Even dear old dad can’t stop the heart from wanting what the heart desires.
From the start, Leon Watson and Rosina Rodriquez had to deal with societal and family prejudice. Despite everything, they survived and are among the oldest interracial couples lawfully wed in the US.
“At some point, people just accepted it.”
They were wary of their surroundings when they first began dating in 1949.
They went to the movies on their first date. Rosina, a fair-skinned lady of Mexican ancestry, was the first to enter the theater. Leon, a Black Marine who had fought in the USMC, waited a while before entering.
When Leon sat next to Rosina, neither wished to make a scene.
In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Leon said we’ve always done it. “They regarded you as though you were a circus animal. We maintained our composure and moved forward.
Later, they would avoid a particular location if they knew they would get into trouble there.
When Rosina’s father found out that Leon had proposed to his daughter, things got complicated for Leon and Rosina.
Despite his best efforts to convince her of this, Rosina didn’t want to hear that she was setting herself up for a difficult existence by marrying a Black man. She argued that she knew it was feasible because she had observed other married interracial couples leading fulfilling lives.
Nothing could persuade her otherwise.
Leon and Rosina married in 1950, just a few years after California allowed mixed-race unions.
They suffered covert and overt acts of discrimination from others despite being married and having their union acknowledged by the state of California; it would be several more years before all 50 states recognized interracial marriage.
When they bought their first house together in Oakland, California, several white families left the neighborhood, and Rosina dreaded backlash at work if anyone learned who she had married.
“It was very unusual then, and I never told anyone I was married to a black man,” she said. “I didn’t want to be rejected. I didn’t want to ruffle anybody’s feathers or anything.”
She didn’t tell a coworker who she had married until she was 45 years old.
Rosina, a worker at a roofing business, once asked her boss for assistance with some roof repairs on her residence. She was concerned that he would discover her secret and dismiss her.
He didn’t let her go.
When their three children, José, Jorge, and Lucia, were present, they hardly ever discussed their disagreements.
Discrimination was evident when their children were growing up, but not nearly as much as when their parents were younger.
Many students in the public schools they attended didn’t give much attention to the Watson children because there were students from various backgrounds. However, some people continued to wonder how a lady with light skin could have three children with darker skin tones.
The family’s usual retort to such individuals was, “So what does that have to do with you? What’s the matter?
“They are very aware of how awful the blacks have been treated,” Rosina said of her children.
When José was a teenager, the authorities stopped him because they thought he was operating a stolen car. Not at all.
Nowadays, José boldly sports the personalized license plate 1BLACKMEX to show off his identity. Rosina was originally concerned about her son’s choice because she knew it might make José, a Black man, a target of attention.
She was also conscious of how society viewed Black people.
“Never has that changed. That’s what we would like to see before we go.”
Leon sadly passed away in April 2020 at the age of 92, a month before the massive demonstrations that erupted worldwide in response to George Floyd’s passing and prompted long-awaited discussions about necessary change as well as eagerly awaited lawsuits against
One of the longest legally married interracial couples, they marked 70 years of marriage before he passed away.
Rosina and Leon’s story is sadly not unique. It is heartbreaking to realize that, in addition to society, sometimes even your family dictates who you can and cannot adore.
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