Flor de Mayo

Irma Serrano, The Peoples Theater, Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois.

My mother always helped Mexicans who were new to Chicago. Whenever people threw away furniture, I would have to help her bring it from the alley to our basement until she could give it to someone who desperately needed furniture more than us. Many Mexicans came and went from my house because not only would my mother give them furniture, but she would also advise them on how to survive in Chicago.

My mother went to Mexico about once a year. She loved Mexico so much because the Mexicans in Mexico loved her and envied her because of her success in America. One year when she returned from her Mexican vacation, I overheard her calling the Spanish TV station and I asked her why. She had met a single Mexican mother with a one-year-old daughter. I don’t remember the woman’s name, but she also played guitar and sang songs she wrote herself. My mother had convinced this woman to come to Chicago because my mother knew people at the radio and TV stations. Important people!

So anyway, my mother told this woman she would have a promising musical career if she left Mexico and came to Chicago. Somehow, my mother convinced this woman to come to Chicago and she was scrambling to get her an appearance on the radio or TV. My mother was so sure that this woman was an extremely talented musician! I don’t know how she did it, but after a few days, my mother got her on the radio and on a TV show. I remember she rehearsed at our house a few times before her appearances. I was only about ten years old at the time, but I thought she performed very well and she was so beautiful!

Sometime after her public appearances, she returned to our house to show us her new 45 record. I don’t remember how well it sold, but she had a record! Her manager gave her the stage name of Flor de Mayo. We were all excited that Flor had made it, but none more excited than my mother who had exaggerated her connections to get Flor de Mayo to come all the way from Mexico.

At my mother’s wake, many people, most of them Mexicans, came to pay their last respects to my mother. We had a three-day wake, which families no longer have. I saw a lot of people whom I hadn’t seen for years. The biggest surprise arrival was a woman who approached me, shook my hand, hugged me, and said in Spanish, “If it wasn’t for your mother, I wouldn’t be here in Chicago!” She was rather plump then but still beautiful. I recognized her voice, but I couldn’t place her, so I asked her who she was. She said, “Flor de Mayo.”