I recently came back to this fascinating person, after someone online pointed me to an online community which was riddled with misremembered history about Dr. Pardo. I’ve become accustomed to people’s vague memories, as it is something I struggle with myself. It has taught me to be skeptical of much of what I think I know to be true. I’m sure that even I have details wrong but I’m on guard against believing that history has obscured some things from total clarification.
Dr. Pardo’s office, at least where I remembered it, was past the Monroe Baptist Church, in Monroe, Arkansas, on the opposite side of the road from the tavern. He supposedly traveled around at least 3 counties.
Dr. Valentine Pardo (he was listed as “Valentin” on travel manifests) studied to be a dentist and a doctor. He was born in Placetas, Cuba, in 1902 or 1903. Having both skills was invaluable for such a small community. He had left Cuba when he was 18 and arrived in the U.S. on the 23rd of June, 1920 to live in New York and get his dentistry degree. After about a year, he decided to become a medical doctor and went to Kansas City to earn his medical degree. When he got it, he came to Arkansas to practice. When the U.S. government hired him as one of a group of doctors to go to East Arkansas, it was to help fight disease on that side of the state.
The story is that he would make house calls and would drive by jeep or mule. Many times, he accepted payment in any way a person could afford to make it. One of the stories I do remember is that he never turned anyone away for not being able to pay him. He delivered around 5,000 babies, as well as doing dentistry, too.
When I grew up, I was pleasantly shocked to find out that he was Cuban. This, too, was quite a revelation and explained how foreign and surreal his voice sounded to me as a child. To be Cuban and end up in Monroe County seemed like the most unlikely thing in the world to me.My grandma visited Dr. Pardo quite often to get her “pills.” I didn’t get to hear him speak very often, but when I did, his voice sounded exotic to me.
I remember listening to one of my aunts and grandma talking about him, telling stories of him traveling late at night, in storms, or just about any distance to help someone.
I know that he lived until around 1996. One of my biggest “misses” as an adult was not looking him up to talk to him about his life. I’ve always thought that his life would have made an ideal book or maybe even a movie.
One of the biggest myths about him was that he wasn’t licensed to work in the state. It isn’t true. Anyone so inclined can visit the state’s archives and find his medical license and information. Maybe the myth is more interesting. I’m not sure. The misconception lessens his effort to realize his American dream and put down roots in eastern Arkansas.