Margaret MichelG. BrooksH. FoundationsDecember 4, 2017How many people nowadays remember the Mexican Revolution? Not many. A more difficult question: How many survivors are there today? I can think of one: Gabriel Michel. Gabriel grew up in a wealthy family, viewed as aristocracy in the large city of Guadalajara, Mexico.
The family owned much land, so much that it took 3 days to check the fences, even on horseback! He had many siblings and family in Mexico, and life was pleasant. Gabriel was not destined to stay in his home forever. In 1926, the Cristero War* in Mexico sprang up, a violent rage of persecution of the vast Mexican Catholic population.
Suppliants tried to deal with the problematic government to no avail. His father had served as a faithful Cristero, but now, it was time to flee. Children are not meant to be slaughtered by the people wanting to kill off the Catholics of Mexico. In preparation to leave, Gabriel received his First Communion, for a rather morbid reason. If he was to die, at least he would have taken it. He is pictured, on that day, a small, frightened looking boy, standing, clutching a small book. He recalls that he could hear gunshots in the background.
“The family, which included a dozen children, fled revolution, immigrating to El Paso.” (Hopkins) Soon enough, the family had packed up the bare essentials, only what each person could carry. This trip was not going to be a jaunt.
Burros through the mountains, and then Ford Model T’s for the rest. One of his sisters said that as they left Mexico, she was charged with the task of covering each of the childrens’ eyes as they passed heads staked onto telegram poles, and bodies hanging down from the poles. After a long time, they reached the religious freedom they had craved in El Paso, Texas. Only 7 years old, Gabriel set off, earning enough money to buy a rifle, so that he could hunt game for the still growing family to eat. A 7 year old boy grew up quickly, more than any little boy should ever have to. The little salvation from the poverty came when his intrepid and stalwart father, Miguel Michel, opened a family business called Fresh Limes Inc.
His mother Emilia, once a wealthy woman living an aristocratic life, now worked scrubbing floors as a maid. Aristocracy does not cross the border with you. The family was on the bottom, barely scraping any money together for the children to attend school. And when they did, Miguel instructed them to ‘ “speak pure Spanish at home and pure English outside the home,” without a trace of an accent.’ (Hopkins) The children obeyed, none of them mutinous, and soon, Gabriel joined the Boy Scouts of America, and was front page news in the El Paso Times in 1937 for retiring a court house flag. A few years later, Gabriel found himself at the start of World War II. After 94 years of ups and downs, a roller coaster of life, really, Gabriel resides “peacefully” in Waterford, close to a few of his 15 children, and 30 grand children, and even 2 great-grandchildren.
He has his annual skydive, and chooses to reminisce on the good times, not on the hard. He says that people should not dwell on the hard times or the bad times, and shouldn’t pity themselves, but that they should enjoy the good! He worked until the age of 90, and he says that retirement is too boring. He wishes to go on another African safari in the coming years! Gabriel Michel, father, son, grandfather, veteran, lifetime committed to America.