Added: Jenea Pittman - Date: 24.02.2022 12:33 - Views: 14515 - Clicks: 3923
The material traces the arrival and departures of ethnic groups, the rise and decline of political movements, the creation of youth cultures, and the use and manipulation of the built environment. Our pioneers, the Mexican migrant families who made South El Monte and El Monte home, did not write memories, and until very recently did not hold political office.
Yet, like today's migrants they constructed the cities' buildings, picked the vegetables and fruits for its residents, and contributed to vibrant youth cultures of the era. Armed with a desire to insert these voices into the official narrative, we set out to construct an archive for and with these two communities. A year ago, in January and February of , the South El Monte Arts Posse SEMAP and La Casa de El Hijo del Ahuizote conducted oral histories with the cities' older residents as well as more recent arrivals, hosted writing workshops at zumba studios and schools, took inventory of the trees that line some our streets , digitized family photographs, city documents, and punk fliers.
This new material allowed us to write more than twenty essays, many of which are featured on our East of East column. However, our project generated as many questions as it did answers. This year, for the next few days, we'll be following the archival trails that left us intrigued and more excited than ever to build an archive with our community. In City Hall's basement, we quietly and gently opened boxes, emptied folders, and looked through thousands of photographs. We found black and white photos depicting ordinary but lovely scenes of life around the city -- the dirt stretch of Rush Street in the s, boxing matches and summer days at the swimming pools frozen in action, a beauty contest held at Golfland, young boys playing baseball and football, and to our surprise photographs of murals from an unknown area, of which no trace remains.
And then there's Juan Mejia. Juan Mejia on the phone. Juan Mejia lounging, his feet on his desk. Juan Mejia striking a pose. The more we photos we found of Juan the funnier it seemed and the more intrigued we became. Juan was everywhere and yet we had no idea who he was or what he did. Juan was never pictured in a tie or suit, he had long hair and fashionable shirts. He was certainly performative for the camera. He didn't seem like the kind of guy responsible for hiring and firing people. Flash forward to January To our surprise it was a promotional film of South El Monte, which lauded among other things its youth programs: gang prevention, battle of the bands, and the painting of murals in South El Monte!
And there with the youth, we found Juan Mejia. We did some research and discovered that during this time period, Human Resources was the name of departments across the nation in charge of doing community outreach and usually consisted of members of the community with ties to local parents and youth.
Rather than addressing maternity leaves or reviewing benefits packages, Human Resources was an entity with deep knowledge of and involvment with community. We know a little bit more about Juan Mejia, but not much and even less about the youth who helped create these murals. Here is where you come in: we are asking the community to help us locate Juan Mejia, youth who were part of the mural project, and residents who lived in South El Monte from to And, for those of you who are just now learning about South El Monte's lost murals: Please us at this Saturday's event at 2 p.
And of course, Juan Mejia. While today's El Monte and South El Monte are increasingly seen as diverse communities with immigrants from around the world, in many ways, this is a return to the past. In the early twentieth century, as the San Gabriel Valley was being transformed by railro and farming, immigrants came from around the world.
Migrants from the U. El Monte developed a ring of ethnic barrios where many of these newcomers lived. Some like Hicks Camp became long lived vibrant communities, while others disappeared relatively quickly. La Mision was probably a barrio named for its proximity to the original San Gabriel Mission by the Rio Hondo river, while Canta Ranas earned its name from the frogs and other animal life that sang long the local bodies of water.
We also don't know a great deal of how these barrios interacted with each other. Did they all attend similar parties, for example? We do not know how migration into and out of the camps worked, or how circular migration to fields in Northern California operated. During an oral history with Joe Bautista, we learned that his family hired Braceros and invited them to share a song, a dance, and a plate of food at barrio gaterthings. We would love to learn more about how the Bracero Program, the U. Did you grow up in one of the barrios?
Was your father or grandfather a worker in the U. S-Mexico Bracero Program? Do you have photos or other material you would be willing to share? Your story is part of history, make it known! Research can be tough, but there are wonderful moments in every project that make it all worthwhile the old jock in me calls them "fist-pump" moments. In , as economic crises wreaked havoc on working-class school districts, his wife pushed him to become principal at Mountain View High School , telling him "you went into [education] to help people in the community when they needed you.
In reading how Ledesma combined institutional and community resources across generations, races, and classes, I began to see a pattern of collaborative community development and civic participation in my other sources. It became the frame for my essay on South El Monte. One year later, I've finally made it the San Gabriel Valley, and the fist-pumps keep coming. She invited her fellow campaigner Ida Werrett to us, and we talked for over three hours about their many struggles as parents and educators, including a long battle over the school board in the late s and s.
As they spoke of this fight, they flipped through their "war books," massive binders in which they had collected everything from newspaper clippings to board meeting minutes to election fliers to poems they had written. These "war books," which we hope to collect and digitize, offer a one-of-a-kind insider's view into the history of school politics and activism in the city. Growing up in East L. Every interview and every document adds a layer of complexity to this history. Sometimes there are moments of convergence, as when Gutierrez remembered how important it was that Ledesma hired locally to bring role models into schools.
Other times, complications arise; a parent organization I wrote enthusiastically about in the s became a major opponent of the CSEA in the s. While there will never be one simple story about the complexities of education, activism, and community, these new materials open up new possibilities. The more we can collect, the better the chance that someone can use these materials to have a fist-pump moment of their own. Details here and here. Muhammad Ali Start watching. Fine Cut Start watching.
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El Monte, California