""The ‘nightingale effect’... describe[s] what happened between Baltazar Leon and Mary Garcia; she was a nurse and...they fell in love with other."

essays

Mary Ann Martinez

martinezBorn in 1982 in the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley, Mary Ann Martinez describes herself as a “Renaissance Woman” and “a life-long learner.”   She graduated from Sylmar High School in 2000 as Senior Class President, has taken classes at Cal State Northridge and LACCD’s Mission, Valley and City Colleges, and is currently working on an Associate of Arts Degree at LACCD’s West Los Angeles College. She has no immediate plans to transfer to a university; a four-year degree is an objective that she will meet at a later time in life. Instead, she will continue her current occupation as a professional childcare provider, and also pursue her talents as a writer and outdoor enthusiast. She has a wide range of interests and hobbies. To date, her proudest accomplishments include performing percussion for the Los Angeles Doctor’s Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles City College’s Percussion Ensemble, playing drums for Bobby Matos’ Latin Jazz Workshop Orchestra, City College’s Jazz Band, and being a member of a short-lived, all-female jazz quartet called “The C-Notes.” She resides happily with her boyfriend in Los Angeles.

Other Works:


Rooted in California

My roots are embedded in Southern California, and in this history there are tales of World War II, a love story, tragedy, and the railroad--all present in my bloodlines. My mother’s father, Baltazar Leon, served in World War II, became a prisoner of war, and then was released and transferred to the Veterans Hospital located in Sylmar, California. The “nightingale effect” is a term used to describe what happened between Baltazar Leon and Mary Garcia; she was a nurse, and in that Veterans Hospital they fell in love with one another. Sadly, that same hospital would become the reason for my grandmother Mary’s demise. She died in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. The hospital had collapsed as a result of the earthquake, and she was found under a sink. My grandfather Baltazar’s family was primarily located in San Diego. On a family trip to San Diego my grandfather would lose his life in a car accident on the Interstate 5. My mother was only eight years old when he died. He is buried in the Fort Rosecrans Military Cemetery in San Diego. But alive together and in love, Mary and Baltazar had three children: Anna, Robert and Richard. My grandmother Mary’s family mainly lived in the northeast part of the San Fernando Valley, where most family members remain till the present day. It is said that the “Garcia” name of the family is actually an adopted name that my French great-grandfather took after falling in love with his Californian-Mexican wife. Unfortunately, I do not know my great-grandparents' names.

My father’s mother, Maria Herrera, was born in the city of Chicago because her father worked on the railroad line there. Her parents returned back to California, back to California's San Fernando Valley to stay. My father’s parents met because they had once worked together. My grandparents would have six children together, five of them males, and my father was the second oldest. My father was born in a little shack-like house that no longer exists. My grandmother, Maria, is the only grandparent my siblings and I would come to know. I was the only child to have briefly met my grandfather while he was on his deathbed in a hospital. Truthfully, I don’t even know his name. I remember he died the same year my brother Robert was born.

Both of my parents, Anna and Hernando, were born in the City of San Fernando in the year 1954. Because each of my parent’s families resided in San Fernando, my parents would come to meet at Sylmar High School. A commercial and residential painter was my father’s primary occupation, while my mother has worked for Cal State Northridge for more than 23 years and counting. My father was proud to have lived died in the same city he was born in. He died on a Monday in November 2006 at our family homestead, the same home where my mother still lives today. My siblings and I were lucky to grow up in a three-bedroom house on Glen Oaks Boulevard, the home my grandfather left for his children. The greatest tales my parents shared were their concert experiences, as well as outdoor experiences. My father’s claim to fame, aside from having seen Led Zeppelin live over five times, is having hiked over the Sierra Nevada Mountains just three months before my older sister Marisa was born in 1977. Throughout many years of our family life, we ventured away from the Valley and to the outdoors. Our favorite and frequent place to go was the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and also to Santa Barbara, where my mother ‘s aunt, Baltazar’s sister Isabel, lived. The best gift my parents gave to my sister, brother and me was the appreciation of California’s natural beauty. Each of us, my sister Marisa, my brother Robert and I, frequent the outdoors, but our main passion is being in the mountains. For me personally, I am an avid snowboarder, a sometimes fisher-woman, an occasional hiker, and a camper, too. From the beaches to the mountains, I am an all-around California woman.


Editor: LinckeN@WLAC.edu | West Los Angeles College | 9000 Overland Ave, Culver City CA 90230 | www.wlac.edu
Production Mngr: Michelle Long-Coffee | Web Design: Clarissa Castellanos