesn’t speak English very well. She’s also cautious, while I’m impulsive. I was disappointed when Rosa stopped attending school the spring I turned 14. She turned 15 and decided she was now marriageable age and had better things to do than be a schoolgirl.
Six months later, Hector from the Bent Pine ranch started courting Rosa (Thick as Thieves). A year or so later, Rosa moved away from the Circle C and married Hector (The Last Ride). She and Hector have a couple of adorable, dark-eyed babies, Tomas (where did he get all that curly hair?) and Miguel.
Rosa’s family comes from a tiny village in northern Mexico. She is one of five children, but only she and her brother Joselito survived the harsh life of a poor peasant family. Here’s a few fun facts about the rest of the Garduño family.
Joselito is a just a year older than Rosa. Ever since he was a little boy, he has dreamed of being a gran vaquero, a great cowboy. This could never happen in Mexico. So he is happy for the chance to seek his fortune in the United States. In order to become the cowboy of his dreams, Joselito must practice a lot. He uses their small gray burro. It never ends well, as the burro does not appreciate children and young teens trying to ride him like a wild mustang. Joselito’s best day ever came when his family was invited to live and work on the Circle C ranch. I think he liked me but was too shy to talk to me when I stayed with their family for those three weeks. He seemed worried that his father would get into trouble for having a young American girl with them. But Joselito kept quiet, which is what he does best. He listens, he learns, and he knows he will someday be a vaquero. Later in Heartbreak Trail, Joselito is one of the Circle C cowhands who goes along on the drive. He has a horse he calls his own, and at seventeen, he has perfected his roping skills.
Nila is the shortened version of the name “Petronila.” She is a warm, loving mother who has seen her share of sorrow. Living in poverty and losing three of her five children as babies has not dampened her spirits or caused her to lose hope. Coming to the United States was her family’s last hope to survive. That’s pretty brave, especially when not one of the family speaks a word of English. Nila welcomed me, cared for me, and treated me like her own daughter, even calling me chiquita (little girl, a term of endearment). This woman is a bundle of energy and a hard worker. Thankfully, the Garduño family eventually found a welcome and steady work on the Circle C. Our housekeeper, Luisa, was thrilled to her toes to have another woman in the kitchen. And did I mention that Nila is a wonderful cook? Together, she and Luisa can cook and bake anything and everything!
Jose has worked hard all his life. First as a small child in Mexico and onward into his adulthood. He knows the United States is his last hope but he is cautious and not looking forward to the experience. He has heard much about the abuses and prejudices of gringos and how many of the rancheros (ranchers) and other rich landowners take advantage of his people. Jose would have preferred to stay in Mexico, but that option was not left to him after violence in his village forced him to gather his small family and try to carve out a living in California.
I can tell that Jose is very unhappy to have a young American girl (that would be me) on his hands. He would prefer to stay on the safe side and take me back to her family. He is afraid bad things could happen to him if I were discovered living with his family. However, since I refuse to tell him where I live and also the bonus of speaking fluent Spanish, Jose realizes I could be an asset to getting and keeping a job (and not being deprived of rightful pay). He warmed up to me when I helped make sure he wasn’t cheated. And Jose has become a different person since finding safe and profitable work on the Circle C ranch.