Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. This is the second in a weekly series that honors the contribution Hispanic families make to our community.
The legacy of the Arreguin family has endured in the Healdsburg community for generations. Kind of like the concrete around which the family has built a veritable empire.
The family’s history in Healdsburg dates back to the late 1940s and early 1950s, when Healdsburg was more about prunes and beans, than grapes and fancy restaurants. Both the patriarch, John, and the matriarch, Lupe, have direct ties to Mexico. They continue to celebrate this heritage today.
Lupe’s story began in 1952, when she was born as Lupe Viramontes, right here in town. Her parents, residents of Mexicali at the time, visited on their honeymoon and decided to stay. They lived on West Dry Creek Road and eventually worked together at the Italian Swiss Colony in Asti. When they saved enough money, they bought a ranch out on Dry Creek Road, where Lupe’s family still lives today.
John’s story started in Mexico — he was born in Los Altos, Mexico as the fourth-youngest of 20 children, and came to Healdsburg with his entire family in 1953, when he was 4 years old. At the time, John’s parents came to work for a rancher in Geyserville — one of his uncles met the family in Brentwood, Texas, with a small truck and drove 14 of them from the border all the way to Sonoma County. The family never left. Eventually, in 1965, the Geyserville house burned down and the extended family moved to Healdsburg.
Among John’s brothers many around town might know: Sal, JR and others.
“We have this strong connection to Mexico but at this point I couldn’t imagine our lives anywhere else,” said John.
Lupe agreed. “We will always have our heritage,” she added. “But now Healdsburg is home.”
John is a storyteller, and some of his stories about his younger days leave newcomers crying with laughter. Like the story about his father’s second job castrating neighborhood dogs. As John tells it, all of the neighborhood kids were afraid of his father and they had a nickname for him. The nickname: Al Capone, since one of the Spanish verbs for castrate is “capar.”
The best memories involve John and Lupe together. The couple met in the late 1960s and got married in Healdsburg in 1975. Hundreds of friends and family members turned out for the event, and both remember cruising around town afterward in John’s white 1966 Oldsmobile 442 with red interior.
John and Lupe went on to have three sons: Daniel, 40; Edward (Eddie), 37; and Julian, 30. All three brothers still live in the area. Eddie recalls the days after he got his driver’s license, and how he felt everyone in the local Mexican-American community had his back.
“We knew everybody and everybody knew us,” he said. “I would drive through town and I knew my parents’ friends were all watching for my car, ready to tell my mom and dad if I was going too fast or whatever.”
As the boys grew up, at one point or another they followed John into the family business: concrete. John and two of his brothers worked together for a while at Coleman Concrete but as they gained experience they started concrete businesses of their own: John’s Concrete, Sal’s Concrete, and JR’s Concrete. Later, Carmen, one of John’s cousins, started his own concrete business. Then Eddie, John’s son, started one, too. Bobby is active in his father, JR’s, business.
At one point in the last decade, five members of the Arreguin family had separate concrete businesses in the North Bay. If you have concrete poured in this part of Sonoma County, you likely will work with an Arreguin at some point along the way.
The extended Arreguin family still gets together regularly to celebrate each other — and their shared heritage. Family members don’t need excuses to party, but many meet up for quinceaneras, christenings and other milestone events. Cinco de Mayo is big for the Arreguins, and Halloween (in conjunction with Dia de los Muertos) always is a big bash, too.
“A lot of the time we just use our Mexican flag and just show it off a little bit,” said John. “Any excuse to get together and do that.”
As Lupe describes it, food is a critical part of these get-togethers. John’s sisters make molé for chicken. Most of the other women roll tortillas by hand. Other culinary traditions include menudo, pozole, rice and beans, and salsa.
“Everyone in the family makes salsa a little differently; some people like it very hot,” she said. “It’s always fun to get a few of them and see which one everyone likes best.”
The Arreguins still have direct connections to Mexico — specifically a tiny town called Chamacuaro, in the state of Guanajuato. Eddie’s in-laws, the parents of Nora Almaras, hail from that same town, have a house there today, and still go back to visit twice a year.
Nora notes that older generations of the two families knew each other many moons ago — when her dad was a boy and he would cross over to work in the United States, he would hitch rides from Eddie’s grandfather.
“Later in life my parents became good friends with Eddie’s aunt and I had my baptism reception at his aunt’s house,” Nora says.
Curiously, despite this close and long-lasting family connection, the couple wasn’t set up; they met on their own at what is now The Publican in Windsor. Today Eddie and Nora have two children: Natalia, 7; and Camila, 3.
John and Lupe have one other grandchild: Eddie’s brother Daniel, has a son, Daniel Jr., who is four months old. The other Arreguin brother, Julian, is not married.
Hispanic Heritage Month is important for everyone in the Arreguin family, but the family celebrates its heritage every single day. Like concrete, that heritage gets stronger every year. Both are part of what makes our community so strong.