Old Town National City and the Matanzas
Old town National City Mexican families formed an industry in San Diego County
Published on LatinoLA: July 12, 2016
Matanzas in Spanish means Slaughterhouse, meat packing and Hide processing .The words taken together have come to symbolize hard work and opportunity. In his book "The Jungle "Upton Sinclair described in his fictional account about the brutality of the meat packing industry and its impact on immigrants.
The book while published in 1906,did result in some minor reforms. The inescapable remained; it was some of the hardest work, and in some of the worse working conditions possible. Later through modernization things improved, but this kind of work remained for the hardy.
The Westside of National City, Ca from the turn of the century to the war years, was the economic and industrial center of the city of National City, Ca.It was laid out that way because the railroad and the agricultural interest had the vision to want to move their products. Further, the Navy had made the San Diego Bay, a vital part of what it was doing and National City Westside had direct access.
The National City meat packing experience started, ironically in Bakersfield, Ca, where the story goes that Mr. Hoskins, who was a cattle buyer for the Kern Land and Cattle company, was not pleased with his son George's behavior on their ranch in Bakersfield, Ache wanted his son to cut out his shenanigans and get serious about life.
Most of the ranch employees were immigrants from Mexico, who wound up in Bakerfield, Ca following the trail of jobs, common in the depression era. The Hoskins family was especially fond of their foreman Maurilio Nava, who had escaped service in the Mexican Revolution to come north for a better life. Maurilio Nava's compadre Jesus Gonzales Bonilla, a native of Jalisco had joined him in Bakersfield and at the Hoskins ranch.
In 1937-38,with his contacts in the cattle business, Mr Hoskins sets up his son George, as the owner operator of Hoskins Meat Packing at 2424 Cleveland Ave, National City, Ca.He could have never imagined that the site he choose and the adjacent areas would become the center of the meat packing business in National City, Ca.Eventually it would became the home of Wright Meat Packers, C.M.Meat Packers, National Meat Packers and Crockett Hides.
Maurilio Nava is made foreman of Hoskins Meat Packing, his first task is to recruit workers, and he starts with his compadre Jesus Bonilla, who helps him find workers for the various jobs, which include "Hide Dropper, Splitter, Gutter, Romper,
Header and Killing Floor man". All this animal reconstruction is done with sharp knives, at a rapid pace.
Hiring of the workers had another effect, it started laying the foundation of Mexican families moving into the west side of National City, following the jobs and complimenting those families that had come earlier. The families like the Arcigas, Valderama, Coronados's Aguileras, and Acostas, Bonilla, Nava which today are the fabric of Old Town National City history, all have a connection to the "Matanzas".
Among the two largest families that had come to National City, prior to the "Matanzas and lived on the West side, were the families of Trinidad Juarez and Delfino Portillo.
Both arrived in the 1920s,Delfino Portillo by way of Anthony, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas and Trinidad Juarez by way of Michochan, Mexico.
Both were extremely large families, the Portillo's with 15 brothers and sisters and the Juarez's with an equally impressive amount of siblings.
Two members of those families Abel Portillo and Carlos"Beaver"Juarez, now in there 80s,saw as children the "Development of the "Matanzas "and experienced the hard work as adults. Both spent many years in the meat packing industry.
Abel Portillo reflects-
His childhood was dotted with two National City's, one with paved streets and sidewalks, nice schools, the other full of adventures at rain time, when the streets would flood and access from old town, would be restricted. Prior to the construction of Kimball School in 1941,which his father Delfino and older brother Manuel Portillo worked on, kids from the Westside, didn't have a school, they went to a series of Green House Schools, which were older homes under the control of the school district, one was located at 14th and McKinley which was for the 2nd thru 6th grade and the upper grades were at another "Green House School on Hoover Ave.
He recalls working on the upstairs of the original Casa De Salud building, which used to be the city jail. The neighborhood kids were hired to help tear out the jail cells. He credits the Casa De Salud and sports for his work ethic and sense of teamwork, which eventually lead him to be union representative for the workers in the "Matanzas".
Carlos "Beaver "Juarez reflects-
Beaver Juarez remembers all the adventures with his brothers at the slough area which was a big part of the Westside, they would make forts and use them as hideouts and such and defend them if necessary. The flooding of the streets at rain time, were especially fun cause they could make an adventure out of going anywhere. He credits his family and especially his brothers for learning how to do what was necessary, to get by, learning at an early age a sense of independence, especially since there were so many in his family. He credited the Casa De Salud for helping shape his life with sports and other positive things. Beaver Juarez and Abel Portillo have been friends and compadres since they were in the sixth grade, both worked hard in the "Matanzas", and look back fondly at what they have accomplished with their lives.
Beaver Juarez also has the distinction of having graphically documented the history of OTNC.
Augie Bareno is a featured writer and historian
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