Who was the woman known to history only as “Terry, The Mexican Girl” from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road? Given that she was the linchpin for what became one of the most renowned tales in American letters, and that virtually all of Kerouac’s characters were based on real people who subsequently became famous themselves by association with the book and, often, as artists in their own right, it seemed improbable that no one had taken the time to track her down. That is, until author, poet and performer Tim Z. Hernandez found himself standing on the front doorstep of the house of a 92 year-old woman named Bea Franco.
Just months prior to her death, she had no knowledge of her place in literary history. But, had it not been for the diminutive daughter of migrant farm workers from California’s San Joaquin Valley, the world may never have heard of a vagabond scribbler named Kerouac and the book that defined a generation and launched 100,000 road trips may never have made it to print.