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Francisco Mena



I was born in Mexico, and I came here when I was six months old, to California, Los Angeles. My family is from New Mexico and California, and then in the Depression my mom went to Mexico. My family has been here since California started. But during the Depression, they took my mom over to Mexico. Every time my mom was gonna give birth, she went to Mexico to have us, three of us. That was their way at that time, they wanted us to be born in Mexico, to please the grandmothers. Then later in life we found out we should have been born here. I really never understood why, you know. I always asked my mom why? and she says, "That's what they wanted me to do in those days."

I love the United States, I think I worked every state of the union, except five. I went just traveling all over the United States. I've really enjoyed my life. I think I did what I wanted to when I was young, and right now it's just live peacefully.

Actually I wish I could end a lot of the things that are going on, but you can't change the world. So I just enjoy, I live my life now as it comes, one day at a time. I trying to understand getting older. I even asked my mom, "What is it getting old? How do you notice you're getting old? Do you pray more? You can't pick up something that's a little over twenty pounds? Is that what it is?" Physically I understand what's getting old, but it's mentally, that's what I don't know.

The United States is my home, but I want to end my days in Mexico. This is my way of thinking. I respect everybody's way of thinking, but to me, I want to go back and end my days in Mexico. If my country needed me to go fight again, I'd go, like Vietnam. Even now, if they would need me, I would go, because this is my home. But Mexico, it's like it's calling me. I don't know why, I just want to go and end my days over there.


I've done everything in my life, but mostly I was a chef for the last thirty years. I worked mostly around foods, mostly in the food industry. I was Frank Sinatra's cook at his house, I fed Kennedy, Reagan. In Vegas I was working as a cook at the International, where Frank was performing. I got to know him as he went by, and he says, "Can you work?" and I used to go upstairs and work when he had his little parties upstairs in his suite, with the clan - what do you call them? The Rat Pack. So I would cook for them, I would cook Mexican food for them.

And then one day he asked me, "My cook went on vacation, you want to come over to Palm Springs?" And I said yes. He would eat in the kitchen with me, not his fancy cooking, no, he would have rice and beans. I used to make tortillas and everything and he would go in there and eat. Zsa Zsa Gabor and Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis, Jr., they would all come in the kitchen and eat, not in the dining room. I ate in the kitchen, they would go in there and eat my food, they liked my food better.