By Maria E. Garcia
The history of Neighborhood House would be incomplete without an article devoted to Lupita Evers. She appears briefly but often in the interviews I have conducted. Lupita is remembered for what made her different, for the qualities that set her apart from other people.
Lupita was born in Mexico on December 31, 1898. Her father, Herman Evers, was born in Germany. Her mother, Antonia Ochoa, was born in Mexico. Lupita came to Logan Heights as a child and grew up there. Nothing about her family history was out of the ordinary at that time in Logan Heights. But Lupita came into the world as a little person–she was born with the genetic condition of dwarfism. This condition was viewed in a far different way than would be considered acceptable today.
Records indicate that Lupita was working at Neighborhood House in the early 1930’s. The job title on her death certificate was Office Clerk. The people I interviewed described an array of duties that she performed. While Lupita was described as an office clerk, she clearly performed “other duties as assigned.”
Because of her duties Lupita did wield a lot of power at Neighborhood House. She carried a large key ring with several keys which gave access to board games, athletic equipment and the much loved hot showers.
Lupita appears in pictures of the singing mothers of Neighborhood House as well as on the picture wall located at Cesar Chavez Park. In her early days she was known to wear plaid skirts as she walked around the community. In her later years she was known for dressing completely in white. Depending upon whom you speak to Lupita is described as very nice or very mean.
Most of the men that have been interviewed swear they did not tease or taunt her. In their stories it is always the other guys who teased her. The reality is that they were probably as responsible for the teasing. Because of her duties Lupita did wield a lot of power at Neighborhood House. She carried a large key ring with several keys which gave access to board games, athletic equipment and the much loved hot showers. The power of the keys was one of the few things at her disposal to combat the teasing.
The only way you could check out a game or use the athletic equipment was if she choose to unlock the cupboard and make it available to you. It was not very smart to anger her and lose access to those activities. The boys however seemed to think it was worth losing one of those privileges from time to time in order to tease her. Lupita was known to respond by swinging the keys or throwing the keys at the boys when they angered her.
Oscar Torres remembered that after one late evening of playing basketball, the boys decided to take a hot shower at Neighborhood House. Homes at the time often lacked both bath tubs and hot water. It was after nine o’clock and therefore the building was closed for the evening. This determined group of boys pounded and yelled at the door until Lupita opened it.
She did not want to allow them to come in and shower believing they would take too long. The boys promised to take a one-minute shower. Lupita relented. Of course once they gained entrance to the shower, they decided that a longer shower was much better than a one-minute shower and proceeded to stay in the shower for a very long time.
Lupita stood outside the shower yelling for them to get out. The boys were determined to decide when they would exit from the showers. Oscar remembers her being very angry when they finally came out. In order to escape the wrath of the keys, the boys shot out of the shower and raced through Neighborhood House.
Several of those interviewed remember how excited Lupita would get when the Mexican circus came to town. The Mexican circus would cross the border in Texas and travel throughout the Southwest. Eventually they would reach Orange County and from there would come to San Diego and perform.
A truck would meander throughout Logan Heights announcing that the circus was in town. The circus would set up near the fire station with tents and trailers. Some remember Lupita hanging out with the little people in the circus for a couple of days. It was probably very significant to her to be in the company of people who were her same size. It is very possible that the constant teasing she encountered made Lupita feel isolated .
Lupita had a friend named Martha Becerra. Martha innocently came up behind her and lifted her off the ground one day. Not knowing it was her friend Martha, Lupita turned around and was very angry. She yelled at Martha to “never do that again.” She then added that it had scared her.
In the late 1950’s she would often join the boys that were smoking on the stairs in front of Neighborhood House and have a cigarette. The boys were her friends and her tormentors. It is possible that her need for friendship and acceptance was stronger than her anger at these boys for their treatment of her.
She was teased about her small stature in many different ways. Most times, it was the boys who teased her and earned her wrath. Paulie Torres says they made fun of her when she would sit on a chair. They teased her not only because her feet would dangle over the chair, they would laugh when they would get a glimpse of her calzones (panties). They swear they were made of canvas but they were probably made of flour sacks.
Ruben Camacho describes her as mean but that she ran things very well and was respected for her work skills. In the evening there was usually a group of boys hanging around outside Neighborhood House sitting on the steps. As Lupita walked across the street they would anger her by counting the number of steps she would take. They counted out loud, in a rather high voice, assuring that she would hear them as they counted one, two …. This relentless teasing would be seen as bullying today and certainly a stop would be put to such behavior; however it was seen as acceptable at that time.
In the late 1950’s she would often join the boys that were smoking on the stairs in front of Neighborhood House and have a cigarette. The boys were her friends and her tormentors. It is possible that her need for friendship and acceptance was stronger than her anger at these boys for their treatment of her. Irma Castro who worked at the Neighborhood House in the 1960’s remembers Lupita still working there at that time. It is quite possible that she worked at Neighborhood House until she received her social security benefits.
The women in the neighborhood became very protective of her. One of the neighbors on Julian Avenue did her wash. On Sundays Lupita could be seen sitting in church.
Gloria Leyba Padilla remembers that in the 1970’s the girls would be in the restroom at Our Lady of Guadalupe when Lupita would come in and fuss at them because their dresses were too short. The girls were there to attend the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) activities. She would walk behind the girls and spank them on the leg for wearing miniskirts. Her words were “así se visten entre los padres.” It translates to “is that how you dress in front of the priests.”
In her later years Lupita became very active in the Guadalupanas, a prayer and service group at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The women in the neighborhood became very protective of her. One of the neighbors on Julian Avenue did her wash. On Sundays Lupita could be seen sitting in church.
Most people remember her dressed in white and spending her morning sitting through several masses. Lupita passed away on January 24, 1977 at the age of 78 years old. Though a lot of information about Lupita is not available it is very obvious that she was an icon in the Logan Heights neighborhood as well as at Neighborhood house.
The complete History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights is available here.