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lations between local Mexican Americans and Mexican nationals. Martha Toles, a Mexican American who works at the Ken County Mental Health Center, notes that foreign-born men often are looked down on by the area’s Mexican Americans. Yet native-born Hispanic young men are moving out of the Hill Country. Thus, young women who want to “stay in the culture” increasingly are gravitating to Mexican-born partners, Toles says. That can provoke conflict between girls and their friends and families. In Tina’s case, the conflict seems less about foreigners versus natives than mother versus daughter. By the time she hooked up with Noel, Tina was already doing “rebellious” things to worry Lionor, says her sister, Connie. Hanging out with Noel was just one more disturbing act. But as Lionor explains it, her antipathy towards Noel was justified: she thought her daughter’s partner was abusing her. Lionor says she noticed something wrong shortly after Tina graduated from high school in May, 1993. She could have joined the Navy then; she’d been accepted, but she passed on the offer and instead married Noel in September, without telling anyone in her family about the wedding. Lionor knew only that Tina was pregnant, and that she and Noel were living in a trailer in Center Point. She was shocked when she visited and discovered the dwelling had no electricity or water. “Tina’s hair was filthy!” Lionor recalls. “I had to wash it for her.” Connie remembers Tina telling her during this time about what happened when she broached the idea of a separation with Noel. “She said he threatened her with a gun. He said if she left he would kill her, the child she was expecting, and whoever she was living with.” \(Noel Perez’ lawyer would not At the end of May, 1994, eight months after her secret wedding, Tina gave birth to her first child, a son she and Noel named Paublo. Daughter Kassandra followed twelve months later. Barely eighteen months afterwards, Noel, Jr. was born. It was now January, 1997, and Tina had three children in diapers three children born in two and a half years. Ask her today why she had so many kids so quickly, and she seems not to relate to the question. “I’ve always wanted children,” she said recently. “Noel and I planned to have six before we stopped.” But her family remembers that after Kassandra’s birth, Tina seemed overwhelmed. During her next pregnancy, with Noel, Jr., she denied for six months that she was expecting, even though people started noticing and asking her about it. By then, “she was quiet most of the time,” Connie Rodriguez remembers. “She looked sad and sleepy. She seemed depressed. She had too many kids and too much work.” The work was not just motherhood. A few months after the birth of her oldest, Paublo, in 1994, Tina had taken a fulltime job at Kerrville’ s Hilltop nursing home. Her supervisor, Tom Ventro, says she was a “terrific, hard worker” who made lots of friends. At first, she poured and served juice for the home’s elderly residents. Her pay was minimum wage at the time $4.75 an hour. Full time, that works out to less than $10,000 a year. Ventro later promoted Tina to a more responsible position, preparing desserts and serving meals. Yet she was still making only $6.50 an hour. Such poverty wages are common for women in and around Kerrville. Newcomer retirees, vacationers, and getaway homeowners need fast food outlets like Long John Silver’s and Little Caesar’s, where Tina’s sisters, Connie and Mary Anne, work to support Con nie’s five children and Mary Anne’s three. They need WalMarts, where another sister, Eva who has eight children is employed. They need old age homes, and someone to empty the bedpans. Or feed the patients, as Tina did. Huge numbers of Hill Country women work hard at these low-paying jobs while their children are with babysitters or in day care. They do this in a region that as Tina’s former teacher Jean Tally puts it “has always been rich and poor and nothing in between.” Yet in the Hill Country’s carefully groomed tourist image, only the affluent have a public face. “Poverty seems invisible,” notes Sister Marge Novak. Novak, a Franciscan nun and nurse practitioner, teamed up with a doctor two years ago to A Tina Rodriguez in jail San Antonio Current open a free clinic in Kerrville for underand uninsured women. When the two went out to drum up support from local socialites, Sister Marge remembers being told there was “absolutely no need for a clinic because there are no poor people around here.” They opened the facility anyway. They are still shocked at their numbers: in less than twenty-four months, they’ve served 5,000 woman patients about evenly distributed between Anglos and Hispanics. So, in addition to having too many children and too much work, Tina had too little money. But the problem wasn’t just her low-paid job, or the need to pay for a baby sitter for the three kids while she worked. After all, she had a husband who did construction work which, in the Hill Country, can pay upwards of ten dollars an hour. That adds up to $20,000 a year. Put that with Tina’s $10,000 to $13,000, and the family might have been scrabbling. But it shouldn’t have been destitute. Yet Tina was keeping another secret: in addition to her and the three children in Kerrville, Noel had a wife and children in Mexico, and he was sending them his and Tina’s money. Tina says she knew about the bigamy and the Mexican family when she married Noel. For years, he had been making visits to his SEPTEMBER 3, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11