ROBSTOWN - Maria Gutierrez Arevalo was born on October 19, 1931, in Three Rivers, Texas, and died on Saturday, July 15th at the age of 85.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Juan B. Arevalo, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient who participated in the Normandy Invasion during D-Day, and her son Jesus.
Despite no formal education, Maria worked as a farm laborer, provider, VISTA worker, and a migrant school daycare worker. Though she lived her entire life in Robstown, she served as a migrant farm worker in many Texas towns including Taylor, Paducah, Snyder, Flomot, Pecan Gap, Greenville, Celina, Italy, Weslaco, Corsicana, and Seymour, as well as in Minnesota, Alabama, and Florida.
Maria quickly became a figure well-respected by many in the community, including high-profile local politicians, due to her wisdom and ability to convey her thoughts and ideas at political rallies. While working with Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), she also helped initiate the first Meals on Wheels program in Robstown. In the early seventies, Mrs. Arevalo was active with Familias Unidas in Robstown, an organization which sought social justice for Chicanos. Maria worked to make Robstown a better place to live. She fought for the underdog without every straying from her beliefs.
Despite these many achievements, it was her family that was her most prized accomplishment, and she protected them above all else. Maria raised and educated thirteen children—five sons (Jesus, Abraham, Francisco, Juan, and Adan) and eight daughters (Viviana, Andrea, Mary, Elsie, Alice, Linda, Veronica, and Lolly). Maria was the rock of her family and took care of her brother and others, as well as her children. While working in the fields, she’d often say, “I like to nibble on the fried chicken bones.” In reality, the bones were often all that was left for Maria after she made sure all her children were well fed. She could be tough but also kind, and her children feared to disappoint her. They continued to seek her advice and guidance even as adults.
Maria loved politics, cooking, sewing, and chatting with friends and compadres. Her family would say she worried too much—about everyone other than herself. She leaves many good memories in her wake: family gatherings, her love of singing, making tamales, and always having plenty of food for anyone who came to visit. Nobody left Maria’s home hungry. She made friends easily and had a unique way of making others feel more important. She used to cry every time her family left the migrant camps, because she knew she’d never see the other workers again. Maria saw the best in everyone and was always willing to take in strangers and treat them as family. She thought hard about what she wanted to say before speaking, and people listened.
Maria was passionate, loving, and understanding. We will miss her laughter and sense of humor, her hugs and kisses, her warm voice, her wisdom and courage, and we will cherish every moment we had with her until we are reunited again in God’s heavenly kingdom.