This is really an amazing story when you think of it. I have a habit of scanning the L.A. TImes Obits because you find pieces of history in there that often gets swept under the rug. Bea Franco (Korzera) is an example of that. You’ve seen me post about the book and movie On The Road a couple times in the last month. Well, Bea Franco is a real-life character from that classic story. She is the character Terry. But why is her story unusual? Because while the story was written in the 1940s, it wasn’t until 3 years ago that she learned she was in the story. She had no clue she was a key character in one of American Literature’s most famous works or that the man she had a torrid romance with became one of the country’s most famous writers.
She was Mexican-American and while most of On The Road occurs in San Francisco, Denver and New York and highways running between, Bea was a farm worker in the fields around Bakersfield, California which is an area and situation I actually know something about. The life in those fields is harsh. Even to this day, many big farmers scoff at the very mention of Caesar Chavez the famous leader who fought for immigrant workers rights. Kerouac described the life there in great detail and with some elegance. The romance with Terry is one of the great affairs in the book and the ending of it was rather sad and the reader can’t help but speculate if Kerouac ever wondered what might have been for it is clear from the book he was happy in his time with her. Apparently, he did wonder for there were letters later and biographers wrote about Bea and searched for her. It took one guy with persistence, who used his family connections in the Bakersfield area, to track Bea down.
Here is the L.A. Times article. Amazing how we can be a part of history and never know it. The truth is we all have a part to play but sometimes we don’t realize how key our role is.