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I think we finally got our ball back.

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Instead, we ate in tandas or in turns. The older ones ate first. I ate in the third tanda. We always ate Mexican food. Since the family was from Sonora, they made those huge tortillas de harina wheat , typical of Sonora-style cuisine. They would stretch them out and cook them on the top of a large empty gasoline can that had been redone by one of my cousins into a comal cooking surface.

They made me wash my hands, including my fingernails. At school, of course, I spoke English, as well as on the streets with my friends. In fact, language was a generational thing. My mother and her sisters spoke mostly Spanish, while my cousins and I spoke mostly English, except at home when we addressed the elders in Spanish.


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My girl cousins spoke a bit more Spanish since they had more work to do at home. I remember that when I went out with my cousin Hector to change the jukeboxes his Spanish was not as good as mine. My mother was religious in a traditional sense, but not excessively. We went to Mass, although not necessarily each Sunday.

East L.A. walkouts - Wikipedia

But we did go. She wanted to keep up this practice. Resurrection Church continued to be our parish. Although it was in Boyle Heights, it was not totally just Mexican parishioners who went there. Since I was born on the feast day of San Salvador, I got cheated out of two celebrations. Carmel, and so we celebrated both that feast and her birthday.

After awhile, I started remembering the Mt. Carmel date more than her birthday. Increasingly, we celebrated Christmas in the more American way and received presents from Santa Claus. East L. Our neighborhood, for example, was quite mixed. Besides Mexicans, there were judios Jewish people and Russians.

As one of my first little jobs as a kid, I collected rags and empty bottles for this guy who had a horse-drawn cart. He was a Jewish dude with a black coat, black hat, and a beard. I just knew that he dressed different. He paid me five cents a week to gather bottles from backyards or wherever and bring them to him. He especially prized big beer bottles. Jews and Russians also lived in the same streets as we did.

We lived downstairs, and upstairs lived a Mr. Stolberg, a German who owned the property. He got along famously with my aunt who by this time was a widower. I just recall Mr. My cousins used to make fun of my aunt about her relationship with our German neighbor. In fact, she never remarried. My public schools also reflected the same ethnic mixture. We all got along well together, except that the White Russians used to get more favors from the teachers, or so it seemed like when they handed out the musical instruments.

Until then, I and my family, along with others in East L. However, one of the first occasions when I experienced discrimination was when we visited relatives in Phoenix. We went to see my Uncle George Sesma and his family. He took us to a Fourth bor n in e a st l. What the hell is a Mexican doing at a Fourth of July picnic?

The fact is, as I tell students today, we as Mexican Americans or Latinos have every right to celebrate this holiday and every other U. One area in L. When we moved to West L.

Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice

Apparently, the same thing was going on in other parts of the city. Public parks in areas outside of East L. Mexicans, for example, shied away from Griffith Park, one of the largest parks in the city, because hostile whites harassed them. If Mexicans went to one of these public parks and started listening to Mexican music on the radio, the whites would call the cops to stop this or the whites would forcibly escort the Mexicans out of the park while the cops just stood around.

LAUSD recalls 1968 Chicano student walkout - ABC7

To compensate for this discrimination and exclusion in swimming pools and parks, Mexicans, including my family, went to what was called Marrano Beach. Marrano means pig in Spanish, but the people called it Marrano Beach because it was just a big hole in the ground filled with water that resembled a pig trough.

People also picnicked there. In fact, one of my uncles sponsored some of this entertainment. People came from all over. Everything was rationed during the war, and you had to use ration books to purchase various items. Each book had a number of stamps that you used to buy certain products, such as meat, sugar, shoes, and gasoline. The public schools distributed the ration books, and so I was the little dude at about age eight or nine who translated for my aunt on these occasions. His cousin had gotten killed in the army.

Many families in our neighborhood experienced the same tragic news. This meant that their sons or daughters were in the military. Some of these flags, however, had a yellow star, which meant that your son had been killed in the war. Some homes displayed both kinds.


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  • To us Mexicans, they were all chinitos a generic but benign term we used for all Asians. I knew this one Japanese American kid who went to my school. He was the only one that had an electric train in our barrio. After school sometimes, my friends and I would go to his house. This was great to watch. One day we showed up and no one was there. They were gone. The house had been cleaned out in one day.

    I learned later that they were part of the unjust internment of the Japanese along the Pacific Coast during the war.

    Blowout! : Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice

    Others feared that after Pearl Harbor the Japanese people might be subversives and traitors, although no evidence of this was ever shown. In fact, the ragman was the one who told me that if I built a shoeshine box and got some shoeshine stuff I could make some money on weekends working downtown. Little did I know what this would get me into. I took the streetcar downtown every weekend and staked out my place at the corner of Seventh and Broadway, right by the Clifton Cafeteria. This was one of the busiest intersections. It was On one of those Saturday afternoons in the first week of June all hell broke loose.

    This was the commencement of what came to be known as the Zoot-Suit Riots.