Miguel Escamilla Luna was born in Eerie, Nevada. The date was August 9, 1932 and the family had emigrated from Mexico so that his father, Jesus Luna, could work on the Nevada railroad.
In 1917 the US Department of Labor issued an order that allowed certain amount of immigrants to enter the US as farm workers. After the order expired in 1920, there was still a sizable influx of immigrants entering the US through various informal arrangements. I think my grandfather read the writing on the wall and decided that the railroad would have more of a future than farm working.
But as the Depression took hold and massive amounts of people lost their jobs and went hungry, the government cracked down on immigration and forced many of them and their US citizen children to move to Mexico. This massive forced deportation and denial of citizenship is know as the Mexican Repatriation.
A few years after moving back to Mexico, both of my grandparents passed away leaving my young orphan father in the hands of his aunts. The next years are fuzzy since I have only heard these stories once or twice. Whenever I ask about his life in Mexico he gets a perplexed look on his face and asks, "Why do you care? I’m here now."
Of the bits and pieces I can recall, I know that he used to pack up a bag full of tacos and take a horse up to the mountains for days on end to bring back wood to sell. He used to love the outdoors but in suburban Pasadena he now settles for the comfort of his armchair that he keeps on the porch.
A couple of years ago, my youngest sister told me that he used to be a medicine man or curandero. I certainly had never heard that story before and it took me almost a year before I had a chance to ask him about it.
Apparently, at 18 years of age or so, he was staying with a family that were the town curanderos. People would go to them, tell them about their maladies then they would perform some kind of chant and do some kind of supernatural feat like producing a bloodied chicken egg from the abdomen of the faithful patient. Of course these "miracles" were performed for a fee. Some of these practices also included herbal remedies and non-traditional cures that actually work.
My father would help out this family and he was about to be trained as one of the "priests" when he got into some trouble and had to leave the town for good. There was a young lady and…well, he didn’t really give details, he just had to leave.
Eventually he moved to the US, lived in Texas for a few years (doing what I always call the worse job in the world, laying asphalt in Southern Texas) then moved to Los Angeles where he met my mother.
And that is where the next chapter of his life begins. To be continued…