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Maria De La Paz Torres

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Categories: Home Front

Date of Birth:
Interviewed by:
Vanessa R. Torres
Military Unit:
No Service Branch available for this record.

No photos available for this record.

By Maria Torres

Maria Torres was only 12 years old when the war began, yet she was old enough to remember the profound impact it had on her life and family in El Paso, Texas.

“When my brothers left, it just seemed like something that belonged to my parents had been taken, and they didn’t know if they were going to have that something back at home again,” recalled Torres, whose four brothers – Alfonso, Jose, Maurice and Alejandro Holguin – served in the war.

Before the war, her parents, Gregorio Holguin and Donaciana Carbajal Holguin, who were born in Chihuahua, Mexico, were taking classes to become United States citizens and learn English; however, they stopped attending once their sons left for battle in the South Pacific, Torres says.

“They were stuck to the house at night listening to the radio. All they were doing was just listening to the radio,” she recalled.

News became an important part of everyone’s life, Torres says, because so many young people from El Paso’s Segundo Barrio neighborhood, where the Holguins lived, were serving in the war.

“Whenever someone called ‘extra, extra’ down the street, it was because we had either bad luck or good luck. It meant we got rid of some Japanese or the German submarines or planes,” she said.

Breaking news also sometimes meant a major development in an area where loved ones were stationed, and direct contact with those serving in the war was difficult to maintain.

Though Torres wrote “victory letters” to her brothers every day, she seldom received a response.

“Even if they would write often, we didn’t get the letters,” she said.

Letters that did arrive were two or three months old and heavily censored. Because so much information was removed, what was left of the letters often didn’t make sense, Torres says.

Despite the lack of contact, civilians in El Paso did what they could to support the soldiers. Torres recalls collecting scrap metal, which was accepted as payment for a ticket to the Saturday matinee and donated to the war effort. She and her younger siblings would search the neighborhood for old bicycles and cans with metal lids. Once, they even gave up their roller skates.

“We knew we were going to be without them, but we figured it was helping,” Torres said.

When metal wasn’t available, neighborhood children raised money to donate to the community chest, which was used to buy candy and cigarettes for soldiers.

Torres also helped her mother bake cookies to send to soldiers at Christmas. Although sugar and butter were difficult to obtain in other areas because of strict rationing, the Holguins were able to purchase goods in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso.

Torres also helped her family financially by working in a department store to pay her tuition for El Paso Technical High School.

“[Working] was really the only way for me to help my parents,” she said.

Although Torres’ parents ultimately returned to the happy couple they once were when all of their sons came back unharmed, the war had lasting effects on the family. For example, despite the fact that she completed high school, Torres couldn’t attend college. In the absence of her brothers, she instead had to earn money to help her family. Her brothers weren’t even able to complete high school, she says.

Torres married a WWII veteran, Manuel, in 1949.

Mrs. Torres was interviewed in El Paso, Texas, on March 27, 2004, by Vanessa R. Torres.

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