TERAJI: Putting ‘family’ in San Martin center

Photo by Kat Teraji Families from Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan


Welcome, this is your house,

said director Patricia Vazquez as she greeted about 200 families
Thursday, Jan. 6 to the Boccardo Family Living Center in San
Martin. The occasion was the celebration of Three Kings Day, or El
Dia de los Reyes Magos, which tradition marks as the date when the
Magi following a bright star journeyed to Bethlehem to present
gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn Jesus.
“Welcome, this is your house,” said director Patricia Vazquez as she greeted about 200 families Thursday, Jan. 6 to the Boccardo Family Living Center in San Martin.

The occasion was the celebration of Three Kings Day, or El Dia de los Reyes Magos, which tradition marks as the date when the Magi following a bright star journeyed to Bethlehem to present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn Jesus.

While many of us are unwinding from holiday celebrations, Hispanic communities are gearing up for one of the biggest gift-giving, churchgoing and traditional meal holidays of the year.

At the San Martin event, families celebrated by eating large wreath-shaped rings of bread called “Rosca de Reyes.” or The tradition is similar to the Mardi Gras tradition of serving “king cake.”

The sweet egg bread is covered with red and green cherries, guava, cream cheese, icing and dried fruit. Small plastic babies are hidden in the Rosca to represent Jesus. Whoever gets a slice with a baby in it then has to throw a party Feb. 2 to celebrate the “Dia de la Candelaria,” or Candlemas, which commemorates the 40th day after the birth of Jesus.

There was a lot of laughter when Evaristo, father of five, found a small plastic baby in his piece of colorful Rosca.

“You’re in trouble now,” the people around him teased good-naturedly. He will be expected to serve tamales and champurrado in true fiesta fashion for all his friends. Champurrado is a chocolate-based drink based on masa – hominy flour – and containing unrefined whole cane sugar, milk, cinnamon and vanilla bean.

The Boccardo Family Living Center houses 25 families at a time and is one of the few housing programs in South County that accepts migrant and two-parent families, allowing them to stay together as they search for housing and work to become self-sufficient. The Center is designed to provide a safe and supportive environment for homeless families as they work to achieve stability.

During the off-season for field workers from December to March, it also serves as temporary winter shelter. The center charges a flat rate of $800 for a two-bedroom apartment and $900 for three bedrooms. A minimum monthly income of $1,600 to $1,800 is required.

“It is a true godsend,” resident Rosita Flores said. “In winter when there is little work, the two-bedroom apartment is only $350, and the three bedroom is $450.”

The center is operated by the Emergency Housing Consortium’s LifeBuilders program, but relies on volunteers and donations to help the families as much as possible – such as food, clothing, gift cards, toys and diaper drives.

Birthdays are celebrated each month, with each child receiving a toy on his or her birthday.

After residents move on to better circumstances, many return to volunteer.

“They pay back by coming to help others later on,” Vazquez said. “They bring resources to us; it’s the way they say thank you.”

The center offers many supplemental outreach services to families, such as tutoring, after-school programs, classes in self-esteem, domestic violence education, computer learning, parenting and English literacy training assisted by volunteer students from Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill.

Club Rodeo Rio owner Javier Macias of San Jose was the donor who made the Three Kings Day celebration possible.

“Instead of our usual cover charge,” Macias said, “We asked customers to donate toys in order to get into our club.”

Thanks to the club, toys were piled high in the playroom at the Center, as Macias donated 180 toys for boys and 210 for girls.

The event was coordinated by Jackie Meza, a student at Evergreen Valley College who works for Rodeo, which she described as a popular venue for regional country and Hispanic artists.

“We feature entertainment like the Hispanic equivalent of Jay-Z,” Meza said of the talent booked there.

Food distributor Marquez Brothers donated food for the event. The event was covered by media from TV network Telemundo, magazines La Bamba and El Aguila and radio station Univision.

Meza, who is training to be a teacher, explained why she went out of her way to work hard in putting the event together.

“I love working with kids, so this makes me happy.”

Most Hispanic businesses highly value giving to the community, according to Bernadette Barrera of Gilroy Unified School District’s Migrant Education program.

“They don’t announce it. Most of it is done behind the scenes. But if you ask for donations, they don’t say no to godly work.”

Volunteers are needed. Details: Patricia Vazquez at 686-1300 or [email protected]

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