How Filiberto Gómez got to Gustavus Adolphus College, part II

To read the first part of the story of Filiberto Gómez González, click here.

Beginning in 1932, Filiberto Gómez resided in Mexico. Perhaps the Great Depression played a role in his decision to leave El Paso, which fell into economic crisis only in 1931. Half a million Mexicans in the United States repatriated or were deported in the first years of the Depression, and among them probably several thousand people of Mexican origin in El Paso crossed into Mexico during the Depression. But given the apparent social ascent of the Gómez family in these same years, Gómez may have had personal, rather than economic motivations to return to Mexico.

His first stop was the YMCA College in Mexico City, which he attended around 1932. After completing his studies, he “became a physical director on the staff” until about 1935. It is possible that his training and work in physical education also exposed him to the YMCA’s private-led efforts in rural development, an interest he would soon develop; and he might have met prominent Mexican officials who could connect him with a government job, for the YMCA counted many allies among the country’s ruling class.

After leaving Mexico City, Gómez worked for the Mexican public education system in various capacities. Around 1935, he was a teacher at the rural normal school Ricardo Flores Magón in Chihuahua. By October of 1936, he was “national director of physical education” for Torreón, Coahuila. He even played on Torreón’s basketball team. In 1937, Gómez joined one of the Mexican Ministry of Education’s Cultural Missions to the Sierra Tarahumara, where he spent four months. His job with the Mexican government “took him into many isolated areas where he strove to improve economic, social, and hygienic conditions.”

Yet even while exercising his Mexican citizenship as a government employee, Gómez looked for ways to stay connected to the other side of the border. In 1935, he published two articles in El Paso’s Spanish-language paper El Continental in 1935 on the folkloric traditions of Holland and the Soviet Union as part of promotion for a festival he was organizing in Ciudad Juárez. The “Bronze Race Festival” (Festival “Raza de Bronce”) was meant to fundraise for a gymnasium and sports facilities in Juárez. Combining his athletic interests and abilities with nationalist sentiment and community activity, Gómez’ fundraiser was typical of the sorts of cultural activities he would organize during the coming decades.

From the article, "Bonita Fiesta De Una Mision Cultural Fue ofrecida en la Plaza de Toros," La Prensa, San Antonio, June 26, 1936, p. 5.
From the article, “Bonita Fiesta De Una Mision Cultural Fue ofrecida en la Plaza de Toros,” La Prensa, San Antonio, June 26, 1936, p. 5.

In 1936, as part of his work with the government, he collaborated in a touring exhibition of regional dances in Ciudad Juárez intended for the Mexican communities of the border region. As he told a reporter for El Continental of El Paso, this cultural event would “evoke remembrances and welcome memories for our Mexican brothers [hermanos de raza] living north of the Río Bravo.” Gómez referenced the fraternal bonds uniting all Mexicans, in Mexico and in the United States, but he identifies himself with the Mexicans “at home.” Omitted entirely is the fact that Gómez’ own siblings lived “north of the Río Bravo.” These articles, the earliest documents that captured Gómez’ own voice, foreshadow a silence in the rest of Gómez’ public statements: he did not speak of his childhood in El Paso or his family in the United States.

However, Gómez’ next career move was to pursue his education not in Mexico, but in the United States. How did Gómez end up in Minnesota at Gustavus Adolphus? Check back soon for the next part of the story.

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