April 22, 1994 – Part 2
Our Fatherland, free, independent,
That has for centuries lived,
Is now summoning its sons
To the free, independent Armenia.
Here is a flag for you, my brother,
That I have sewn with my own hands,
Over the sleepless nights,
And rinsed it with my tears.
Look at it, tricolored,
A valuable symbol for us.
Let it shine against the enemy.
Let you, Armenia, be glorious forever.
Death is the same everywhere,
A man dies but once,
Blessed is the one that dies
For the freedom of his nation.
At this young age we promise to always keep our blood clean, to love our nation and parents.
Don’t be like an adze—always pulling towards yourself but be like a saw—pulling towards yourself and then towards us (literal translation).
(Applause then Q/A session in the classroom)
Student-When did you first meet your brother Kaspar after you parted?
Hampardzoum-We said goodbye to each other in 1916 and we met in 1923.
Student-But where did you meet each other?
Hampardzoum-Here in America. I met Kaspar in 1923. We came here from Mexico as refugees. That photo was taken in 1923. One of the photos was taken in 1923 the other one in 1983.
Student-How many years have you been living here in America?
Hampardzoum-We came here in 1935, June 13th. It’s been already 59 years since we moved here.
Teacher-Who wants to ask another question?
Student-Is Kaspar dead now?
Student-Was Kaspar an actor?
Student (looking at the photo)-Is this person your brother?
Teacher-Who wants to ask another question? Kevork!
Student-How many children were there in your family?
Hampardzoum-6 brothers and 3 sisters
Students (surprised)-9 children!
Student-Are you the only one who is alive?
Hampardzoum-nodding his head
Student (to Mrs. Chitjian)-When did you marry your husband?
Hampardzoum-In 1929. One day you will get married too. So keep in mind that it’s very important to always stay together no matter what. Don’t be like the people in America—they get married and divorced in the same day.
Student-How many years have you experienced the Genocide?
Hampardzoum-How old was I? I was 14.
Students-No. How many years have you experienced the massacres?
Hampardzoum-Six years. From 1915 to 1921.
Student-How old is Mrs. Chitjian?
Seems to be Mrs. Chitjian-25 (laughing)
Voices-Bravo. Well said.
Student-Have you ever seen your brothers or sisters after the massacres?
Hampardzoum-Oh yeah. We were 5 brothers. Our sixth youngest brother was thrown into the water when he was 6. I had three sisters. Two of them died and my third sister, the eldest one, survived the massacre but she died of hunger later.
Student-When your brother was thrown into the water, was he dead or alive at that moment?
Hampardzoum-Let me tell you something. As Armenians were known as hard-working people, the Turks would give them Turkish names (Turkification of Armenians was their main goal) and they would make Armenians work for them with other Turks and Kurds. The ones who couldn’t work and were just disturbing them were killed with a knife and were thrown into the water. The same happened to my brother.
Student-This question is for Mrs. Chitjian. Where did you meet your husband and how old were you when you two got married?
Hampardzoum to Mrs. Chitjian-What did she ask?
Mrs. Chitjian to Hampardzoum-How old were we when we got married?
Hampardzoum-She was 24, I was 29.
Student-And where did you meet each other?
Student-How did you meet?
Hampardzoum-How did we meet? I will tell you now. When I came to Mexico I was not allowed to enter America so I went there as a refugee. I stayed in America for a year. I needed a document proving that I was a legal entrant but I was a refugee so, obviously I didn’t have such a document. I was very scared because if they found out that I had entered the country illegally they would send me back to where I had come from, Turkey. That’s why I went back to Mexico. I was with my little brother Kerob. There were not many Armenians in Mexico but there was one Armenian who recommended a good tailor to us. I visited him to order some clothes. This is where I met her (pointing to Mrs. Chitjian). I asked, ”Who is this girl?”. There was a cafe there where Mexican and Armenian men were playing games such as dominoes. I was quite surprised to see a girl among all these men. I was like ”What is this girl doing here?”. Anyway, the next minute I just forgot about her.
Four years passed. I was friends with an Armenian man who used to help other Armenians living here. One day he asked me, ’’Why don’t you get married?’’ I told him that I wanted to make some money before getting married. In 1929 when I earned 15.000 pesos I decided to apply for a passport and leave for France to find an Armenian wife for me there. He said,’’ No need to go to France—there is a great Armenian family here with 3 beautiful girls. If you agree, I can arrange your marriage with one of these girls.’’ I told him that it would be quite difficult to do that as I was in a conflict with these girls’ father. This man was old and wise so he gave me the following advice, ’’Just go there, say hello and see what happens. I went to see these girls’ father and said. ’’Hello.’’ He replied angrily, ‘’Get out of my sight right now!’’. I went back to my nice Armenian friend and told him what had happened. He asked,’’ What do you do for a living?’’. I was selling ice-cream at that time and making 100-200 pesos daily. That was a great job so the man said,’’ Don’t worry. I will arrange everything; I promise’’.
This nice friend of mine came to Mexico, married a Mexican woman and had 2 daughters and one son. One of his daughters married the General of Mexico. He said that he and the General of Mexico (his son-in-law) and his father (who was a very nice 82-year-old man) decided to lay the table and invite my potential wife’s father to have a meal with us. The girls’ father came, sat at the table and started complimenting the dishes we had prepared for him, ’’Everything is very delicious!’’. Suddenly the Armenian nice man pointed to me and said, ‘’By the way, his father is Armenian’’. My future father-in-law looked at me. He immediately recognized me and asked,‘’ Whose father is Armenian—this young man’s? The next minute he took off his hat and put it on the table in anger. ‘’You brought me here with deception!’’-he shouted and got up to leave. However, the General came up to him trying to assure him that I was a very nice young man and had a great job. My future father-in-law mellowed a little. At the end of the week I made an ice-cream cake and sent it to my wife’s family with the hope that they would change their mind. They did and we got married. My Armenian friend was our Godfather.
Hampardzoum to one of the students-Come here, sit next to me.
Hampardzoum-I will be honest with you. I’ve been living in America for 59 years and in Mexico for 10 years. I have been in many places—Iran, Baghdad, Mosul, Beirut, Germany, Spain, France, Cuba changing passports and moving to America. There are both good and bad people in every nation including Armenians. However, there is no nation that is in as good relations with Armenians as Mexican people. When we came to Mexico we didn’t speak the local language. We couldn’t understand anyone and all we could hear was ‘’b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b’’. Little girls would approach me and make me smile like you shouting ‘’Senior, senior!’’. Also, they made only spicy dishes and I didn’t like that. At first I was selling water (soda) in the street. I didn’t make any money but then I earned 1000-1500…no, 3000 pesos and started my ice-cream business. I had to pay 3000 pesos to the land owner to have the right to sell ice-cream in that territory. My brother would take the package with 2000 pesos and I would take the one with 1000 pesos to make the payment. One day we decided to have a rest, so we lay on the grass and placed the money next to us. Soon we got up but forgot about the money and left it there. There was a Mexican young man who was also lying on the grass (behind us). His name was Philippeaux, He was only 18 and he earned 50 cents per day (20 cents in America). When me and my brother were already knocking on the door of the land owner we noticed Philippeaux standing behind us. We asked him what he was doing there and he replied, ‘’Senior, I brought the money you had left on the grass so that no one could steal it’’. A 18-year-old young man who earned only 50 cents per day could easily take my 3000 pesos and escape but he didn’t do that. Do I love Mexican people? Oh, yes, I do!
Students-Are all Mexican people nice? Are there bad Mexican people as well?
Voice (seems to be the teacher)-No, there are both good and bad Mexicans.