NPS Historic Photograph Collection
Big Bend's most famous restauranteur
The Sadas came from the interior of Mexico to the Boquillas area in the 1880s. They were married in 1901. Soon thereafter Chata secured a permanent passport visa. In 1906 she moved to the Texas side of the Rio Grande where she constructed an adobe house with peeled cottonwood logs as beams and supports. Mrs. Sada gradually developed her place into a general store and cafe. In addition to keeping the store and cafe, she farmed a small plot of land located on the floodplain and irrigated by a ditch from the river. She also maintained a flock of chickens and a herd of goats which grazed on the nearby hills.
Typical of the accolades she received is this 1955 account:
The Sadas had no children of their own but reared a number of homeless children; victims of flood, revolution, pestilence, and broken homes, and orphaned children of friends.
Boquillas became widely known for its good food and hospitable accommodations for the weary traveler. Ross Maxwell, the first park superintendent, remembered Chata in this way:
Her husband, Juan G. Sada, died December 24, 1936, and was buried at Marathon, Texas. By this time the development of the Big Bend National Park was well under way and Chata, after some delay, closed out her business in the Boquillas area and moved to Del Rio, Texas. National Park Service officials attempted to entice Chata to return to the Big Bend into the 1950s, so beloved was the memory of her Boquillas establishment.
While her restaurant has been gone for nearly fifty years, Chata Sada's legacy stands as an important example of the cross-cultural community that existed in the Big Bend through the early years of park establishment.
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Did You Know?
In 1942 soldiers from Fort Bliss installed a machine-gun emplacement along the Rio Grande pointed at Boquillas, Mexico. This was done due to fears over border security and a possible Japanese invasion through Mexico.