Carmen Velasquez (posthumous) Share

Mar 10, 2022  |  Layla Price-Bodkin

Maria Car­men (Juarez) Velasquez was born in Par­sons, Kansas, in 1921 dur­ing the Mex­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion when her par­ents among many were find­ing refuge in the Unit­ed States. They lat­er moved to Chica­go, IL, where Car­men grew up and attend­ed school. Car­men devel­oped polio at a young age and spent her child­hood through age 14 in hos­pi­tals and con­va­les­cent homes. As a young woman, she found love in Albert Velasquez from Grant Coun­ty, IN. They got mar­ried and moved to Fair­mount to live with Albert’s fam­i­ly. They lat­er moved to Mar­i­on while build­ing a fam­i­ly of their own, even­tu­al­ly of ten children.

Car­men had received intense med­ical care in her child­hood, and would observe the social work­ers and nuns who cared for her. Dur­ing that time, she grew more and more grate­ful and devel­oped a strong desire to help oth­ers. While attend­ing school in Chica­go, she had learned the Eng­lish lan­guage, and would use her bilin­gual skill to help peo­ple in need.

Hav­ing also spent her young years dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, Car­men instilled a pas­sion to help strug­gling migrant work­ers and their fam­i­lies who lived in pover­ty from fol­low­ing the crop and, in many cas­es, fac­ing lan­guage bar­ri­ers. She her­self rep­re­sent­ed a one-income fam­i­ly. Although she stayed home most days with her chil­dren, she would fre­quent­ly vis­it the migrant farm work­er camps.

In the Grant Coun­ty area, there were about ten camps,” said Carmen’s daugh­ter, Tina Mas­ter­son. She would go around and see what they need­ed, even in sur­round­ing coun­ties.” She added, Peo­ple would begin to hear about her, and would trav­el all the way from Cal­i­for­nia and Texas to find her for a point of con­nec­tion. They just need­ed some­one to talk to.” Mas­ter­son said her moth­er lived a full life up through two years before she passed in 1985 at the age of 64. She had a hand­i­cap, so just walk­ing around was dif­fi­cult, but you wouldn’t know it. She was a strong woman, and her faith was the root of all her work.”

Anoth­er daugh­ter, Cathy Mitchell, said despite her mother’s adver­si­ties, she would always step up when she saw a need. She would help the police, the hos­pi­tal, and many oth­er agen­cies through her Eng­lish-Span­ish skill. She cit­ed one of her major con­tri­bu­tions gained trac­tion through the St. Paul Catholic Church and Third Order of St. Fran­cis mem­bers. She would col­lect cloth­ing and goods for those in need. The col­lec­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion devel­oped from her home to St. Paul Catholic Church, even­tu­al­ly to what is now known as the St. Mar­tin Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter. They do so much for Mar­i­on, and it all start­ed on our front porch.” 

Car­men was instru­men­tal in the cre­ation of Asso­ci­at­ed Migrant Oppor­tu­ni­ty Ser­vices, Inc. (AMOS), a non­prof­it advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion fund­ed by the Indi­ana Office of Eco­nom­ic Opportunities.

In the sum­mer of 2021, a mur­al of her por­trait was paint­ed down­town Mar­i­on on the Grant Coun­ty Res­cue Mission’s main build­ing as part of a com­mu­ni­ty project to car­ry on her lega­cy and the lega­cies of oth­er influ­en­tial women.

Carmen Velasquez Mural

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