During the Thanksgiving holiday, a native of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and avid traveler donated a special family heirloom, with a meaningful story to which many families can relate.
Angelica Reyna-Bland, the author of Last Ride on the Ferry: My Life as a Migrant Worker 1940s, donated a book that has been in the family for generations to the Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives at the Museum of South Texas History. Reyna-Bland explained that her father, Severo Reyna Sr., purchased the book – El Consejero Medico del Hogar by Hubert Oscar Swartout, 1938 – so he could learn how to read. When he was a child, Severo Reyna’s family could not afford to purchase school supplies and students were not allowed to attend school unless they had a tablet and pencil. Having learned how to read and after studying the book from cover to cover, Reyna kept the book and used it to care his family who were migrants. Reyna-Bland and her siblings recall their father using the book as a reference for medical remedies since they could not afford regular doctors’ visits. A couple of examples of Reyna’s adherence to the advice in the book were that the Reyna children’s feet could only be properly formed in Oxford shoes, as opposed to sandals, and the head should also be wet to even out body temperature to prevent colds when swimming in the Great Lakes.
Because of the significance of this heirloom to the Reyna family, the siblings chose to donate the book to an institution that would preserve and present their family history. The book may be on display during a special occasion, such as Hispanic Heritage Month, that focuses on contributions of Hispanic families to the history and culture of South Texas. MOSTHistory staff will utilize special storage and handling techniques to preserve the book when it is not on display.
If you have any family heirlooms that you would like to preserve or donate, you may visit Archive & Artifacts Collections on our website for more information. You can also call the Museum at 956-383-6911.
Top right – Phyllis Kinnison (right), the archivist, carefully places Reyna’s cherished book in a safe-archival box. Angelica Reyna-Bland signs a document acknowledging that the donation will be preserved with MOSTHistory.