Centeno and Vega Family

Born in 1905, Delfina Centeno Vega has lived in Chandler since 1917. Her family’s migration to the state began at the turn of the century when her paternal grandparents, Anselmo and Ramona Centeno, left Mexico to settle in Arizona, when Delfina’s father Trinidad was very young. Trinidad often returned to Mexico, where he met his wife Senovia, and started a family. He came to Chandler to work, sending his earnings to his family in Mexico.  Delfina and her older sister stayed in Mexico with their aunt and maternal grandparents, Francisco Sarate and Carlota Madrigal, while their mother and oldest sister moved to Chandler in 1910.

Finally, Trinidad made enough money to bring the entire family to Chandler. Delfina arrived here in 1917, but by this time she was 11 years old and hardly recognized her mother. She started working at the age of 12 in the fields with her family, harvesting cotton. It was tough work for a young girl. Although she was old enough to go to school, she opted to work because she could contribute more to the family’s livelihood. Delfina’s family lived in a small wood frame casita located near the cotton fields, along with other workers of Mexican descent. At the time, only two stores existed in Chandler– one for food and one for clothing and merchandise. Everyone used water from the same well.

By the time she was 18, she had worked in the fields for several years and had a boyfriend who she wanted to marry. Her father asked her to reconsider because he felt she was too young. She says, “I remember thinking at the time that I would grow old and never get married.” She eventually married her long-time love, Julio Vega, in 1927. Planning for her wedding is something Delfina fondly remembers. Because only two stores existed in Chandler, the family traveled by wagon to downtown Phoenix to buy a wedding dress and veil. The journey was so long that they stayed overnight at the now historic Westward Ho. The best man and maid of honor arranged for mariachis to entertain, and Julio’s family prepared the wedding dinner.  They were married for 62 years, until his death in 1989. She has lived in the same neighborhood since she got married and has raised five children – four boys and one girl.

Delfina remembers that life has always been difficult for her family, and life during the Great Depression was no different. Jobs and food were scarce. She would supplement her income by cleaning houses. Because life in the United States did not improve during the Great Depression, many of their neighbors moved back to Mexico. Her oldest sister and husband attempted to return to Mexico by train; however, revolutionaries stopped the trains and demanded all their money and valuable possession. They arrived with nothing.

Delfina was raised with strong faith, and attributes her belief in God as the way she endured all the rough times. She often attended Mass and is proud that her husband helped to build St. Mary’s Church in Chandler. In her 100 years of life, Delfina says it has been amazing to see so much growth. She feels it is important for residents today to understand how people lived in the past to appreciate the conveniences that exist today. Delfina has seen her share of hardships and has undergone two major health scares, but says, “God has helped me; I have worked very hard, and God still wants me here. He does not need me yet!”

Delfina Vega, 1951
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.110


Centeno Family, 1927. Delfina Centeno Vega standing far right.
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.111