Odessa woman turns 100, sister recalls earlier times

Most people tend to slow down in their more advanced years but Maria Dominga “Minga” Alvarado, along with her gregarious and outgoing younger sister Nicolasa, doesn’t know when to quit, proving that age is merely a number.
Minga turned 100-years-young Saturday and celebrated the occasion in the company of loved ones, relatives and friends at the Lincoln Tower ballroom in downtown Odessa. Her sister Nicolasa, who is currently 97 but will turn 98 on March 5, was among the family members in attendance.
 While Minga became a centenarian in style, both she and Nicolasa, who also goes by Nicki, reminisced about what they’ve seen, done and heard during their formative years in early 20th century Odessa. The Alvarado sisters said they believe their family was the second to have settled in Odessa in the early 1900s.
The first of two Latino families to have settled and raised a family in Odessa starting in 1907, both sisters said, was the family of Juan Ramirez, who was an employee of the Pacific Railroad, and the family of Diego Alvarado, the sisters’ father, who worked for the railroad company as well.
 Minga is known for being an avid reader and a lover of books, but Nicolasa is the talkative one who told of many things about the times in which they grew up.
 “Let me tell you, my parents were very proud of their Mexican heritage and they passed that on to us,” Nicolasa Alvarado said. “The language, the music, the food … they really inculcated us to appreciate our heritage, but at the same time they wanted everyone to be good American citizens. So, they were strict.”
 Minga said her parents never wavered in parental duties. The job Diego had with the railroad was lucrative at the time but also allowed the Alvarado family to have a home, which was located on First Street, which parallels with the railroad tracks, the sisters said.
 “My parents were still able to provide for our needs,” Minga said. “(They were) people with wonderful values and they believed in the goodness of life. They were honest. We were hard working.”
 The sisters’ niece Sharon Waite added that her family, as large as it was, lived in a home that had “a big lot with a water well.”
 “They grew things,” Waite said. “They didn’t go without food.”
 Minga heartily agreed.
 “Those were the good old days,” she said.
Today, both sisters live together in an Odessa home next to Waite, who often keeps a watchful eye on them. Minga, the 12th of 14 children, was born to Guadalupe Salazar and Diego Alvarado on Feb. 11, 1917, and graduated from Odessa High School in 1935, Waite said.
 Neither of the Alvarado sisters married, nor had children of their own, Waite said. Neither Minga, nor Nicolasa have any misgivings about skipping out on marriage and parenthood because they learned all that when they had to care for their parents’ grandchildren.
 Minga moved to San Antonio with her Nicolasa in tow when World War II broke out, and worked for the U.S. Air Force as a civil servant for many years before her retirement. Minga returned, along with Nicolasa, to Odessa in 2008 following the long hiatus.
 When Sharon’s grandmother died both Nicolasa and Minga helped in raising five grandchildren in the family, and another group of grandchildren in the family, she said.
“Their oldest brother had three boys, and they (the Alvarado sisters) took them in also,” Waite said.
Minga recalled those times.
“The three boys had to sleep with my parents because their father, my oldest brother, was a foreman (with the railroad) and he was moving,” Minga said.
“The boys couldn’t go to school because they were on the move,” Minga continued. “So, they stayed with us during the school year, and in the summer they would go to the parents wherever they were. And they graduated from Odessa High School.”
 “So, they were with us during the growing years,” Minga said. “I don’t know how my mother and father did it.”
 When asked what they recalled the most from their lives in Odessa, Nicolasa – who did most of the talking – spoke of the times spent with their parents during the Christmas holidays. Minga also remembered
 “Just being with your parents, that was the greatest thing,” Nicolasa said. “It just made Christmas fun in a Mexican family.”
 Minga was no less happy during her recollection of those times: “We made healthy tamales,” she said. “They just fell apart.”