Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CECILIA GONZALES ABRAHAM (1920-2013): SHE WAS ALWAYS A WONDERFUL SURPRISE

Cecilia Gonzales Abraham, 1945


Independent Publishing is always miraculous. Like that time somewhere in 2004 when the door opened at Cinco Puntos Press and, Surprise!, the Abraham sisters, Susan and Denise, brought their mother Cecilia Gonzales Abraham to visit us. We had just signed a contract with the sisters to publish a YA book starring their mother Cecilia. And here she was, walking through the front door, a spry 83 year old woman ready to talk and laugh and maybe even dance if somebody would ask. We knew immediately where her daughters received their delight in their lives, their wit, their joy and their love for their mother. It was a great experience. We spent time with Cecilia on other occasions, but that first time was very special.

The two award-winning historical novels that Susan and Denise wrote about their mother--Surprising Cecilia and Cecilia's Year--were very special too. Cecilia was born in Derry, New Mexico in 1920. Derry is that little farming community you can see, going north on I-10, just before you cross the Rio Grande below Truth or Consequences. Derry was a wonderful place to grow up, but Cecilia wanted to see the world, so she had to buck the expectations that her family and the community placed on her. She had ambition and the wonderful surprising spirit that allowed her to follow her dreams. The stories form a wonderful portrait of a young girl becoming a woman. The story of Cecilia--from beginning to end--is a true American story. A true American woman's story!




Here's the author's note that Susan and Denise wrote for back of Cecilia's Year.

Cecilia Gonzales is a real person who really did grow up on a farm in Derry, New Mexico. Cecilia’s dream was to get an education and to make a better life for herself and her family. Through determination and hard work, she was able to see this dream come true.
Cecilia graduated as salutatorian from Hatch Union High School in Hatch, New Mexico in 1938. Against her mother’s strong protestations, she left the family farm for El Paso, Texas, where she attended the International Business College. She paid her tuition and supported herself through secretarial work, including working for the well-known architects, Trost and Trost. During World War II, Cecilia worked for the Office of Alien Registration under the Department of Justice and for the Post Quartermaster at Fort Bliss, Texas. Because she was bilingual, she was hired by the U. S. Office of Censorship, where she monitored telephone calls between El Paso and Latin America during the war.
In 1944, Cecilia left El Paso for New York City to marry her husband, Anees Abraham, a native El Pasoan. He had joined the army and was stationed in Pennsylvania. They were married for 49 years. While in New York, she worked for the American Red Cross, where she met Mayor La Guardia and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1964, Cecilia became one of the first employees of the Chamizal Project under the U. S. Boundary and Water Commission. She served as a hostess during the transfer of the Chamizal to Mexico where she met President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United States and President Díaz Ordaz of Mexico. In 1967, she was the first employee of the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas. She met First Ladies Rosalynn Carter of the U. S. and Sra. Carmen Romano López Portillo of Mexico during their visit in 1977. Cecilia was assigned to take inventory of the LBJ Ranch home in Johnson City, Texas, before it was donated to the National Park Service by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. Mrs. Johnson graciously met with Cecilia and the other Park Service employees, serving them coffee and cookies.
Besides meeting two Presidents and four First Ladies and retiring after over 20 years of government service, Cecilia has traveled all over the world to places such as South America, Europe, Greece, Turkey, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico—not bad for a young farm girl who used to sit daydreaming under a cottonwood tree.



 May Cecilia rest in peace. 

Cecilia Gonzales Abraham, 1995