For more than 40 years, whenever one would see colorful, flowing, twirling dresses, along with the sounds of tapping of shoes, boots or huarache sandals, and Mexican Mariachi folkloric music, chances were, Maria Antonietta Hogan Abrego (Mrs. Hogan) wasn't far away.
Mrs. Hogan taught and loved thousands of students, including their children who in time also became students, who danced under her instruction.
Now her family is offering all her students an opportunity to see her, share stories, and say Bon Voyage as she prepares to move to Idaho.
“We really want to send her off with a beautiful sendoff,” said Elva Beltran, who danced under Mrs. Hogan her sophomore year in high school. “We want to hug her and give her flowers and wish her well.”
The “Bon Voyage Party” will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at Don Vinos. But because they were only given four tables, students and friends are asked to come greet Mrs. Hogan, stay and eat, and leave, to allow other students, friends and guests the opportunity to say goodbye. Or they may sit at other tables to dine, Beltran said. Each person is responsible for their own expenses.
Born in the Spanish colonial city of Puebla, Mexico, Antonietta learned professional dance and ballet during her childhood. By her early 20s, she was running a dance academy and performing locally at theaters, including the 1753 Teatro Principal, the oldest theater in North America.
In 1964, while performing at Teatro Principal, the young Antonietta met who she calls the “love of her life” — Daniel Hogan, a Chicago University student on a field trip to Mexico.
Two months later, the couple was married in Puebla and moved to Porterville where Mr. Hogan became a high school teacher in Strathmore. The couple had two children, Dan and Jennifer.
By 1975, Mrs. Hogan began her 40-plus year career for Porterville Schools as a dance instructor when she began as a volunteer at Olive Street School where her children attended.
That was when David Gallegos, an instructor and advisor at PHS got a Mexican group together and went before the PUSD Board of Trustees.
“He told them all about Mrs. Hogan and how she was volunteering and he asked them to pay her and have her teach the older kids at Porterville High School. And they agreed,” Elva Beltran said.
At that time, Fred Beltran, who later married Miss Elva Serna, was a freshman at PHS
Fred Beltran, Maria Torres, Joey Velasquez and Felipe Martinez were all in Hogan’s first dance classes at PHS.
“It was more of an afterschool function. We met up after school and practiced in the cafeteria,” said Martinez. “What she instilled in all of us was discipline.”
In dance, there's always constant moving, Martinez said, so Hogan would always start by having them exercise to warm up before dancing.
“Our Mexican American Club hired her to teach us to dance after school. This was in the late 1970, early 1971,” said Fred Beltran.
“To us, in high school, she was very disciplined and the Hispanic Mexican American club was initially just a couple of us guys.”
Eventually some of the “tough guys” joined the dance, and that's when it really took off.
“That’s when it caught on and many other kids came in. We did a lot of social events, performing at different locations,” Beltran said. “Not necessarily a school activity. And we all stayed in touch. At Cinco de Mayo, we used her groups to dance for Cinco de Mayo.”
Many students will remember her as a disciplinarian, Beltran said.
“She brought kids in line and gave them structure. That’s what I remember,” said Fred Beltran. “Though the Porterville High School Mexican American Club helped get her into the schools, she went on and did much bigger things in the community.”
Hogan went on to teach at every school for a few years and eventually taught at Olive Street Elementary, Bartlett Middle, Pioneer Middle, Monache High and Porterville High Schools exclusively. She also taught night school at Porterville College.
In 2000, Mrs. Hogan was the Cinco de Mayo Grand Marshal. She's also known for her many years of performances at the annual City of Hope Spectacular, and for her annual student recital, as well as for taking her students on dance field trips throughout the Valley.
“(Mom) retired four times, each time returning back after being bored at home,” said her son, Dan Hogan. “She enjoys the comfort of her home and her three grown grandchildren, as well as a soon to be great grandchild. She will be moving to Idaho in the care of her daughter to enjoy her twilight years. She will miss Porterville and all her friends and hundreds of former students.”
That's why her children want to offer Mrs. Hogan an opportunity to say goodbye to all of her past students.
“We’ll be having a dinner at Don Vinos,” said Jennifer Hogan Bourff. “Everyone pays for their own meal but we will have a table for cards and gifts and it will give my mom an opportunity to say goodbye before she moves to Idaho.”
Many of the students, Elva Beltran said, feel the days dancing under Mrs. Hogan were some of the best days of their teenage lives.
“She molded us in such a way to be citizens of the world. We were just all good kids,” Elva Beltran said. “We will always be grateful for that. This is our chance to come and hug her and send her off with love.”