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The Vera Family Recollections

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By José Guadalupe Vera

“There is no better example of pride in the heritage of the Mexican people than The Mexican Players of Padua Hills in Claremont, California. For 41 years “Padua,” as it is affectionately called, presented the most unique and authentic look into the Mexican spirit and culture.

Were I to speak of The Mexican Players without mentioning the Manuel Vera family of Pomona, California, I would be remiss. Manuel Vera, the patriarch of the family, arrived here from La Cañada de Caracheo, Guanajuato, Mexico, via Chicago and the adventure of working for the railroad to California in the late 1920s. While literally helping in the construction of the theater for the Claremont Community Players and later a Pasadena Playhouse company, Manuel and his cousin Flavio, who became the chef, also displayed their talent for music and song.

When the depression hit in 1932-1933 and the Claremont and Pasadena theater groups left, The Mexican Players of Padua Hills came into their own.

Manuel Vera contributed greatly to the creation of this unique theater company, traveling to Mexico to document authentic music, traditional dance, folk plays and costumes. Padua became his life.

In 1932 he met Sara, to whom he would be married for over 50 years. Together they raised five children who also became part of the Padua tradition, working side by side with their parents. The first born and namesake, Manuel Jr., was born in 1934 and eventually met his wife, Estella, at Padua. Next came Alfredo in 1937 who, together with his cousin María, danced in the Walt Disney film classic Los Tres Caballeros when he was a mere seven years old. Manuel, Sr. was on stage in 1941 when news of his third son arrived. José Guadalupe became “Panchito” in the Christmas production of Las Posadas from 1946 to 1951. In 1948 Rodolfo was born, the fourth son, doing his part as expected in 1958. Finally in 1951, after five attempts, Teresa María — a girl!! — was born and joined the troupe.

Manuel and Sara taught all of their children to have great pride in their Mexican heritage through the arts of music, drama and dance. Their home was always filled with melodious joy and love.

The Padua Hills Theatre dimmed its stage lights for the last time on Saturday the 28th of August, 1974. In its time, it fulfilled its purpose of not only presenting the highest form of entertainment, but also keeping alive the romance of Mexican and Early California traditions. Padua gave the world a friendly, colorful and intimate understanding of our Latin American neighbors.”

Thanks to the Vera Family for providing this account!
Vera Family Geneology


“Congratulations and many, many thanks for putting together this wonderful website. I can't tell you enough how happy I am that you have put [it] together. I wish I had thought of it myself.

“My name is José Guadalupe Vera, aka "Panchito" of Las Posadas 1946-1951, or as my friends call me “Joe.” Keep up the good work.”



Enedina Vera writes: “I am so glad that you have this website. I had the pleasure of meeting my uncle Manuel and auntie Sara many years ago. My father, who is also named Manuel Vera, is [actually] my uncle’s first cousin. They share the same grandfather, Antonio Vera.

Thank you for recognizing my aunt and uncle’s contributions.”


If your family has recollections or images of Padua Hills Theatre that you would like to share on this web site, please contact Los californios® at info@loscalifornios.com.

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