When an interracial couple began dating in the US, they faced many obstacles. Once, they went to watch a movie together but were afraid to enter the cinema as a couple because they feared backlash from the people around them.
Leon Watson and Rosina Rodriquez were among the oldest interracial couples in the US. They went on their first date in 1949 and did something that seems unimaginable in today’s world.
Rodriquez had good looks according to most people’s standards. She had fair skin and grew up in Mexico, but when people saw her walk beside her black boyfriend, Watson, they thought something was wrong.
The Interracial Couple
For most people back in the day, seeing a white girl dating a black guy was unusual. The couple could sense people staring at them whenever they were together in public places, but that didn’t shatter their confidence or become a reason to break their bond.
Watson had spent his childhood in Mississippi and joined the United States Marine Corps years later. Besides serving as a scoutmaster, he worked for social causes.
When Watson began dating Rodriquez, he knew people would raise eyebrows and make things awkward for them. The couple went to watch a movie on their first date, but walking through the entrance together made them feel uncomfortable.
Their First Date
To reduce the awkwardness on their first date, Rodriquez entered the cinema hall first and took her seat, and Watson entered a few minutes later, so no one noticed they were dating each other. In the future, the couple avoided going to places where they thought people would make them uncomfortable.
Their first unusual encounter occurred when they moved into a new neighborhood after marriage.
They usually went out with friends who worked to raise awareness about social issues. Besides working for people’s rights, the couple’s friends often hosted dance parties where Watson and Rodriquez got the chance to deepen their bond.
He Proposed to Her
Rodriquez thought her then-boyfriend was a fantastic dancer, but that wasn’t the only reason she said yes when he went down on his knees before her. It took the couple no time to decide they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
However, when Rodriquez’s father in New Mexico learned about Watson, he wasn’t happy. He traveled to his daughter’s city and tried to make her understand why marrying Watson wasn’t a good option.
Instead of following her father’s advice, Rodriquez told him she wouldn’t change her decision. She had seen another interracial couple live happily after marriage and believed Watson would keep her happy for the rest of her life.
The couple tied the knot in 1950 and celebrated their big day with their friends and family in Oakland. It was only some time before their wedding that interracial marriages were legalized in California.
Keeping It a Secret
However, marrying each other didn’t mean people stopped making them feel uncomfortable. Their first unusual encounter occurred when they moved into a new neighborhood after they wed.
Watson and Rodriquez lived in a small house and thought they would live there peacefully, but fate had other plans. Soon after moving into their new home, they noticed multiple white families leaving the neighborhood.
Incidents like these made Rodriquez realize she had to keep her marriage a secret if she wanted to move forward. Thus, she never told her employers or co-workers that she had married a black man. She explained:
“I didn’t want to be rejected.”
Her Secret Was Out
Rodriquez kept her marriage a secret despite having three children. It wasn’t until she turned 45 that she told a co-worker about it. While working at a roofing company, her house needed a roof repair, so she turned to her employer for help.
As a result, her boss came to her house, and she feared things might go downhill when he learned about her husband’s race. At that point, she couldn’t hide the truth anymore.
To her surprise, none of her fears were realized. Letting the world know her husband was a black man didn’t affect her work. Her boss didn’t fire her, and none of her colleagues passed any comments.
Their Three Children
Watson and Rodriquez never wanted their children to learn the concept of racial discrimination. As a result, they never discussed racial differences with their two sons and daughter―José, Jorge, and Lucia.
When the kids were still in school, some classmates saw Rodriquez and wondered how a fair-skinned woman could have black children. However, when they would ask José, Jorge, and Lucia about Rodriquez, the siblings would reply, “What is your problem?”
The siblings rarely faced discrimination at school because there were students from all races there. However, José said he faced discrimination at the hands of a police officer while driving a car. According to him, the officer suspected he had stolen the vehicle.
Years later, José put a license plate on his car that read “1BLACKMEX,” showing how proud he feels of his identity. Initially, Rodriquez worried about her son because she feared he might face more discrimination, but that never happened.
Watson and Rodriquez were among the oldest interracial couples in the US until April 13, 2020. With his family by his side, Watson breathed his last, leaving behind Rodriquez, his children, nine grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
This couple’s unique story is an inspiration for all the young couples out there who are afraid of being judged by society. All it takes is patience, courage, and persistence to marry someone from another race.
Click here to read another story about a mixed-race couple whose baby was taken away to separate them, but the desperate parents refused to give up.