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American born and bred, Hispanic tried and true
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Photo: Todd Welvaert
Louisa Ewert in her parent's home.
MOLINE -- Mexico is many years and many miles in Louisa Ewert's family past, but the nation and its culture flavors her life and those of her relatives.

Ms. Ewert, 52, a lifetime resident of Moline who is serving as Rock Island County treasurer, is a member of the Terronez family, which has a strong presence in the Quad-Cities, in other parts of the country and in Mexico, from where they originally came. Contact between the immediate family members and the branches is frequent: Reunions are common, and weddings and holiday events can be large affairs. There are about 500 family members in the Quad-Cities area alone.

"We're a very close family," Ms. Ewert said.

Her immediate family's life in America began in the early 20th century with Benito Terronez, a blacksmith, and Feliza, his wife. They were Ms. Ewert's grandparents, who came from central Mexico.

Benito and Feliza were in their late teens when they and other members of the family came north in the early 1900s, looking for work and settling in Kansas, California and Iowa. By the 1920s, they were in Silvis.

"This is where the railroad yards were; there was a job opportunity," Ms. Ewert said.

In Silvis, they lived in a neighborhood provided by the Rock Island Lines. Their houses were boxcars. Ms. Ewert's father was born in one of those boxcar homes.

Much of the family tradition is passed orally from generation to generation, Ms. Ewert said. She learned it from her parents.

"They've always talked about their culture," she said.

Benito, her grandfather, died before Ms. Ewert had a chance to know him well, but she did get to know Feliza Terronez, she said.

"My grandma was a very kind person," Ms. Ewert said. "She was very honest. She was very kind and very religious."

In her grandmother's household, Ms. Ewert learned to respect others, and that hard work leads to opportunity.

"That's kind of how I got to where I am," she said.

One aspect of her ancestors' lives that did not trickle down to her generation was Spanish, which she said she cannot speak well.

When her parents "didn't want me to know what they were talking about, they would talk in Spanish," she said.

The written word also plays a part in keeping the family identity alive: The Terronez family maintains a printed version of its history and different family lines.

The book tells how Feliza's family had to hide her when she was young because it was a turbulent time in Mexico, and she was at risk of being taken by soldiers, who targeted beautiful young women. In 1916, at age 16, she married Benito, and they moved to the United States about a year later. They would have 14 children.

The Terronez identity also is kept alive through celebration and food.

The family attends or observes many religious holidays, as well as attending the immediate and extended family reunions, weddings and more.

Among the traditional fiestas the family observes is the Posada, which re-creates and honors Mary and Joseph's search for a safe place for Jesus to be born.

The Terronez family also observes Mexican Independence Day, Ms. Ewert said.

Mexican food is another connection to the family's origins, she said.

"We still make our traditional tamales for Christmas," she said.

For weddings and other special occasions, there is mole sauce, a very rich garnish.

"It's kind of hard to make," she said.

Ms. Ewert has told the stories to her children, some of whom are grown, while others are younger. She engages them in family and Mexican traditions.

"I make sure they see some of the traditions," she said.

Mexico
-- Location:North America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the United States and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the United States.

-- Population:114,975,406 (July 2012 estimate). No. 11 in the world.

-- Languages: Spanish only, 92.7 percent; Spanish and indigenous languages, 5.7 percent; indigenous only, 0.8 percent; unspecified, 0.8 percent. Indigenous languages include various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional languages.

Source: CIA World Factbook.



Local events heading








  Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass.
1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links.
1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned.
1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today.
1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.






(More History)