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Santa Paula Latino Town Hall
Casa del Mexicano, Santa Paula, CA
September 9, 2011
The other evening I drove to Santa Paula, which is about forty or fifty miles from the San Fernando Valley where I live to give the keynote speech to the Latino Town Hall. It is a city of about 28,000 people, which is billed as the “Citrus Capital of the World.” Located along Highway 126 in Ventura County, it rests in one of the world’s richest agricultural regions.
The first inhabitants of Santa Paula were Chumash Indians who were displaced by Spanish and then Mexican ranchos whose livestock encroached on the native plants. Soon after the Euro-American takeover, Thomas Wallace More and his brothers Andrew and Henry, entered Ventura County and became owners of Rancho Sespe, neighboring Rancho Santa Paula y Saticoy. The discovery of oil in the 1870s accelerated the growth of commercial agricultural and a citrus industry. The Southern Pacific Railroad followed in 1887. The land was taken from Mexican landowners often through illegal methods. According to University of Texas Professor Martha Menchaca, Mexicans lost most of their lands to Euro-Americans by the 1880s. Menchaca writes "by the turn of the century, only six Mexicans owned property in Santa Paula."
Meanwhile, Santa Paul’s prosperity was built by the sweat of imported Native American, Japanese, Filipino and Mexican labor. Many were migrant workers who wanting to give their families a better life stayed, mostly living on the East Side or on ranch property. With time, they formed communities and an identity with the area. Circa 1929, the Mexican community built Our Lady of Guadalupe Church – one of hundreds of Guadalupes left throughout the United States.
Racism allowed Euro-Americans to justify violence against Mexicans. The Ku Klux Klan was active in Ventura County and racism was so general that by the 1920s the KKK openly operated in Santa Paula. The organization did not disband until the mid-30s when their activities became a political liability. Nevertheless, segregation continued with white children receiving more school financing than Mexicans. Even Mexican children attending white schools were put in "Mexican" classrooms because, according to white civic leaders, they were dirty, had diseases, and held white students back.
During these years, Mexican Americans were forming a community that Dr. Ernesto Galarza said was essential in establishing and preserving a collective memory. The growth of this memory brought changes. Many Santa Paulans became veterans of the U.S.’s military engagements. They made sacrifices such as that of Captain Joseph Avendano who graduated from Santa Paula High School in 1936. Flying B-24s he was awarded the Silver Star. A combat veteran Avendano was killed testing radar equipment in 1944. The war enlarged the Mexican community’s circle of experiences and their sense of rights.
By the 1960s more Mexican Americans were getting an education. Santa Paula was sending students to places such as San Fernando Valley State. Santa Paulan Diana Borrego was one of one seven Mexican American students enrolled at Valley State in 1967. She was arrested in a demonstration demanding the recruitment of more Latino students and was instrumental in bringing about the establishment of a Chicana/o Studies department. Today there are 11,000 Latino students at Cal State Northridge (AKA Valley State). Diana’s father is Bob Borrego, the Founding President of the Santa Paula Latino Town Hall.
The students and the community were influenced by farm workers’ efforts to unionize workers and to better living conditions at Rancho Sespe and other agri-businesses. “The Rancho Sespe site, a former orange grove, is part of a continuous ten-mile strip of orange groves along Highway 126 bounded by mountains on the north and the Santa Ana River on the south.” By the 1980s, 95 percent of Euro-Americans still lived on the West Side, and 68 percent of the Mexican American population continued lived on the East Side, according to Menchaca. Workers wanted change: livable wages, better working conditions, benefits, decent housing, and an end to discrimination. Many were reluctant to strike because they remembered that in 1941 Sespe Ranch managers had conducted massive evictions, kicking over 6,000 Mexican workers and their families from company housing.
By the 1980s, they were not longer willing to put up with feudalism, i.e., the owner of the ranch would ride on horseback throughout his hacienda inspecting his peons. More could read the U.S. Constitution, knew their history and their rights. There was visual evidence of Mexican Americans who made it. Tony Gaitan was a teacher, he later became a principal. Lencho Moraza was a teacher and later a principal. About 30 percent of the teachers in Ventura County had gone through CSUN following the path of Diana Borrego, Yvonne Aguirre and others from that community.
Thus when I walked into the Casa del Mexicano I felt like I belonged. There were about 250 people at the Santa Paula Latino Town Hall fundraiser. Many were like me, white hair, others were former students, community folk, those commonly referred to as the “Salt of the Earth.” Most were Catholics; however, there also many who were Protestants. Although temperatures had reached 110 degrees, the older members wore suits, a couple wore tuxedos. They share a common history of struggle; things are better – not perfect -- because of their sacrifices. They were there to give back: raise money for the undocumented, the homeless and the poor. They were there to give scholarships and honor community, business and civic leaders. They were the best of our community.
Having recently heard Arizona University Professor Mark Stegeman who was then president of the Tucson Unified School District’s School Board say that Mexican American Studies was a cult based on hearing students giving the farm worker clap, I smiled when they opened the event with a prayer and then the Chicano handclap which most knew as the farm workers’ handclap. For them, it is a symbol of unity, a memory of how far we had come.
Like my mother would respond to Stegeman’s remark, “just because you are schooled, it does not mean that you are educated.” She did not complete the first grade and she was educada.
Santa Paula Latino Town Hall
Casa del Mexicano, Santa Paula, CA
September 9, 2011
As is my custom, I arrive at the Casa del Mexicano in Santa Paula early. I rarely write out a speech and this was no exception. I have been a classroom teacher for over fifty years so I want to be clear and not bore the audience by reading a speech. The lesson has to be clear. The three general areas I wanted to cover were identity and community, Arizona and the threat to these values, and what were we going to have to do to sustain our progress toward a just society. From the beginning you know that like history what you say will be an impression rather than the full story. Thus, this written account is longer than what I said in twenty-five minutes.
The dinner begins with the farm worker hand clap and an invocation by Deacon Alfonso Guilin, followed by welcomes from the Master of Ceremonies, Jesse Ornelas and the Town Hall’s President Dr. Gabino Aguirre. After dinner, I am introduced:
I would like to thank the community of Santa Paula for inviting me. Many of you were many students. Together we opened San Fernando Valley State College to the enrollment of Mexican American students. In 1967 when Diana Borrego arrived at SFVSC there were seven students of Mexican ancestry at the college, today there are more than 11,000 Latina/o students enrolled. I can’t name all of you; it would take the entire evening. I owe an awful lot to you; you built Chicana/o studies, formed my career and made my life much fuller.
At this time, I would like to invite Lencho Moraza to come forward. Lencho is a graduate of our department. We are proud of him. I have something for him. The other evening I heard that Lencho collects T-shirts; he will wear anything as long as it is free. I would like to present him with a special T-shirt.
Our friend Sal Castro had the T-shirt specially made because for years he has been angry at the administration of Cal State Los Angeles for changing the name of the school mascot. Like me, Sal is an alumnus of LA State. We went there when there were very few Mexicans, although LA State was so close to East Los Angeles that we could smell the frijoles cooking. Sal knows history, and knows that society wants us to form an “anything but Mexican” identity so that it can control us. In 1981 Sal was infuriated when LA State administrators changed the school mascot from the “Diablos” to the “Golden Eagles.” Sal does not want to be a devil, but he doesn’t want to be a Golden Eagle, Sal wants to keep his identity as “Los Diablos” and preserve the history of his alma mater. Sal more than most appreciates the importance of an identity which is why he has felt bonded to that community and has made significant contribution to it.
Lencho is an important part of the struggle to educate Latinoa/o youth. He has a great singing voice; his family’s
group could have easily made a profession from performing, but he chose to educate children and became a principal. This T-shirt is in recognition that Lencho is no “Gold Eagle.”
What is happening in Tucson?
No one wants to be known as the devil; however, we remember the old Mexican proverb:
el Diablo no es sabio por ser Diablo pero por ser Viejo
. A community’s identity is forged over time. Its members form attachments to places and resist making their space a commodity. They form a living memory of where they were born, a love of familiar places and fight to preserve them. In a nutshell this is what is happening in Arizona. Through the use of laws such as HB 1070 Mexicans and other Latinos have been portrayed as lawless aliens who have invaded what belongs to the Golden Eagles. Mexicans have been demonized a species of body snatchers and vilified as a class to the point many see them as subhuman interlopers much the same as the gypsies are seen in Europe.
SB 2281 intends to destroy the memory of Mexican American students and the educational progress Mexican Americans have made over the past forty years. The intent is to destroy the collective memory of the Latino community in order to make it impossible for its members to form institutions and organizations to defend the rights of that community. Those in power have constructed a scenario where organizations such as the Santa Paula Latino Town Hall are disloyal and subversive because they do not want to be called Golden Eagles.
What is happening in Arizona has a logic to it. The history of Arizona is replete with examples of racism. From the beginning, elites have said who qualified to be golden eagles, justifying the takeover of lands, the segregation of Mexicans, and even lynchings. A historical fact is that there were 598 documented lynchings of Mexicans in the Southwest between 1848 and 1928. On August 28, 1914 the
Los Angeles Times
reported that in Ray: “Race War in Arizona: Death List is 16” and added “that many Americans were searching the hills tonight, bent upon killing every Mexican they meet.” Similar incidents happened in other mining camps. This hatred was based on the fear that Pancho Villa would invade the United States – and that we had to secure our borders.
Why did this happen? Are golden eagles genetically racist? No, no one hates another person without a cause. In the case of Arizona then and now the cause was that it served the economic interests of those in power. In Ray and other mining camps, the copper barons maintained power and suppressed miners’ wages by segregating Mexicans and white miners. They had a dual wage system and separate and unequal housing. They spent less – when they had it – on educating Mexican children. Thus, by peddling fear of the other, they were able to keep control and make tremendous profits in the process.
The situation in Arizona today is more complex. The newcomers are mostly golden eagles. Many of them are retirees who feel that they are in an alien land. A third of the inhabitants of the state are Latino and in 2010 they comprised 42 percent of the K-12 students. There would be more if the 60 percent of Latinos did not dropout of school because of inadequate education. Historically there have been problems with the disparate treatment of Mexicans in the schools. Tucson has been under a desegregation order since the 1970s. Rather than to establish programs to deal with the lack of educational opportunities for Mexican American children the state abolished bilingual education, most special programs and now on the Mexican American studies program of the Tucson Unified School District.
A thorn in the side of the golden eagles has been a 1997 court mandated Mexican American studies program. It has developed into a well thought out pedagogy to motivate students to want to stay in school and to learn. In 2010 it offered 45 sections and has had extraordinary results. The retention rate was in the 90 percentiles and over 80 percent were going to college. At this point Tom Horn wanted to build his political career on fear of the alien so he ran on the platform of getting rid of the diablos. Along with other xenophobes he authored SB 2281 which outlawed the Mexican American program. He singled out books such as
that many of you have read, saying that it advocated racism, was un-American and lied. Singled out was that I said that the southwest once belonged to Mexico and that the United States had taken it.
His tactics were hugely successful and got him elected Arizona Attorney General. His successor John Huppenthal continued Mexican bashing and moved to enforce 2281. Huppenthal even commissioned a $170,000 state audit of the TUSD MAS program. When the study concluded that the MAS program was highly successful, that it was patriotic and that my book was a traditional and respected history book, Huppenthal threw out the findings because he thought otherwise.
Unlawful and irrational behavior such as that of Huppenthal and the majority of Arizona politicos is possible because Arizona is under the control of special interests such as the Koch Brothers who fund the Tea Party. Their actions are seditious and anti-American. They are refusing and failing to recognize or enforce federal laws within its boundaries. They have embarked on the nullification of the U.S. Constitution. This was the route followed by the southern states that led to the Civil War of 1861. This is occurring almost daily, read the remarks of Rick Perry before he was running for President or the recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Who benefits from Mexican Americans not achieving in school? You can read the history of compulsory education in the United States. Early studies of the Sage Foundation show that education was universal until the immigrants began to arrive from southern and central Europe. Special interests fought the extension and enforcement of compulsory education which were not enforced until the third decade of the 20th century. Mexicans were part of those not considered golden eagles, and it became the main obsession of Mexican American organizations to get equal treatment and to end segregation. The owners knew that education meant more taxes and more education meant higher aspirations and higher wages for immigrants.
In today’s society there has been widespread privatization of land and public institutions: In Tucson like in most cities huge profits have been made in redevelopment. Most of Old Town Tucson has been bulldozed and redeveloped. This commodity has been made available to members of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council that have profited billions of dollars by displacing Mexicans. This is possible by the control of local institutions such as the University of Arizona, the community colleges, local government and the Tucson Unified School District whose superintendent is John Pedicone is a former vice-president of the SALC. This oligarchy depends on keeping the Latino community in their place and depriving them of a collective memory. Their identification with place helps preserve it and helps them form organizations such as you have in Santa Paula.
The story gets more involved and insidious. Many interests profit from Mexicans not getting an education. In Arizona much of the prison industry has been privatized. This means that they are run to make a profit. Estimating the growth of the prison population has become a science. It is based on variables such as race and education. A Latino who lacks an education is much more prone to go to prison than one with a high school or college education. Studies suggest that the majority of prisoners by the year 2050 will be Latinos.
The incarceration and deportation of undocumented workers has also been a bonanza for the for-profit prisons. The prison lobby in the state as in in California is one of the strongest political bodies. It knows that once thr immigrant dries up that they are going to have to be replaced. Educating Mexican Americans would limit the number going to prison. It is significant that Arizona ranks 48th to 50th in per capita spending per student. Racism thrives on fear, the ambitions of opportunistic politicos, and hate. It is irrational.
One last example: much as in the case of 1914-1917 these fears are fanned by the myth that we are losing control of the border. It has led to the assassination of a nine-year old child in southern Arizona. Fears that Mexico intends to invade the United States are irrational. However, the Tea Party types pandered to by Arizonans have lobbied and secured unlimited access to firearms. Guns don’t have to be registered and the bearer does not have to have a license. Golden eagles are obsessed by the so-called violence at the border. Studies after study suggest that most of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels are obtained through Arizona where gun dealers and banks benefit from this bonanza. Meanwhile, most of the drugs passing through the country are for the U.S. market.
The struggle to defend the Mexican American studies program is framed by these events. I know that members and supporters of the Santa Paula Latino Town Hall can appreciate it. Many of you have not moved from this community in search of better paying employment. You have heard stories of the Klu Klux Klan during the 20s and 30s; suffered the loss of love ones during the wars; remember or have heard of the eviction of over 6,000 Mexican workers from ranch property in 1941; of farmworker -tenants who were unlawfully evicted in the Santa Clara river valley of Santa Paula in the 1970s. You have sheltered and fed the poor while sacrificing to send your daughters and sons to college. Through all of this you have endured.
Much of what we have achieved as a community is today endangered. We are better able to defend our rights because of the growth of a middle-class which in great part is dependent on education. My mother did not complete the first grade but she always reminded me that no one could take a good education from me. When the public schools labeled me a slow learner, she transferred me to a parochial school where I was held back until I learned English. My mother always said that the problem was the schools not with me.
I went to the army, returned as a Korean veteran and enrolled at Los Angeles State College. Went there because the tuition was $10 a semester; it allowed me to work 60 hours a week and become a teacher. Higher education remained affordable in California until the 1980s when the process of privatizing higher education accelerated. Industry did not want to pay taxes; in part it could get all of the educated workers by outsourcing jobs or importing engineers from other countries. It did not have to pay for their schooling.
In this first decade of the 21st century higher education has priced out the middle and working classes. Universities such as the University of California Los Angeles are well on their way to be privatized. A recent study forecast that in the next five years tuition will increase to over $19,000. The state universities which were once called the people’s university are headed the same way and are currently squeezing out the bottom half of the eligible students through limiting admissions. At the community colleges education is still affordable; the only problem is that there is no space. I know students who have attended community colleges for four years and cannot complete their general education requirements.
This lack of access to higher education will have dire consequences. It will set us back to before 1969 and the entrance of the first wave of Latina/o students to the colleges and universities. This in turn will shrink the number of that have entered professionals such as teaching, law, engineering, business etc. This is a problem that we must be addressed collectively. We must remember what it was before the 1960s.
A group of us have met and discussed the problem. We must come up with alternative models. The public universities and the non-profit universities will not and are not interested in solving the problem. The for-profit institutions are only interested in those who can pay. In place like Spain and England they have dealt with more access for the working classes by establishing distance learning or open universities.
UNED, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
established in 1972 has over 186,000 students based on the pillars of home study, tutorial and now online courses. Academically it has evolved into a highly respected institution. Our feeling is that with technological advances such as the camcorder even lecture classes are available at a low cost. The objective would be to establish a non-profit, non-profit accredited university where the tuition is under $1,000 per year. It would include all majors and be open to all students although we would target the Latino community. There is nothing wrong with the University of Phoenix, which is accredited, it just cost too much.
If we lose the momentum of the past 40 years, it will take us a long time to get it back.
In closing, I have nothing against golden eagles. The eagle is a noble animal. What I am trying to say is that there is also nothing wrong with the farmworkers’ black eagle which to many of us has more significance. It is a reminder that we as a community have struggle to make this a better world. Our aim is not to nullify the U.S. Constitution, just to make sure that is applied equally.
Thanks for this email. I agree. My concern is the safety of our students. Let me share with you what such hate speech has led to in other parts of the country. Hate speech incites violence. Let’s hope CSUN administrators do the right thing.
Luis Ramirez beaten and murdered in Pennsylvania
filename=image001.jpg|Marcelo Lucero beaten and murdered in New York
width="240" height="324" caption="Marcello Lucero was brutally attacked and murdered in Long Island on November 8th, 2008."]]
Walter Sanchez, Beaten in New Jersey
Southern Poverty Law Center Report linking hate crimes against Latino/ Immigrants:
Excerpts from the Report:
In the aftermath of the Lucero murder, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sent a Spanish-speaking researcher to Suffolk County to interview Latino residents, both documented and undocumented, over a period of months. What SPLC found was frightening. The Lucero murder, while the worst of the violence so far, was hardly an isolated incident. Latino immigrants in Suffolk County are regularly harassed, taunted, and pelted with objects hurled from cars. They are frequently run off the road while riding bicycles, and many report being beaten with baseball bats and other objects. Others have been shot with BB guns or pepper-sprayed.
At one point, one county legislator said that if he saw an influx of Latino day laborers in his town, "we'll be out with baseball bats." Another said that if Latino workers were to gather in a local neighborhood, "I would load my gun and start shooting, period." A third publicly warned undocumented residents that they "better beware." County Executive Steve Levy, the highest-ranking official in Suffolk, is no friend of immigrants, either. When criticized by a group of immigrant advocates, for example, Levy called the organization a den of "Communists" and "anarchists."
For the full report go to:
Leadership conference on Civil Rights:
The inflammatory anti-immigrant messages of these groups have successfully infiltrated mainstream media, including shrill anti-Immigration reform commentaries from high profile national media personalities such as CNN's Lou Dobbs and Talk Show Network's The Savage Nation host Michael Savage. The unintended consequence of "media celebrities" vilifying immigrants as "invaders" who poison our communities with disease and criminality has been — and will continue to be — an atmosphere in which some people will act on these demonizing screeds — violently targeting immigrants and those perceived to be immigrants.
In July 2008, in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Luis Ramirez, a 25 year-old Mexican and father of two, was murdered because of his ethnicity in a brutal beating allegedly by four teenagers who repeatedly punched him, knocked him to the ground, and then kicked him multiple times in the head. As Ramirez lay unconscious, convulsing and foaming at the mouth, one of the assailants reportedly yelled "Tell your fucking Mexican friends to get the fuck out of Shenandoah or you'll be fucking laying next to them." Fourteen months earlier, 20 miles from where Ramirez was murdered, Lou Dobbs had held a special "Broken Borders" town hall meeting edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight to spotlight and praise a neighboring small town's passage of an "Illegal Immigrant Relief Act" that sought to suspend the business permits and licenses of employers who hired "unlawful workers" or landlords who rented to illegal aliens.
For the full report go to:
The State of Hate: Escalating Hate Violence Against Immigrants
The increase in hate crimes directed against Hispanics for the fourth consecutive year is particularly noteworthy and worrisome because the number of hate crimes committed against other racial, ethnic, and religious groups has over the same period shown either no increase or a decrease.
Anti-Hispanic Hate Crime Incidents
width="412" height="264" caption="Chart showing the number of anti-Hispanic hate crimes rising from 426 in 2003 to 595 in 2007."]]
Source: FBI data
The increase in violence against Hispanics correlates closely with the increasingly heated debate over Comprehensive Immigration Reform and an escalation in the level of anti-immigrant vitriol on radio, television, and the Internet. While reasonable people can and will disagree about the parameters of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, in some instances, the commentary about immigration reform has not been reasonable; it has been inflammatory. Warned an April 2009 assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "in some cases, anti-Immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent."
• Dobbs has used the term "anchor babies" to refer to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, suggesting inaccurately that having a U.S. citizen child is a means of acquiring legal immigration status or being protected from deportation. (Lou Dobbs Tonight transcript, 3/31/05).
• Dobbs refers frequently to illegal aliens from Mexico into the United States as the "invasion" and as an "army of invaders" (Lou Dobbs Tonight transcript, 3/31/06). One of his reporters referred to a visit from Mexico's then-President Vicente Fox as a "Mexican military incursion."
• Dobbs linked illegal aliens to a host of diseases including tuberculosis, malaria, and leprosy. In 2005, a reporter on the show claimed that there had been 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the previous three years (Lou Dobbs Tonight transcript, 4/14/05). This claim has been disputed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.10 To date, and despite protests to the contrary, Dobbs has never acknowledged the error on his show.
• Dobbs has featured several stories on Lou Dobbs Tonight concerning the "reconquest" of the American Southwest. In one 2005 segment, a map purportedly showing "Aztlan" was provided to the show by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a prominent White supremacist organization (Lou Dobbs Tonight transcript, 5/23/06).
• Dobbs has also been a cheerleader for the Minuteman Project. He devoted extensive coverage to the Minuteman's first action in 2005, calling the group a "remarkable success." Minuteman leaders were frequent guests on Lou Dobbs Tonight, and on one occasion Dobbs wished one "all the success in the world."11
• Dobbs featured on Lou Dobbs Tonight the late Madeline Cosman as a "medical expert" in a discussion of the diseases that illegal aliens are bringing into the country. Ms. Cosman was not a medical doctor, but a prominent anti-immigrant activist who stated that Mexican immigrants were prone to molesting children (Lou Dobbs Tonight transcript, 6/8/05).
• As noted above, the Council of Conservative Citizens, one of the most well-known White supremacist groups in the country, was featured as a "source" in a 2006 segment on the show.12
For the full report go to:
Additional websites and related stories:
Gabriel Gutiérrez, Ph.D.
Associate Chair, Department of Chicano/a Studies
California State University, Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8246
From: Rudy Saves [
Sent: Wednesday, October 07, 2009 11:02 AM
To: Harry Hellenbrand; George Garcia; Mary S Pardo; Gabriel Gutierrez; David Rodriguez; Jose Luis Benavides
the rhetoric in the sundial is getting out of hand. 20 years ago mecha
and the department would have marched on the sundial or confiscated all
the newspapers and thrown them in dumpsters. the sundial is allowing its
self to be the conduit for irresponsible and racist students to holler
fire in a theatre. i know that the current sponsor is green, but this is
not a question of free speech but the abetting of a lou dobbs rhetoric
run wild. quite frankly i have had to restrain myself from responding in
TWO LOS ANGELES’
Mexican American Women 1922
Title Mexican American women factory workers [graphic] Date 1922Collection Shades of L.A Description
Mexican American woman workers at the Side Way Baby Carriage Co. Los Angeles Public Library, lapl.org
Mexican American association, Circulo Cosmopolita.
Shades of L.A, Los Angeles Public Library Digital Photo Collection, lapl.org
INDIGNITY ON THE BORDER
El Paso, Texas
, is arguably the most historic city for Chicanas/os. From the earliest times Native Americans settled across from El Paso in what is today Ciudad Juárez. In the forthcoming issues, we will be exploring El Paso and other cities. By way of introduction, we recommend the following clip on
El Paso c1910
that is found on YouTube.
. We also recommend David Dorado Romo,
RINGSIDE SEAT TO A REVOLUTION: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez: 1893-1923.
El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2005.
In the early 1880s the Mexican Central Railroad, running 1,225 miles from Mexico City, approached the Gateway City. It transformed El Paso into an industrial center as the railroads linked it to U.S. and Mexican markets. Ore refineries were situated there. Copper, silver and other ores flowed in from neighboring Chihuahua and the Southwest. These areas attracted thousands of Mexican workers and their families. The 1890s saw increased agitation against the dictator Porfirio Díaz; El Paso attracted revolutionaries such as Lauro Aguirre and Victor L Ochoa. They were contemporaries of the legendary Teresa Urrea known as la Santa de Cabora who inspired millenarian movements across northern Mexico and the Southwest.
Victor L. Ochoa,
a citizen of the United States,
once had the price of $50,000
set upon his head, by Porfirio Diaz.
His papers are in the Smithsonian
Teresa Urrea. A healer, inspired the Yaqui
and other Mexican natives to revolt. The town
of Tomochic, whose people were
devoted to her, was leveled by the
Other revolutionists followed and revolutionary strikes were planned from El Paso.
Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón led
the Partido Liberal Mexicano and published
the revolutionary newspaper
El Pasoans witnessed the Mexican Revolution, starting in 1910 from their doorsteps.
Ciudad Juárez, Insurrectos. c.1910. The C. L. Sonnichsen
Special Collections Department - University of Texas
at El Paso Library
From left: Gen. Toribio Ortega,
Gen. Pancho Villa, Col. Medina.
W.H. Horn Photo Collection,
Courtesy of the El Paso Public Library
Meanwhile, the Mexican population grew on both sides of the border. They lived in Segundo Barrio just across the border in El Paso. Most Mexicans lived in Juárez and crossed the bridge daily to work in construction, factories and cleaning homes. Before entering they were gassed; it was assumed Mexicans brought lice and other vermin.
Mexican wait to be gassed
[[image:fileC:%5CDOCUME%7E1%5COwner%5CLOCALS%7E1%5CTemp%5Cmsohtml1%5C01%5Cclip_image012.jpg width="440" height="350"]]
Mexicans wait to be bathed and deloused at the Santa Fe Bridge quarantine plant, 1917.
USPHS, National Archives
The gassing was common; 1916 an accident occurred when Mexicans in a local jail were gassed and a fire broke out and many of the prisoners were burned alive. The following year Carmelita Torres, age 17, refused to take a gasoline bath upon entering the United States. Other women followed her lead and a riot broke out. The following article ran in the Los Angeles Times:
“Mexicans Given Baths,” 1917
EL PASO, Jun. 30—Nine hundred and twenty-nine Mexicans were given baths at the United States immigration station today, the third day of the enforcement of quarantine regulations as a preventative of typhus fever. No rioting occurred during the day, and the danger of a repetition of the “bath riots” is now believed by the United States health officers to have passed.
The only disturbance today was when two Mexican men and one woman were arrested by local police officers at the American end of the international bridge. They were placed in the City Jail on charges of inciting a riot, the specific charge being that they crossed the international line and assaulted Sgt. J. M. Peck of the Twenty-Third United States Infantry and Inspector Roy Scuyler of the customs service. The woman was later dismissed and the men fined in Police Court.
A mutual arrangement has been made by the American and Mexican health officers by which certificates from the Juarez disinfecting plant will be accepted by the American officers.
Source: Los Angeles Times,
January 31, 1917, p. I5.
Another article reported:
EL PASO (Tex.) Jun. 28—A misunderstanding over quarantine regulations led to a riot at the Juarez end of the main international bridge today, which threatened for a time to assume dangerous proportions. Energetic measures taken by the Carranza garrison and a conference between the American and Mexican immigration officials later brought about an arrangement satisfactory to the Mexicans and quiet was restored.
The rioters were mostly Mexican women, employed as servants in El Paso, who resented the placing in effect of an American quarantine order that all persons of unclean appearance seeking to cross the bridge be given a shower bath and their clothing be disinfected to kill the typhus-bearing vermin.
Women, stopped by the authorities, returned to Juarez and circulated stories that all were to receive a bath in a gasoline mixture, similar to that which resulted in a fire in the El Paso Jail last March, in which more than a score of persons were
burned to death. Stories also were circulated that American soldiers were photographing the women while bathing, and making the pictures public.
Excited women thronged the Mexican side of the bridge, held up streetcars and completely blocked traffic for several hours. They shouted defiantly, waved controller bars at the helpless manager of the street car system, scurried against the shade of the bridge walls when a moving picture man tried to take them, and had a good time generally. Some of the American carmen were roughly handled and several car windows were broken. Mexican men, who attempted to cross to El Paso, had their hats snatched off and thrown into the Rio Grande. Andres Garcia, inspector-general of Carranza consulates, and Sorlano Bravo, the Consul-General, advanced in a motor car that was shoved back by the women, some of whom later shouted, “Viva Villa” when they tried to address the mob. But the garrison soldiery appeared and pressed the women back from the bridge. The Villa demonstration seemed to be due to a sprit of mischief.
SHOTS ARE FIRED
Several shots were heard in succession at this time, but Carranza officers and government investigators say no one was hurt, despite a detailed story that spread through El Paso that a peon had been killed for shouting: “Long live Villa, death to Carranza.” It was said that the shots were intended to cow the mob.
At an international conference held at noon it was arranged that the American authorities would recognize bath and sterilization certificates issued by the Mexicans, who have an effective quarantine plant.
Because of the riot, the races on the Juarez track were called off and the gambling halls closed.
A black flag with skull and cross bones in white, which was displayed by the Carranza cavalrymen on the Juarez end of the bridge, created excitement among American spectators who were ignorant of its significance. The flag is the divisional flag adopted by Gen. Francisco Murguia on taking charge of the present campaign against Villa. Its significance was explained in “Death to Villa” and it was first made public when Murguia's troops reoccupied Chihuahua City.
Source: Los Angeles Times,
January 29, 1917, p. I1.
[[image:fileC:%5CDOCUME%7E1%5COwner%5CLOCALS%7E1%5CTemp%5Cmsohtml1%5C01%5Cclip_image014.jpg width="480" height="386"]]
Mexican women entering El Paso, Texas, Immigration Station, June 1938
The gassing was a practice that continued into the late 1950s:
Mexican contract workers undergo medical inspection before being sprayed with pesticides, ca. 1942. The disinfections along the U.S.-Mexico border continued until the late 1950s.
Courtesy Carlos Marentes, Proyecto Bracero Archives, Centro de Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos, El Paso
Contract Mexican laborers being fumigated with the pesticide DDT in
Hidalgo, Texas, in 1956.
Leonard Nadel, Courtesy National Museum of American History
Meanwhile, the Mexican community grew in El Paso with close links to Juárez. It developed many Chicano and Chicana leaders who identified with el Segundo Barrio. Many attended Bowie High School.
Bowie Grammar School became Bowie High School almost overnight in the late 1920s.
Photo courtesy of El Paso County Historical Society.
Street scene from El Paso's Segundo Barrio
Today, there are plans to develop Segundo Barrio and many of its historic landmarks have been bulldozed; others are projected for demolition. The following clip draws comparions between Segundo Barrio and Los Angeles’ Chávez Ravine.
Chavez Ravine & Segundo Barrio: Film Discussion
Lomas del Poleo-Segundo Barrio-Chavez Ravine
Citation: Rodolfo F Acuña, , Guadalupe Compeán, eds.
Voices of the U.S. Latino Experience [Three Volumes]
. p 418. Westport: Greenwood, 2008. Greenwood eBooks.
Cinco de Mayo Mogollon, NM
Mogollon, New Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo in 1914 with
a parade on their main dirt road through town. USA.
Chicago: Mexican Independence Day Parade,
September 15, 1957. Pictured is the Group Del Coro
from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. (Cordero Collection).
Courtesy: Southeast Historical Society
San Antonio 1930s
Row of houses.
Mexican section of
Antonio, Texas, 1939.
Library of Congress
San Antonio, TX 1930s
and yard of
Antonio, Texas. 1939 Mar. Lee, Russell,
1903- photographer. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information
Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
San Antonio Garden
Old automobile parts are used in flower gardens for decoration as well as protection in the
Mexican district of San Antonio, Texas. Lee Russell. Library of Congress
San Antonio Mexican Woman Washing
washing in front of house in corral
San Antonio, Texas, Courtesy: Library of Congress
[The viewer is encouraged to send photo essays of their community's struggles]
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