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Felipa Dolores Solis

1921-1999

Beloved Madrina and Owner of Blanca Molino

Becoming the Beloved Community

THEME

This profile is reprinted from La Voz de Esperanza, February 2022, Vol. 35, Issue 1, with deep appreciation to the author, Maria A. De la Cruz, for sharing her Nina’s story.


Mi Nina: The Woman who shaped my life, Dolores Solis

By Maria A. De la Cruz


I had not realized, until the day of, that my madrina had been born 100 years ago in October 2021. Few people recall her story because, even though she was well connected, she was an only child with no family of her own. Our lives intertwined during the last 24 years of yer life, when she helped raise me as if I was her own, and although I lack the knowledge to dig deep into the intricacies of her past, I will do my best, with the help of my mother’s recollections, to tell her story. Her generosity and kindness can be attributed to the rich history of events she lived through, as well as the social life she experienced amidst her cousins and close friends.


In 1921, the world had just come out of World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The Mexican Revolution had ended 3 years prior. Polio epidemics occurred every summer. Race wars were going on with activity from the KKK. Eight years later, The Great Depression would occur. And 10 years after that, WWII would begin.


Felipa Dolores Solis, known as “Lola” or “Lolita,” was born in the Westside of San Antonio, TX. The Great Depression forced her family to move to Mexico, where the dollar could stretch further. She had a younger sister, but the baby died and is buried in San Fernando Cemetery I. Much of Lola’s education occurred in Mexico, and her secondary education certified her as a shorthand transcriptionist. She was very close to her mother, María Pabla Barrios Solis, and rarely mentioned her father, Demetrio Solis. Early black and white photos show her in an elementary school play or dance in Mexico for Independence Day; her look seems serious. In youth, she looks joyful and extroverted in the company of otherhappy young women. In the U.S., she worked with eggs and in “La Juvenil,” sewing in the Levis Factory. It seems Lola liked to travel; there are several photos of her young years in Veracruz, Mexico, in what looks like a group trip; whenever she mentioned Veracruz, there was a dreamy fondness in her voice.


Asking mother for more details, she says that Lola knew how to write English well, which means she learned the language during her elementary school years in the U.S. Mother makes her way to where I’m sitting and whispers in my ear, “Estaban huyendo.” It seems Lola’s maternal grandfather or great-grandfather had taken prisoner a president of Mexico, perhaps Madero, and the family had to flee to safety. Because the family was in movement, they spent their time in San Antonio, Laredo, and Monterrey. While in the Westside of San Antonio, she lived “en las casas verdes.” When visiting from Mexico, she would stay with her cousin, Anita Ortiz (married name Sosa). She later lived on Torreon St., in the property of Teresa Navarro’s father, José. (In adulthood, Teresa Navarro, who never married, was a career teacher in the Westside, as well as a landlady, having inherited her father’s property, including along Guadalupe St. Teresa and Lola were close childhood friends and, both being only children, would call each other “prima” even though there was no blood relation.)


For the sake of chronology, I will sidestep into my mother’s story, so I can introduce Lola into the time frame when I knew her. María Angélica De la Cruz (senior), most commonly known as “Angelita,” worked in house labor and office cleaning. Mother’s cousin, Herlinda, had a house catty-cornered to where Botello’s store is located, on El Paso St. and S Smith in San Antonio’s Westside. In 1954, when mother and her Tía María came to San Antonio from the Mexican border, they stayed with Herlinda. While buying tortillas at La Blanca Molino, which at that time was located on S. Brazos, between El Paso and San Fernando, where the present Dollar Tree and Guadalupe Dance Co. are, Tía María asked if they needed workers. The answer was yes; one was needed at the molino, and another at the owner’s house. The name of the lady whorented the space for the molina was Callita (Arcadia Enriquez), and she took Angélica as housekeeper for her and her two daughters. Over time, having built trust, Angélica was brought to work at the molino on weekends, as it seems Callita could not trust the other weekend employees to stay away from the money drawer.


For many years, Callita had rented the building for La Blanca Molino from the owner, el Señor Picini. Picini asked Callita to vacate the property because he wanted to sell it. The land was eventually sold to HEB. Around 1958, Callita relocated the molino across the street from Guadalupe Shrine on El Paso St. She rented the building from la Señora Tules Eguia, who also owned the bakery building still standing in that location on El Paso and Brazos. At that time, tortillas were formed with a small machine similar to a pasta maker. As the tortillas spun out, someone would catch the tortilla and toss it on the comal. Mother says that was Panchita’s job, but she also learned how to do it.


In 1962, one of Callita’s daughters married, and Callita no longer wanted the molino. The employees were temporarily displaced. When Lola took over the property lease and ownership of the business, Callita asked if she could employ the ladies, seeing as how they were already experts at their jobs. Mother doesn’t know whether Lola wanted them or not, but the truth is that Lola had sewing know-how, not tortilla know-how.


The molino, like other small businesses on the Westside, came with living quarters attached. At the time the business exchanged hands, the molino had one small bedroom, a bathroom, and a small kitchen, which was especially cramped because it also served as a storage area for the sacks of corn to be cooked for nixtamal. Eventually, Lola went from renting the property to buying it, along with four additional houses behind it, from la Señora Eguia. Once the property was hers, Lola started making improvements, both to her home and business and to the additional homes she rented out. By 1968, Lola upgraded business production by purchasing a full-scale, automatic tortilla making machine; it shapedtortillas from masa and cooked them without the need for a separate comal.


Lola had moved to the molino along with her elderly mother. She would have taken care of Doña María at home until death, but her mother became ill and bedridden to the point of having to be transferred to a nursing home, where she did not last long; separation on top of illness transitioned her quickly. Angélita saw the great vacuum left in Lola’s heart after her mother’s passing early in the 1970’s. A few years later, a shock came into Angélita’s life– me. She lost her job at the molino because the strength and activity needed to perform were too much for a pregnant woman. With lack of support, she had to work extra jobs, and expanded into restaurant support staff; there was no such thing as planning for a baby. Knowing and seeing Lola’s grief and solitude, Angélica asked Lola if she could baptize the child. Saying that Lola was overjoyed would be an understatement. Photos show Lola and the baby as almost inseparable.


Lola became my madrina less than a month after birth. My young tongue could not say “madrina,” so my name for her became “Nina.” Our neighbors in the rental house compound were as follows: Tencha lived next door to Lola on the corner of El Paso St. and Kickaster Alley, Toñita and her son Chuy, the boxer, were in the center facing the callejón, and in the back were two houses. In the one sharing the callejón with Toñita lived a solitary gentleman and his dog, and the house on the inner corner was rented by my mother. Not until I experienced pneumonia three years in a row after birth did Nina realize I needed more warmth and care, so she invited us to live under her roof.


The best summary of our lives together comes in the form of a Thanksgiving photo. In the photo, Olivia Barrios is holding me. There, too, are Viola Barrios and her husband, José, and three children, Diana, Teresita, and Luis Alberto, Anita and Roberto Sosa, parents to Lionel, Robert, Daniel, and Mary Christine, and a few other people I do not recognized offhand, perhaps Beatrice and Gollo (Gregorio) Ortiz, and her best friend, Tere Navarro. (Nina’s signature on any photo she tookwas a finger partially covering the lens, obscuring faces in the process.)

"Lola’s favorite color was yellow, the color of richness and the sun. Her kindness was deeply rich, and her compassion had the warmth and intensity of the sun."

--María A. De la Cruz

 

"For me, Nina was a second mother and my greatest champion and role model. No one can ever replace her, and my few words here cannot completely retell all my memories of her. "

--María A. De la Cruz

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Lola in her mother's arms.
Lola in her mother's arms.

Photo courtesy of Marīa A. De la Cruz

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Lola, about 9 months old.
Lola, about 9 months old.

Lola kept this porcelain doll for most of her life. María remembers seeing the doll when she was a teenager.

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Collage for Lola's funeral.
Collage for Lola's funeral.

Photo courtesy of María A. De la Cruz

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Lola in her mother's arms.
Lola in her mother's arms.

Photo courtesy of Marīa A. De la Cruz

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Photo courtesy of María A. De la Cruz

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Photo courtesy of María A. De la Cruz

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Photo courtesy of María A. De la Cruz

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Photo courtesy of María A. De la Cruz