María (Chata) Sada, businesswoman and community leader, was born on December 4, 1884, in Iraxuato, Guanajuato, Mexico. She married Juan Sada in Boquillas, Coahuila, in 1901. She moved from Mexico to Texas and later obtained a permanent visa. She owned a combination trading post, general store, cafe, and hotel in Boquillas, Texas, near the Rio Grande, known to some as Chata's Store or Chata's Place. It was one of about a dozen such businesses on the Texas side of the border in the Big Bend area. It opened in the late 1920s, during Prohibition, and served Boquillas, Texas, and Boquillas, Mexico. The Sadas were bilingual. Mrs. Sada ran the business during the day, while her husband operated a silver mine in the Sierra del Carmen, Coahuila. She also offered visitors hot meals and lodging in the extra rooms she added to her house. She was known for the tacos she cooked on a flat-topped, wood-fired stove. She allegedly kept money in a trunk and cashed checks for friends. She kept beer in a kerosene-powered refrigerator. Her friendly and affectionate disposition as a hostess received praise from many. Sam Woolford of the Dallas Morning News wrote an article about her in 1955, noting that she had the bearing of a queen. María Sada's services were particularly welcomed because of the region's isolation at the time. Travelers included those workers typically found on the frontier: law-enforcement officers, boundary-commission engineers, miners, prospectors, geologists, naturalists, and other scientists. In 1920 María bought a car to travel to Marathon, 100 miles north. In 1927 the Sadas were one of only two families in Boquillas. They built their house of adobe and peeled cottonwood. María raised goats, turkeys, and chickens and tended a garden. She was also able to shoot a rifle and once killed a mountain lion. She dispensed medicine, acted as midwife, and operated as judge and teacher. She opened her home to itinerant priests for Masses, weddings, and baptisms. She served as a godmother to many children. The Sadas had a piano and featured music and musicians, including a blind fiddler and guitarist from Mexico who played at their house for a small fee. Apparently before 1910 the Sadas also either adopted or raised at least six children whose parents lived nearby or who were homeless. After Juan died in 1936, María moved to Del Rio with a son. She attended the July 7, 1960, ceremony honoring improvements at Big Bend National Park, where ranchmen, cowhands, bankers, educators, and business people greeted her. Her presence and reception there resulted in a feature story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Sadas were friends of photographer Wilfred D. Smithers for a decade, and he photographed them. María Sada died on July 13, 1973, in Del Rio.
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