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Mr. John C. Eggler Lecture

 

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John C. Eggler, M.A. 1993-94

Lecture Dedication

THIS LECTURE is dedicated to the memories of César Chávez, a great American and champion of rights for the oppressed; Sidney Frank for his noble support of SBCC; and Juan Carlos Valencia, a Latino who enjoyed life and bravely fought the AIDS virus . . . and to the future of a special group of children, the Alvarado youngsters.


American Stories 
-De Colores 
Latino/Latina Contributions 
To the American Mosaic 

John C. Eggler, M.A.
Professor of History/Ethnic Studies

Presented in the James R. Garvin Memorial Theatre February 2, 1994

 

Lecture Program Participants

Voices for 'What Is a Latino?' . . .

Ted Mandekic Carolina Serrano
Rob Pennell Victor Patiño
Randy Hohimer  

Voices for Nine Lecture Subjects . . .

Thoughts on Malinche . . . Teresa Jurado
Sra. Margarita Juárez . . . Ellen Meade
Jóse Martí . . . Collin Anderson
Las Soldaderas (from Con Su Rebozo) . . . Magdalena Torres
Carey McWilliams . . . Noel Guitierrez
Berta Sandoval de Reyes . . . Carolina Serrano
Juan García Chapa . . . Peter Chapa
Concha Alvarado . . . Armando Alvarado
Helen Chávez . . . Vicki Hurtado

Lecturer's special thanks to Pablo Cipres

 

Theme Quotations

Our history is each other. That is our only guide. One thing is absolutely certain: one cannot repudiate, or despise, one's history without repudiating or despising one's own . . .

-James Baldwin

Every civilization, however humble it may be, manifests itself through two different aspects: on the one hand, it exists within the universe; on the other, constitutes a universe in itself.

 -Pat Mora, Nepantla

Aguila Mexicana- Aquí sí que ha de ver
Levántate America ufana una maravilla nueva
la cabeza coronada de añadir mas a lo mas
y el águila Mexicana de que el Mexicano crezca.
el imperial vuelo tienda  
 
-Sor Juan Ines de la Cruz

Everything in 'Nuestra América' is Cuban and we fight for human liberty not only in Cuba; we fight to insure with our freedom the independence of Hispanic America.

 -José Martí

I emphasize the 'racial problem' had many facets, not merely black-white relations, and urged adoption of equal rights legislation of the kind enacted twenty years later.

-Carey McWilliams, 
The Education of Carey McWilliams

 

MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS, Janice, por una introducción tan amable. A todos Uds.-colegas, amigos, estudiantes, distinguidos invitados, Dr. MacDougall y miembros de la mesa dirctiva de Santa Barbara City College les doy gracias por estar aquí este día y tambien les doy una bienvenida de todo mi corazón.

If I may briefly translate . . . I wish to thank all of you for being here today-colleagues, guests, students, Dr. MacDougall and members of the Board of Trustees. I welcome you from the bottom of my heart. I would like to give special thanks to Daniel Suárez and the San Buenaventura Mission Spanish Children's Choir for their rendition of De Colores, a children's and religious song which speaks to us of the many colors God has created. It is also a song very much associated with César Chávez. Thank you also Dave Wong, Tom Zeiher, Karen Inouye and Rob Reilly for your great help. A thank you also goes to the students who participated in this project.

A few years ago Dr. Curtis Solberg gave a lecture, "The Divided Heart," on Valentine's Day. I realize today is Groundhog Day, so feliz diá del marmoro de América, or Happy Groundhog Day.

Before I begin, I would like to introduce some very special people who have been, as the song states, colores en mi vida. My mother, Maria Reyes de Eggler, who has been a rainbow of inspiration throughout my life; Martina Chapa and her family, who have added so much to my color palette; and the Alvarado family, who have contributed many vibrant new shades in the few years that I have known them.

To be standing up here is a humbling experience and a great honor. I salute the 14 lecturers who have stood before you since this series began. They are teachers who unselfishly work to make this college an outstanding institution. They believe that students are the basis of what we are all about. I know that there are many others who should be up here with me today for their excellence in teaching. Besides, they would help in calming me down!

I especially recognize Dr. George Frakes, a gentle, dedicated, professor. I salute you and Kay as you begin your retirement and post-retirement association with SBCC. I honor the memories of Sidney Frank, who graciously gave so much to SBCC, and Juan Carlos Valencia, a friend who loved life so much and who valiantly lived with AIDS.

I also recognize the memories of two people who recently died and who influenced my life. Burt Miller, who worked so diligently for this college and who inspired me when I was a high school and college student to get socially involved to correct injustice; and Paul Molloy, who was an exceptional instructor, a man with a strong sense of compassion and one who instructed me to slow down and have fun on this day. He even offered to lend me his foam ball gun and his boxing puppets. Thank you, big guy.

Last spring, Dr. Curtis Solberg called me from a meeting with my students to tell me that Dr. Fernando Padilla and George Frakes were having a discussion about the fall schedule. I hurried to George's office to find George, Elizabeth Hodes, Bob Cummings, Curtis, and Lana Rose. I became aware that I had something facing me bigger than scheduling. I would have to follow in the footsteps of 14 great trekkers. I accepted the honor since I, too, believe in putting students first, in trying different methods to get a point across, and in participating in the life of this great institution.

However, I must warn you that there are rumors that being associated with me has produced the 'Faculty Lecture Curse.' The first victim was M'liss Garza, who went to decorate my office and promptly broke her foot. Later, three of my students, including Vicky Hurtado, broke their legs. I say this to warn you before I begin-in case you want to leave.

SBCC has provided me so many rewarding experiences. I once was a student here, but transferred without an A.A. degree since I refused to take two classes, speech and hygiene. Janice, Mary, Ron, Georgia, Karen and others, I'll have to sign up to get my communication requirement out of the way. I'll talk to the counselors about waiving my hygiene requirement. One result of attending SBCC was that my teachers opened the world of education and possibilities to me. I left here with the idea of becoming a community college teacher. Thank you, Norma Thomas, Dave Williams, Don Atkinson and Bob Casier.

At UCSB, three professors created a love in me for Latin America and Africa. Thank you, Dr. Don Peterson, Dr. Donald Dozer and Dr. Robert Collins.

Since I have been a professor of history, Chicano Studies and ESL and taken groups to England and Spain and have worked with the Faculty Enrichment Committee, I thought I would have a problem in selecting a topic. José Alvarado, my godson, has presented my dilemma in choosing what to talk about today, via the following slides.

(Four cartoon drawings of John Eggler drawn by José Alvarado, age 10, were shown.)

Yet, the choice became very clear to me the day I was selected. I had to discuss the Latino/Latina experience in the United States for a number of reasons. First of all, I have taught Chicano Studies since 1970 and, along with Alfonso Hernandez, David Lawyer, Pablo Buckelew and Dennis Ringer, I helped create the American Ethnic Studies Department. Secondly, I am of Latino heritage and wanted to focus on this aspect of my life, which I share with many of you in the audience. I also believed it was necessary to discuss Latinos/Latinas since so many negative things have been written about them lately-citizens, resident aliens and the undocumented. All of us in this theater have in our backgrounds an immigrant experience and people who shared in developing this country. The Book of Exodus speaks to us:

You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once yourself aliens in the land of Egypt . . .

-Exodus, 22:20

James Baldwin, a great American author, reminds us of the importance of knowing our roots and respecting the lives of others.

Our history is each other. That is our only guide. One thing is absolutely certain: one cannot repudiate, or despise, one's history without repudiating or despising one's own.

The approach I chose to take today was a personal one. I will focus on nine Latinos and non-Latinos who have contributed to Latino and American life-American meaning all of the Americas. If I had had the time, I would have added Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz and Dr. Ernesto Galarza to my list. In addition, on this African-American Awareness Day, they would have joined such heroes of mine as Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Barbara Jordan and Malcolm X.

I believe that before I mention my nine, I have to define who a Hispanic or Latino/Latina is. In order to do this, I decided to ask some students what the term meant to them. Here is a brief description according to five SBCC students.

(Five students defined the term Latino at this point.)

A Latino is a person who originates from any Latin American country. He or she can still be living there or in the U.S. Even though we are labeled or call ourselves Chicanos, Cubanos, or Mexicanos, we all share similar characteristics and we can all be called the same-Latino, because, in one way or another, we are similar.

-Victor Patiño

I think a Latino is an individual with a Mexican heritage from here or Mexico.

-Rob Pennell

In my opinion, a Latino is a U.S. citizen. Therefore, he or she can be born in America, with Latin American parents or ancestry.

-Ted Mandekic

A Latino is a person from a strong heritage with truly fine traditions and values.

-Randy Hohimer

A Latino is someone who has pride in his/her culture and history.

-Carolina Serrano

I discovered that each person defined the term Latino/Latina a little differently. Some limited the term to those of Latin American background born or living in the United States; others included Latin Americans; while still others included even figures from the Iberian past. Last September, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times written by George Ramos about an African American- Latina, who owns a bookstore in Pasadena. She refers to the store as a Latino and African-American bookstore. Some would prefer she use the term Hispanic; others have threatened to stop going there if she drops the term, Latino.

The terms Chicano or Mexican-American are used for people of Mexican heritage in the U.S. In passing, it is interesting to note that the term Chicano is regaining popularity, according to an article in the L.A. Times on Nov. 20, 1993. In my presentation, I will use the term Latino over Hispanic for, as Pat Mora states in a series of essays in her book, Napantla:

And the we of us is a problem. It was in the last decade that the government began using the label Hispanic, a term objectionable to some because it ignores our indigenous roots and was externally imposed. . . I most often use the inclusive terms Latino and Latina in these essays because we-Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Mexican-Americans, Central and South Americans-share, if not fluency in Spanish . . . a respect for it and values such as family and community.

I believe that many of us date the beginning of Latino/Latina history with the encounter between Native Americans and the Spaniards. Yet one can also state that our history has its beginnings in many places and times. It began in the villages and kingdoms of Africa; among the Aztecs, Tainos and Caribs in the Caribbean; or in the encounters between Jews, Muslims and Spaniards in Spain. The blood of these people mixed later with that of people from Ireland, Germany, the United States or other nations.

I also decided to ask some groups who they would select as Latinos/Latinas who have influenced their lives or affected American life. Here, via slides, are the results of surveying five groups.

(At this point, five charts were shown. The number before each name indicates the ranking order.)

Chart A. COPLA (Organización de Padres Latino Americanos) (16):

1. Benito Juárez 
2. César Chávez 
2. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla 
3. Emiliano Zapata 
3. José Maria Morelos

Chart B. MECHA at SBCC (10):

1. Pancho Villa 
2. César Chávez 
2. Manuel Unzueta 
2. Mario Moreno 
2. Emiliano Zapata

Chart C. Students in John Eggler's Classes

1. César Chávez 
2. A friend 
3. Julio César Chávez 
4. Parents 
5. James Olmos

Chart D. Non-Latino Staff (20):

1. César Chávez 
2. James Olmos 
2. Manuel Unzueta 
3. Henry Cisneros 
3. Dolores Huerta 
3. Richard Rodríquez

Chart E. Latino Staff (20):

1. César Chávez 
2. Paul Rodríquez 
3. Dolores Huerta 
3. Henry Cisneros 
3. James Olmos

I am happy to indicate that César Chávez was very high on everyone's list. In addition, it is gratifying to see Manuel Unzueta's name on the lists.

Here now is my list: Malintzin Tepenal, Sra. Margarita Meza de Juárez, José Martí, las Soldaderas from the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Carey McWilliams and César Chávez.

It also includes three people who were or are close to me: my grandmother, Berta Sandoval de Reyes, Juan Chapa and Concepción Alvarado, who is here today. Note that of the nine, five are women. One is of Cuban background, and one is a non-Latino. My list could have included women who have become so inspirational to me in the last two years-women like Judy Baca, Gloria Anzaldua, Pat Mora and Antonia Castañeda.

Let me now proceed to my honorable worthies.

(Before discussing each individual, two or three slides of each person were shown.)

Malintzin Tepenal Malintzin Tepenal, a young Aztec woman, translated not only the language but also the customs for the conqueror, Hernan Cortés from 1519 to 1521. The consequence is that this Indian woman has become the symbol of treachery among some scholars and the public. The very word Malinchista means treachery in Mexico. Octavio Paz, a Nobel Prize winner in literature, views her as the symbol of the bad woman, in contrast to Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe, his epitome of the good woman.

During the 1993 spring semester, a few students in my Chicano history class decided to have a trial for Malintzin. I had offered a different view of this young girl as a consequence of my contact with women's studies classes at UCSB. The outcome was a hung jury, eight votes for acquittal and one undecided vote. Needless to say, the prosecution blames me to this day for the outcome. Antonia Castañeda, who was one of my professors during my sabbatical leave, chastised me for not putting Cortés on trial. Let Teresa Jurado, the student who played the role of Malintzin, speak:

 

 

In my opinion, the male perspective and the judgment of Malintzin are not valid. Their reasoning is done from a sexist view. I am extremely bothered and hurt by this.     

 -Teresa Jurado  
Term Paper, Spring 1993

I believe revisionist history and women's studies make us look at this young woman, 14 to 16 years old, in a different manner. We realize that many factors in combination were responsible for the downfall. She is just one. For me, she represents all the Indian women who married or cohabited with Spaniards or were victims of rape. She is the mother of the Mestizo people, our Eve. That is her contribution and the reason I honor her.

This young girl was sold by her mother to traveling merchants, since she had remarried and wanted her new children to inherit wealth. In the coastal city of Vera Cruz, she was sold to another tribe who would then give her, along with other women, to Hernan Cortés. Yes, she translated for him since she spoke various Indian languages and quickly learned Spanish, perhaps out of the conviction that she could avoid carnage.

She was also a devotee of the peaceful god Quetzalcoatl, who Cortés was impersonating, instead of the Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli, who demanded human sacrifice. She believed that she could change events to save Mexico from a great terror and was acting beyond the role prescribed for women. She would bear Cortés two boys, but he would marry her off to one of his officers when his wife arrived from Cuba.

Sra. Margarita Meza de Juárez

Don Benito Juárez is probably one of the most admired men in Mexican history. This full-blooded Zapotec Indian, who could not read at the age of 12, became president of Mexico in 1858 after a chaotic period in which Mexico had lost over half of her territory to the United States. This leader of the Reforma, who was greatly admired by Victor Hugo and who corresponded with Abraham Lincoln, was able to triumph over conservatives and the French-sponsored Maximilian. Many, including myself, look to him for his self-determination. He is one of my heroes.

Yet today, I honor his wife for her role in this battle for self determination and as another representative of the many women who have played key roles in their nations' histories and the evolution of the Latino people. Doña Margarita Meza de Juárez married Benito when she was 17 years old; he was 37. He met her when his sister worked for the Mezas as a maid.

Benito himself was helped by others in Oaxaca to advance in the profession of law and the political life of his state. Later, he would serve his country in the national government, eventually becoming president.

Margarita gave birth to 12 children, eight of whom lived. During Juárez's struggle with Maximilian, she had to go into exile in the United States. She was given welcoming receptions by both the Johnson and Grant administrations. While in New York, away from her beloved Benito, she saw two of her children die. She eventually went back to Mexico, after the execution of Maximilian in 1867. She would be widowed at 44 in 1871, when Don Benito succumbed to a stroke. Upon her entry into Vera Cruz in 1867, one of the leading newspapers said of her:

. . . and it seems to us that our native city has received a complete purification by the passage through its streets and squares of a genuine Mexican woman, the companion of our misfortunes; in the cheers of the crowd you don't find fake homage, false pride . . .

-La Concordia, Jan. 2,1871

José Martí

If one asks a Cuban or Cuban-American (whatever they feel about Fidel Castro) to name the greatest Cuban, there is no question that all would agree that José Martí was a great Cuban and American. I honor him for his dedication to the freedom of his country, the work that he did for many Latin American countries, and his commitment to improving the lives of Latinos.

He was born of Spanish parents in 1853 as Cuba began her struggle for liberation from her Spanish masters. His involvement in Cuba's 10-year struggle led to his being sentenced to hard labor and later to exile in Spain.

After coming back to the Americas, Martí worked for a newspaper in Mexico and taught school in Guatemala. He returned to Cuba, joined a new conspiracy and had to leave for the United States in 1888. He would not see his beloved country until 1895. While in the U.S., he joined the Cuban Revolutionary Committee. He also worked as a reporter for La Nación, an Argentine newspaper, and served as a consul representing various Latin American countries.

While in the U.S., Martí expressed his ambivalence. He admired U.S. democracy and technology, but feared its imperialistic tendencies. He admired many Americans, including Lincoln, Thoreau and Whitman. He returned to Cuba in 1895; he was to die that same year in the struggle. Before his death, he had stated:

Everything in 'Nuestra America' is Cuban and we fight for human liberty not only in Cuba; we fight to insure with our freedom the independence of all Hispanic America.

Las Soldaderas

In 1910, a series of revolutionary activities involving labor organizing, peasant rights, artistic experimentation and the desire for political change came together to produce the Mexican Revolution. During the next 10 years, Mexico would be caught up in violent revolution, all directed against the 30-year dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. Thousands upon thousands would die, and more than a million people would go to the U.S. by 1930.

Many of Mexico's modern heroes would come out of this revolution, figures like Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza; artists, too, would join the movement. The names of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Jose Clemente Orozco and José Alfaro Siqueiros are familiar all over the world.

However, today I want to honor the individual and collective struggles waged by the women of Mexico alongside their men. Often, the individual names of these women are not known, but they are commemorated in song and legend. Perhaps many of you are acquainted with Juana Gallo, the brave fighter; Adelita, the faithful companion; or Valentina, the modest one. Doña Maria Felix, a great Mexican actress, has often portrayed these women. They were mestizas, Afro-Mexicans and whites.

There were the women who accompanied their men in the rebozo and dress of the poor, but also in the dress of the military soldier, often having to disguise themselves in order to enter combat. I emphasize that the contributions to the development of the Latino people were made by the poor as well, although we tend to record the deeds of the middle or upper classes.

Encarnacíon Mares Cardenas advanced to the rank of second lieutenant. Petra Ruíz fought for Carranza disguised as Lieutenant Pedro. Her nickname was Echa Balas. Magdalena Torres, a good friend and poet, says in part:

Her friendship 
like a warm rebozo 
provided a sanctuary of love spiritual strength 
security in an otherwise 
violent world, carefully woven
by gentle hands, 
1,000 life times 
1,000 spirits reborn.

500 YEARS 
resistance, 
memory,reclamation 
dark-skinned gypsy 
Indigena/mestiza 
Protecting me from life's 
Cruelties, indifference
Inner loneliness, isolation

-Rebozo de Amistad 
(Magdalena Torres)

 

In 1935, the daughter of Emiliano Zapata, Ana María, organized the Union of Mujeres Revolucionarias. Thus, they contributed as much as the men to the definition of Mexicanidad and the reality that both men and women fought valiantly for social justice.

Carey McWilliams

The one non-Latino that I chose to include in my list was Carey McWilliams. I did this for three reasons. First, he wrote about the situation of the poor and oppressed in many of his works. Secondly, he wrote North From Mexico, one of the first books on the Mexican-American/Chicano people to present them in a positive manner. Lastly, he not only wrote about the people, but got involved directly in their struggle.

He was born in Colorado of Scottish-Irish roots. He worked for the Los Angeles Times in the 1920s. He became interested in assisting labor unions and wrote the book, Factories in the Fields.

In 1944, he wrote Prejudice, focusing on the relocation of Japanese-Americans. Because of this, he was removed from the California Commission on Immigration. In 1942, he had written Ill Fares the Land.North from Mexico was published in 1949 and has been reissued several times.

By January 1945, he was a contributing editor of The Nation. This began a long association with this prestigious journal. He was persona non grataduring the early days of the Cold War and McCarthy hysteria. Two new books were produced: An Island in the Land and California, The Great Exception. He involved himself in the cause of the Japanese-American and the Jew.

He also got involved in the Chicano struggle in the 1940s by helping to clear the names of a dozen young men who had been unjustly sentenced to prison for a killing in the famous 'Sleepy Lagoon Case.' As chair of the defense committee, he worked with Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles and Anthony Quinn. By 1944 the convictions were overturned in the case of the People v. Zamora et al.

Later, he helped Fred Ross and Saul Alinsky in establishing the Community Service Organization. He also joined the Council for Civic Unity to foster better relations. He stated:

I emphasize the 'racial problem' had many facets, not merely black-white relations, and urged adoption of equal rights legislation of the kind enacted 20 years later.

The next three people I have picked are not among the famous, whose names we would recognize. Rather, they are three individuals who were/are proud of being Latinos, and who have affected me through their love, preservation of the culture and contributions to bettering the lives of those around them.

Berta Sandoval de Reyes

Berta Sandoval de Reyes was my grandmother, a person I did not know for a long time since she died when I was very young. Yet, in those short years, she taught me to be proud of who I was as an individual and a Mexicano. Pat Mora in her book, Nepantla, indicates that grandmothers are special weavers and the curanderas of our culture. Magdalena Torres expresses similar thoughts in her poem, Con Su Casuela. I once expressed this in a poem I wrote about my grandmother:

Mujeres ancianas
wise women of 
various ages
weaving el hilo 
connecting me with

tieras del pasado 
y momentos de mi gente 
their weavings preserved 
in my memory.

-John Eggler Las Ancianas

Berta Sandoval was born in Guaymas, Sonora, the daughter of José Sandoval and Ana Ortiz. She came from a rather large family, who would entertain themselves and others by playing music as a family orchestra. She eventually moved to the frontier border area of Nogales with three brothers, José, Próspero and Aurelio, who established the first bank in Nogales, Sonora. Even though men are the ones often remembered in pioneer tales, women certainly played a crucial role, too. She married Alfredo Reyes Gonzalez and had two children, Carlos and María.

With her husband, she moved to the American side of the border, obtaining a resident alien card as so many have done since the early 1900s. Carey McWilliams reminds us in North from Mexico that there is a border area miles to the north and to the south of the political border, where the two cultures influence each other. Being raised in this area and having this lady around me made me appreciate and observe Mexican and North American traditions. She also impressed upon me the idea of reaching out to others and to have a deep trust in God. I believe I share this border experience with Patricia Chávez Nuñez, Pablo Buckelew and Manuel Unzueta.

When I was a kid and belonged to the Bugs Bunny Movie Club, Saturdays meant watching cowboy films, eating popcorn, and sometimes putting gum on the hair of the person next to me. My cowboy heroes were Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy, who always seemed to be singing along with their horses. Yet, I don't recall seeing many Latino or African-American cowboys, buffalo soldiers, or good Indians. The one exception was the Cisco Kid and Leo Carrillo's Pancho character.

Juan García Chapa

When I first met Juan Chapa, I did not realize I had met a genuine cowboy and a proud second-generation Mexican- American born in the state of Texas. Orphaned early, Juan was raised by his grandmother. He grew up working on a ranch in an area that was often inhospitable to Mexicans.

When I visited Juan and his wife, Martina, I delighted in his tales about going from places like Pleasanton to San Antonio, a journey which took an entire day. But my favorite stories were about his range-riding while working for German ranch owners. It is interesting to note that, at some point in the late 1800s, San Antonio was one-third Mexican, one-third Anglo and one-third German.

Through my contact with him, I fully appreciated the fact that the Mexicanvaquero had contributed so much to the creation of cowboy culture in clothing, vocabulary and ranching techniques. As an adult, I learned of the existence of African-American and Mexican-American cowboys.

Martina and Juan married in 1932 during the Great Depression. He and Martina had six children. After World War II, he and his family moved to California, seeking a better life, along with so many others. He built his own house and started working for Kal Kan Corporation.

During World War II, he enlisted in the Army to serve his country, as did so many other Latino-Americans. He saw action in Germany, was wounded, and was sent to a hospital in England. Later, when I met him, what impressed me about this gentle man were the convictions he passed on to his family. These included his reliance on God, his belief in the power of education, his conviction that a labor union could improve life for workers, his pride in his heritage, his admiration for this country, and his conviction that, as citizens, we must all exercise the right to vote. When he died in 1990, I was deeply honored when I was asked to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

His son, Juan, once wrote a poem about his mother's and father's influence on him. Here are some of his thoughts:

What happens when the family grows and new faces appear with different eyes and different noses? I learn that love and warmth can be shared with others and not just with someone who looks like me.

Concepción Partida de Alvarado

My third personal choice is Concepción (Concha) Partida de Alvarado. She is here with us today, along with her family. I salute her for being another person who has made the journey to the north, who is a dedicated mother, who centers her life on God, tells her children to be proud of Mexico and the U.S., and stresses the need to help the unfortunate in our midst.

Concha was born in the state of Nayarit. She met her husband, Candelario Alvarado, in 1970. They had one child, Mari Cruz. They moved to the United States (the Los Angeles area) in 1977, where their second child, Armando, was born.

She is the mother of seven children, who have accepted me into their family. I have seen her devoting attention to her husband and the children. She spends quality time with each of her children. When Carolina, her seventh child, was born with Down Syndrome, Concha decided that this child would have therapy, be treated as a normal child, and receive the love power of the entire family. Here is what Armando says about his mother:

She is a terrific mother who always listens. She keeps alive the Mexican tradition, especially the December celebrations, centering on the Virgen de Guadalupe and Christmas.

I wish Candi and Concha the best-and you children the very best for your educational future. I'm proud of all of you.

There is a religious art distributor in the U.S. whose works portray modern-day saints in the tradition of the Greek or Russian icons. They have representations of Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Mother Jones and Teresa of Calcutta. I would add to their listings the name of César Chávez.

There is no question in my mind and the minds of many others that this man was very special.

César Chávez

He represents the humble man who, like Martin Luther King, worked in a non-violent manner to bring to our attention the plight of the migrant worker, who plants, cultivates and harvests our crops. He made us aware that race, class and gender are forces we have to contend with every day. Through his personal experience, his trust in God, his readings on Gandhi, and his contact with organizations like the Community Service Organization, he was convinced that a struggle had to be launched on behalf of farmworkers to bring unionization and the benefits of our society to those who did not share in its abundance.

I also recognize the strength of two women who stood by his side, his wife, Helen, and Dolores Huerta, a single parent with six children, who became the vice president of the union Chávez founded.

César was born in Arizona to a family that lost its land during the Depression-and had to begin life anew as migrant workers. In his many speeches, he often recalled the bitter life of the migrant and the racial injustice of the period. He recalled having to sit in the 'Mexican sections' of the local movie houses and restaurants.

This man, with a junior high school education, worked to eventually lead the Community Service Organization, which tried to register Mexican-Americans to vote and to run for office. In time, he left the organization to begin his effort to bring unionization and dignity to all farmworkers.

He began the National Farmworkers Organizing Committee, the forerunner of the United Farmworkers, as the Bracero program was ending in 1965. He joined Filipino organizers and their union in the now famous Grape Strike, which lasted until 1970, when the majority of growers signed with the union. He would continue his efforts in other crops and areas. However, with America's growing conservative mood, the union lost support and membership declined, but Chávez continued to fight.

The tactics used during the Grape Strike and the charisma of this leader made his challenge, La Causa, the symbol of the Chicano/Chicana struggle. Fasting, boycotts, support from students and politicians, prayer, the clergy's presence and the Teatro Campesino of Luis Valdez became the tools to change agricultural society. César said: . . .

people are the most important element we have. We must put flesh into our non-violence, rather than simply talk about it.

These are the things that drew me to his cause and the cause of Chicanos in other areas, including education. César's insistence on the dignity of the individual echoed the words of many-my grandmother and Juan Chapa, among others. After his death, his wife, Helen, expressed her thoughts this way:

César's dream was that one day we would have a safe . . . food supply so the men, women and children who harvest our food would not go hungry themselves. So their children wouldn't die from pesticides. So dignity would be returned to farm labor and the years of injustice and abuse would finally come to an end.

I cherish the times I worked in La Causa, especially the times that I worked on behalf of the strike here in Santa Barbara or on my visits to Delano. I was privileged to spend a few moments alone with this man on two occasions. His comments remain forever in my heart.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are my nine people, who, in my opinion, have contributed to the evolution of the Latino people and the growth of our American mosaic. Earlier I explained why I chose them. Your nine or 10 might be different; they might be all women, African-Americans, Irish-Americans, or other combinations.

My list has included famous people and ones known only to a few. Janice Chase, whom I have known for years and who works in the LRC, expresses it this way:

So instead of selecting one or more Latinos and Latinas, I suggest a collective one, that of all of us la gente. La gente, but especially those who preceded us; those brave souls who paved the way for us; those who stood alone; those who stood together in the face of discrimination, racism and prejudice. . . but they returned home to head households, nurturing families and serving our community.

In closing, I would like to extend my wishes for good health to two colleagues, David Lawyer and Barbara Karsen. They have also been a source of inspiration. Muchisimas gracias.


A BRIEF BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands: La Frontera. Aunt Lute Press, San Francisco. 1986.

Burciaga, José Antonio. Drink Cultura. Capra Press, Santa Barbara. 1993.

Gugliotta, Babette. Women of Mexico: The Consecrated and the Commoner. Floricanto      Press, Encino, Calif. 1989.

Gray, Richard. José Martí: Cuban Patriot. University of Florida, Gainesville. 1962.

Jurado, Teresa. La Malinche in Mexican History. Term Paper, Spring 1993.

McWilliams, Carey. The Education of Carey McWlliams. Simon and Schuster New York.      1978.

Messinger, Sandra. La Malinche in Mexican Literature: From History to Myth. University of      Texas Press, Austin. 1991.

Mora, Patricia. Nepantla. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque, 1993.

Paz, Octavio. Labyrinth of Solitude. Grove Press, New York. 1961.

Salas, Elizabeth. Soldaderas in the Mexican Military: Myth and History. University of Texas      Press, Austin. 1990.

Torres, Magdalena. "Rebozo de Amistad" and "Con Su Casuela" in Esperanza. Latina      Leadership Network: California Community Colleges. October 1993. Sacramento.

Weeks, Charles. The Juárez Myth in Mexico. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.      1987.

 

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