My Desert Flower

2 Apr

I first learned about Lucia (Chita) Rede Madrid’s accomplishments when my mother handed me a couple of National Geographic magazines.  The first, a May 1980 issue, featured an article entitled “The Mexican Americans – A People On The Move”.  The article made reference to Lucia’s grandfather, “Secundino Lujan” (brother of my mother’s grandfather) and the land grant that he received in El Polvo, Texas in 1870.

Later, in February 1984, National Geographic published an article entitled “West of Pecos”.  It covered the family more in depth and graced a photo of Lucia Chita Rede Madrid sitting in her living room.  By this time Chita, who taught school for twenty-seven years in remote Redford, Texas,  had retired and had begun to establish a private Book Lending Library in the family General store.

Sometime later I received an early morning call from my excited mother telling me that Chita was being featured on the NBC Today Show!  I rushed to my TV, and caught the show already in progress.  The scene was the Madrid General Store, a “last chance” stop before heading east to The Big Bend National Park.  I watched in amazement as cameras swung around to film Lucia’s private Book Lending Library. There, housed among shirts and trousers, were the library cards that she had fashioned on the backs of cereal boxes and other cartons.

The NBC reporter covering the story of the family history spoke about Chita’s mother, Antonia Lujan Rede.   Antonia grew up in the mining community called Shafter, Texas.  It was there that the ambitious young lady traded goat’s milk in return for English lessons.  Taking advantage of every opportunity to further her education, she went on to teach English to the locals, thus becoming one of the first Bi-Lingual teachers of the area.  Antonia’s legacy is exemplified by her children of whom seven went on to become teachers.  Another of her daughters, Delfina, is the mother of the author, Denise Chavez.

In preparation for this piece I called Chita’s son, Enrique Madrid Jr., who was a gentleman scholar and a walking encyclopedia of the area. He told  of his mother’s weekly trips to Marfa, one hour away, to check out sorely needed books for her school.  She collected Sears & Roebuck catalogs that served as valuable teaching aides.   The catalog contents opened up vistas not seen before in this remote frontier. The children learned math, copied pictures, and learned about far away places.  After she retired, Chita continued her quest for books.  Pleas for donations went out to every passerby and tourist who stopped at the Madrid Store. Boxes donated by a local milkman went up as shelves.  As news of the project spread, Chita happily spent all her time cataloging and installing the Dewey Decimal System.

In 1989 Chita was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame by the Texas Women’s University based in Denton, Texas.  She was inducted along with Barbara Bush and six other distinguished Texas women.

Lucia "Chita" Rede Madrid in "The Blue Room" of The White House

The following year (1990) Chita was invited to the White House in Washington DC. where President George W. Bush awarded her the President’s Volunteer Action Award designating her as one of the “Thousand Points of Lights”, and the Ronald Reagan Award for Volunteer Excellence.  This was a moment of crowning glory for a most magnificent lady.

Chita lived to age ninety.   Like her mother, she left behind  a legacy.

It can be safely said that, per-capita, Redford has produced more professionals, educators and scholars than any comparable desolate frontier hamlet.

And the legacy lives on.

Prima Elisa


3 Responses to “My Desert Flower”

  1. Mimi Lozano September 5, 2010 at 2:52 PM #



  2. Martha Aceves September 30, 2010 at 7:29 PM #

    Its nice to finally meet the lady even though its a picture and not a live person. I remember your enthusiasm and admiration when you were telling me about her, so many years ago.

  3. Debra Pimentel June 3, 2012 at 1:07 AM #

    Excellent write up. Wonderful stories.

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