Rito's photo


Rito and Josephine Hernandez were orphaned in 1930 when she was nine and he was eleven or twelve. These letters are one side of a dialogue they maintained from 1940 until he died in Sicily in 1943. Rito and Josephine came to the United States from Mexico with their mother Rosa Hernandez in 1921 when he was two and she was five months old. At the time of these letters they were officially "resident aliens"*, he is living in Mount Harris working in the coal mines and she is working as a secretary in Denver. Earlier they had left the home of their abusive step father, Cleofas Lopez, for the safe haven of "Uncle and Auntie". "Uncle" is Everett Hernandez Sr. who died in 1948. "Auntie" is Catherine Hernandez, known as "Nana" to subsequent generations. "Junior" is Everett Hernandez Jr. the son of Everett Sr. and Catherine.

Catherine Hernandez died in 1992. She is succeeded by Everett, her son, and his children Everett, aka Tiger, and Michelle. Tiger has a daughter, Sarah. Michelle has two children, Ian and Sabrina.

Josephine Hernandez married Joseph Staley in 1946. They had a son, Patrick, and a daughter, Rita. Patrick has two sons, Michael and Patrick Jr. Rita has two daughters, Celeste and Tera. Tera has two sons Liam and Michael Joseph. Michael Staley has a daughter, Justine, and a son, Christopher. On September 18, 2005 Josephine (Hernandez) Staley died in an auto accident. She often spoke with great emotion about her intelligent, handsome, thoughtful, patriotic, and humble brother Rito. These letters were rediscovered subsequent to her death.

Many thanks to Patricia, my wonderful wife, whose inspiration and perspiration made this project possible.

Patrick Staley
Josephine's Son

1940-41  | 1942 |  Africa  | Epilogue

* The term "resident alien" is now considered racists. Readers can assess for themselves whether or not that term was racist in 1940.
P.S. These letters were the basis of the play "Letters From Rito" that had a brief run in 2012.