#52SlicesOfChingonaLife #52EssaysNextWave 16/52
Regular readers of this blog and my social media know my father very well. He has totally earned the hashtag of #LifeWithMikeTorres as there is always something funny, interesting or culturally relevant that he says or does and there I go taking pictures or video to document it all. Mike Torres celebrates his 86th Birthday this weekend! We put together the History of Mike that I think you will enjoy. Special thanks to my sis Christina for her contribution to this piece.
Mike Torres was born in Urequio, Michoacan on July 27, 1935.
At a young age, Mike’s father, Jose, died suddenly, leaving wife Lupe a widow and Mike and his siblings without a father. Lupe makes the journey alone to the United States to try and provide for her family. A few years later, Lupe returns to Michoacan to pick up Mike and his siblings for their new life in the US, settling in Banta, CA.
His mother later married Mike’s stepfather, Juan Lucio, a farm labor contractor, who helped bring stability to their lives.
FROM MEXICO TO BANTA AND TRACY
Mike was educated at Banta Elementary and graduated from Tracy High School. It was a challenge initially as Mike’s first language was Spanish. While in high school, he began boxing and was named the local featherweight champion.
After high school, Mike worked in the fields helping his stepfather. He also worked as a self-employed truck driver making long distance drives. Mike then decided to enlist in the Armed Forces. He proudly served as a PFC in the United States Army from 1959-61.
MARRIAGE, FAMILY, AND ‘THE RANCH’
In 1960, he met his bride to be, Margaret Grijalva. They married on Veteran’s Day on November 11, 1961. Over the years, they welcomed their children Carmen, Alicia, Mike Jr., Martin, and Christina. They raised their children on a plot of land in Lathrop, California purchased by Mike’s mother and stepfather – now known as “The Ranch”, where they built the home Mike still lives in today. The Ranch has been home to five generations of the Torres, Hernandez, and Herrera Families. They have nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Sadly, Margaret passed away on their 53rd wedding anniversary, November 11, 2014.
FROM MARIACHI TO THE MIKE TORRES BAND
Mike picked up his first guitar at a very young age. He has always loved music and has been making music for over 60 years as a vocalist and guitar player in groups and as a soloist. He was a member of Mariachi Los Jilgueros for a time. One night, a local band asked Mike to fill in for the night. Mike’s time with this band turned into Mike Torres y Sus Rebeldes. One day, the drummer was not able to make the gig, and a very young Mike Torres, Jr. stepped in for the night. Eventually Mike Jr. became part of Los Rebeldes and shortly after, Mike’s youngest son Martin joined the band along with daughter Christina. For a time, the Torres kids only performed for certain gigs and then, as Mike recalls, “they became better than the musicians I had and I wanted them with me all of the time”, thus The Mike Torres Band was born.
Mike grew his band in popularity playing at local events, churches, dances, weddings, and festivals. By the late 80’s they were very well known locally and regionally and were performing at national conventions and other large events while their popularity grew. In the 90’s, Mike incorporated his grandsons Mike Torres III, Stephen Torres-Esquer and Angelo Torres-Esquer into the band. As such, his dream of a three-generation musical dynasty was realized. The Mike Torres Band gives back and over the years, they have donated performances to hundreds of worthy causes.
The Mike Torres Band has been a crowd favorite for 50 years and are still very active musicians playing almost every weekend. Many local musicians have sat in with the Mike Torres Band and three generations of Torres family members have been part of this musical institution bringing in new blood, positive energy, and keeping the band musically relevant. Mike, Sr. still enjoys playing music, performing at events, and shaking hands with fans who can be found almost everywhere he goes.
Mike also heads Trio Los Torres, and with son Mike Jr., and grandson Rico, perform at functions and parties all over the area.
AN EDUCATOR AND AN ADVOCATE
After an extensive injury suffered when he was a truck driver, Mike and Margaret decided he should go back to school. He eventually graduated with his AA from San Joaquin Delta College and then went on to earn his B.A. in Spanish with a minor in Music from Sacramento State where he earned his BA in Spanish with a minor in music; and a few years later, fulfilled a lifelong dream of earning his master’s degree in Spanish from Sacramento State.
Mike began his work as a teacher working first as a pre-school teacher, then as an instructor for the State of California teaching incarcerated youth, and finally as a professor of Spanish and Music at San Joaquin Delta College. He retired at the age of 80.
Separately, Mike took it upon himself to learn about immigration and naturalization processes to help others live the American dream. At his own time and often at his own expense, he helped numerous people to become United States’ citizens – one of his proudest endeavors.
Mr. Torres is a member of the Stockton Mexican-American Hall of Fame among other accomplishments.
Every day, at almost any time of the day and night, either in or outside, the strumming of a guitar can be heard in the Torres household. Mike is always practicing, always trying to learn new techniques, sing new songs. He is happiest behind a microphone, guitar in hand, singing for people.
IN CASE YOU’RE IN THE AREA
Mike’s 86 years of life and accomplishments will be celebrated on Sunday, July 25th. Mike’s 86th Birthday Bash will be a family-friendly event, free to the public and will take place at 3:00pm at The Shipyard, 2305 Washington Street in Stockton, CA. The event will be casual, held outdoors, and all are asked to bring their own lawn chairs. The event will include mariachis, cake, and live music by the Mike Torres Band.
Dad is super-excited. We are super-blessed to have him with us to celebrate en vida. This girl is always super-proud of her father!