Densho Digital Archive
New Mexico JACL Collection
Title: Mary Montoya Interview
Narrator: Mary Montoya
Interviewer: Andrew Russell
Location: Gallup, New Mexico
Date: August 14, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-mmary-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

AR: This is an interview with Mrs. Mary Toki Montoya, a longtime resident of Gallup, New Mexico. The interview is being held at Mrs. Montoya's home in Gallup. Today is August 14, 2012, and the interview is being conducted by Andy Russell as part of the JACL New Mexico Confinement Sites Project. So, first I want to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed and share your life experiences with us.

MM: You're very welcome.

AR: Then I'm going to start with some questions about your birth family and your early childhood, way back. Okay?

MM: Well, let's see if I can remember it. [Laughs]

AR: Okay. First let's, here's an easy one. Where and when were you born?

MM: I was born in El Paso, Texas, 1916.

AR: 1916, okay. Please state your full name, including your Japanese given name and maiden name for us.

MM: It's Mary Toki Mochimaru Montoya.

AR: And how do you spell Mochimaru?

MM: M-O-C-H-I-M-A-R-U.

AR: Okay. And is Toki an abbreviated name or is that the actual name?

MM: No. That's just a Japanese...

AR: Toki.

MM: They picked that... my godparents are Japanese and they picked that when they were going to baptize me. And what happened there was, we were going to a Catholic church and the priest would not accept Toki as a Catholic name, so they made me Mary Toki and Mochimaru.

AR: Okay. And so your godparents were Catholic, already, too, huh?

MM: They were Catholics, yes.

AR: But Japanese.

MM: And Japanese, both of them, Yeah.

AR: All right. Well, let's see. Please tell me a little bit about your parents, starting with your father's name and where he came from.

MM: Well, my father, he was raised in Tokyo, but he was born in Yokohama.

AR: Okay.

MM: And from there, he went onto Tokyo. But when he became of age, they... well, he had to go to war, because there was a war between the Japanese and the Russians, I believe.

AR: Okay. That's about 1904.

MM: Yeah, yeah.

AR: Uh-huh.

MM: And so what happened there was he was wounded. He had that bullet wound on his forehead somewhere. Being the only boy, his parents didn't want him to stay there, so they managed to get him here to the United States. I don't know how he got to Mexico, but through Mexico, he come into Texas and that's where he was living. He was a cook there.

AR: Let me slow down for a minute. And so that was probably still 1905, 1906 when he came in?

MM: That...

AR: Well, it was around the time of that Russo-Japanese War.

MM: Yeah, right. I really don't know the date on that, anyway.

AR: Do you know if he came across the border legally or just came across, there was no restrictions back then?

MM: I never heard, so it could be that he just came. His parents paid to get him out of Japan, so he wouldn't have to go in. And so it could have been illegal, because from Mexico and I don't know how he got to Texas.

AR: But there's no border crossings back in those days. It was pretty open.

MM: Not there, no. And so he was there working as a cook in a restaurant.

AR: Okay. Did he already have those skills, how to cook, from the army or do you think he brought those skills with him?

MM: Whatchamacallit? I really don't know. I think he had to learn here, I'm not sure that they taught him that out there. But, there in El Paso, that's where he met my mother.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 New Mexico JACL and Densho. All Rights Reserved.