Reflections on Mamá Toni’s 90th birthday

An aunt gave this photo my grandma for her 90th birthday.

The day after Mamá Toni’s 90th birthday party, I was at my mom’s house. I got nosy checking out the cards and gifts while Mamá Toni rested on her couch. I couldn’t help it. I found this great photo on the stack. It was a gift from one of her nieces.

Inscription on photo from 1938

The inscription on the back (translated): Rafaela Bermudez, Paulita Saldivar, Petra Bermudez Saldivar and the family dog, Sporty. Taken in Casa Blanca, CA at the home of Antonio Bermudez in the year 1938. [Mamá Toni says Casa Blanca is near San Bernardino.] Rafaela is a niece (or cousin). I assume she was Tío Antonio’s daughter.

Saldivar Bermudez clan, 1983

I was really glad I saw the photo. I’ve seen a photo or two of my great-grandmother Petra, and a couple of photos of Mamá Toni with her parents and siblings. However, I’d only seen Paulita in a grainy photo with the rest of the family. (See below.)

Paulita passed away shortly after the photo with Sporty. I always found the story rather tragic. She was the baby of the family and the 7th of Petra and Juan’s angelitos who passed away in infancy or early childhood. To make it more tragic, my great-grandmother Petra died a few hours later in the afternoon. She was only 38 or 39 years old. I’m not sure if the same illness afflicted both mother and toddler. Mamá Toni was only a teen, maybe 16 or 17, when her mom and baby sister passed away. Although Mamá Toni had an older sister, Simona, she was the one who had to step up and fill her mother’s role around the home. I believe Simona was already married and had left home. Mamá Toni had to care for brothers, little sister, and her father. I’ve never heard her complain about this moment when her life turned upside down.

Petra had 9 children who lived to adulthood (above), 7 passed away in infancy/childhood. I’m reminded of this every time I’m in my grandparents’ bedroom and see the large poster board depicting the family tree circa 2003.

Saldivar Bermudez family tree

My grandma’s line of the family is the shortest one — and I thought I had a big Mexican family. It’s nothing compared to some of Mamá Toni’s brothers’ familes. The last time we had a family reunion in 2003, there were over 800 descendants from Juan Saldivar and Petra Bermudez’s union. Amazing.

Tío Sabas, Mamá Toni & baby Tía Chilo, and Tía Josefa

Last time I was in Zacatecas in 2005, I found this photo of my grandmother at another relative’s house. She’s seated and holding my eldest aunt/madrina Chilo. To her left are my great uncle Sabas and great aunt Josefa (she died young too). I believe the year was 1944 or ’45. Mamá Toni was 22 or 23.

The family (sans tía Eva)

She’s changed a lot since then but she’s still hard-working, kind, faithful, selfless and always willing to put her family first. She’s been doing it since she was a teen — at least!

Tres generaciones

It’s no wonder we love her so much.


One thought on “Reflections on Mamá Toni’s 90th birthday

  1. Juan says:

    Hey, can you take a picture of that family tree and send it to my email. My name is Juan, I am a grandson of Mateo and Soledad. I typed the names Juan Saldivar and Petra Bermudez up on google and I found this. I’m just curious about my extended fam. 🙂

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