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Interview with Leticia Sanchez

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Leticia Sanchez was born in Eagle Pass, Texas, in 1953. At the time fo the interview she resided in Crookston, Minnesota, where she worked for the Minnesota Migrant Council's Domestic Abuse Program. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Family - language and bilingualism - generational differences in the Latino community - raising children - racism in education - community support programs.

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Leticia Sanchez Narrator Abner Arauza Interviewer April 2, 2013 Migrant Health Office Crookston, Minnesota

Leticia Sanchez Abner Arauza

-LS -AA

AA: This is Abner Arauza interviewing Leticia Sanchez in Crookston, Minnesota, in the Migrant Health Office. Today is April the 2nd, 2013. And I am interviewing her for the Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Project. Leti, thank you very much for giving us the time for an interview. For the record, tell me your name and ethnicity. LS: Leticia Sanchez. I am a Latina woman, of Mexican-American descent. AA: Okay. And your parents’ names? LS: They were Emma and Vicente Alvarado, both from Eagle Pass. AA: Spell their last name. LS: A-L-V-A-R-A-D-O. AA: Okay. And the place of birth of your parents? LS: They were both born in Mexico, and later on became naturalized US citizens. AA: Okay. What part of Mexico? LS: Piedras Negras, Coahuila? AA: Oh, sure. Okay. How many brothers and sisters do you have? Can you give me their names and their ages? LS: I have three sisters, Diana, who is now sixty years old, or young! AA: [Chuckles]
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LS: And myself, I’m fifty-nine, and Juanita, now fifty-eight. And I have one brother, his name is Luis. He is now forty-five years old. AA: Okay. And your date of birth? You gave me your age already. LS: 9-21-1953. AA: Okay. And where were you born? LS: I was born in Eagle Pass, Texas. AA: [Coughs] Excuse me. [Pauses] And how about your education level? LS: I graduated from high school and then I have had extensive education but not a degree. AA: Okay. Tell me the name and ethnicity of your spouse. LS: His name is Fermín Sanchez. He was born in Mexico and moved to El Indio, Texas. AA: Okay. LS: And we met in Eagle Pass. AA: El Indio, that’s a little bitty town! LS: Yes. Yes, his parents settled there. AA: Okay. Why El Indio instead of Eagle Pass? LS: Apparently his dad, before he was married, got a job there with a farmer in El Indio, and so he owned quite a bit of land and he did some ranching. And so when he later on found that he could bring his family from Mexico, then, they went and settled there at the farmstead where his dad was working. AA: Okay. LS: So, around and in El Indio. AA: How many children do you have? LS: I was blessed with four children. AA: Okay. Their names and ages if you remember! [Chuckles]

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LS: I have one daughter and three sons and my daughter’s name is Linda. My three sons, Fernando, Randy, and Brian. And then we were blessed with a little grandson. [Chuckles] AA: Okay. And their ages? LS: My daughter is thirty-seven. The next one is I believe thirty-four. AA: Okay. LS: And my son Randy, he’s an April fool baby! [Chuckles] AA: Oh! [Laughs] Okay. LS: And Fernando is a Fourth of July baby. AA: Okay. LS: So I tried to stick to the holidays! AA: [Chuckles] LS: He just turned twenty-five. And then the youngest one turns seventeen now in August. AA: Yes. And what level of education do they have? And what are they doing now for work? LS: Linda has a bachelor’s in social work. And a minor in Spanish. She’s got a master’s in human services and psychology, and she’s got certification as a resource management. AA: Okay. LS: Fernando has a certification in radiology and ultrasound. And Randy is working in his last year for his bachelor’s degree for general management. And my son Brian is a junior and preparing for his senior year and doing post-secondary. AA: Oh. Good. Good. And how many of them live here? LS: I only have one living here now. AA: Okay. LS: Randy moved to Texas. My daughter wants us to go back to Texas! [Chuckles] AA: [Laughs]
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LS: And so her way of working on us to go back to Texas is drawing her brothers to Texas. [Chuckles] AA: Okay. [Chuckles] LS: And so she’s doing a really good job in that! [Chuckles] In getting the boys over there. So she’s got three of them over there now. AA: Wow. LS: Yes. AA: So the goal is to get all the family over there. LS: That’s her plan! [Chuckles] AA: Give me some background about your family, by way of telling me how they came to this area and settled in this area. LS: Well . . . AA: Go back as far as you want. LS: My dad, before he was married, he was I think maybe seventeen, eighteen. He got recruited by a crew leader and he used to migrate over here, and also to Wisconsin and other states, coming in kind of like a tandem truck with other families and he traveled following the migration of seasonal work. AA: About what years were those? LS: I’d say that must have been about late 1940s, 1949, somewhere around there. AA: Okay. LS: Because then when he married, he brought the family and decided that he was going to stay at one of the locations that he used to migrate to, and that was around the Borup area. And the farmer offered him to, you know, bring him, his own hands, as they called it at that time, but basically it’s recruiting some employees to come to the farm. And he would provide housing. And so then my dad became crew leader himself, and then would travel, and he had a wagon, station wagon. And usually everybody traveled in one vehicle. However, occasionally, there would be a second or third vehicle, and sometimes four. [Chuckles] Kind of like a little caravan. AA: Sure.
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LS: And he would station those other families with, then, other farmers within the area who needed some hired hands. AA: Go on. LS: And so I was about a year and a half when my dad started bringing the family. So I kind of grew up here half of the year, five, six months of the year, and then we would go back to Texas. And sometimes we’d go to Wisconsin; I think it was cucumbers, tomatoes, cotton, apple trees, and so forth. That, you know, we would go and then come back to Borup again, and then continue with some of the other seasonal harvests that needed to be done. AA: In Wisconsin, where did you go? LS: I think it was around the Milwaukee area. I was, you know, pretty young at that time. AA: Okay. LS: I know that there were different places that he would go to. AA: And then when you came back to Borup what kind of work was that? LS: When we were here in Borup, we would do thinning with the beets. We would also do the beans, and thinning beans. Yes, we had an elevator at the farm. And so he would also work with the grains, and bagging beans, and then he would work with the weeding of the beets. And the family would also work in the onions, on potatoes, those types of crops, doing bagging. AA: Sure. LS: And then driving beet trucks, and sometimes helping with the barley and those types of grains, to put them in the elevator or either in the bins. So then he would drive trucks to do that. AA: So after that you would go to Wisconsin and then come back? LS: We had a short period of time, let’s say like maybe a month or two, tops, that we’d do all the thinning here in the Red River Valley or Borup, and that, and then we would have a little leeway between us having to do then the second hoeing. And so then he would travel to the other location. And then we’d come back to finish whatever else we needed, or commitment he had taken on. AA: Now you said earlier then by the time the family came here your father had already scoped out the area and had decided to settle in Borup. LS: To just start working with one farmer.
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AA: Okay. LS: Versus was working with other farmers or going to another state. AA: Okay. LS: Because the farmer then offered him enough work that he would just finish one thing and go into another and another and another until we’d arrive, usually, here sometime in May and leave sometime before November. Second, because he always had that deadline that he wanted to be over there for Memorial Day in Mexico. AA: [Laughs] LS: So it was in the end of October that usually the family would travel back. AA: Yes. What was it that brought him back to Mexico at that particular time? LS: Family. AA: Okay. LS: The, you know, family, so they were in Mexico and you know that was the day that he had since I guess before he married that he said that was the time that he was to be back over there. AA: Okay. LS: And so we didn’t know about it until later! [Laughs] AA: [Laughs] LS: We just followed wherever he took us. AA: Yes. LS: So yes, that’s kind of what we did there. AA: Did the family have a say-so as to coming to Borup? Or basically he said, let’s go? LS: I don’t believe that there was that choice. I think it was, we’re traveling as a family and we have this to do. And so my mom, you know, being a traditional family and just came. She learned to work the fields and so did the rest of the family. We started at a very young age, five, six, and seven, working out in the fields. And no daycare, no anything like that. AA: I see.
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LS: We worked out in the fields. AA: Wow. Okay. That’s how you got to Borup. LS: Yes. AA: And from Borup to Crookston? LS: Well, my parents retired about 1987 or 1988, somewhere around there. I felt a commitment that I needed to stay in the fields with them. Until they retired. But when I decided to stay in Minnesota year round is when I got married. AA: Okay. LS: This was at the age of twenty-five. I mean twenty-one, sorry. AA: [Chuckles] LS: Ah, but it was in 1975, that’s what I meant to say. AA: Okay. LS: And I didn’t want to be migrating. So therefore, hmmm, my husband had been offered a year round job and housing. And so therefore we decided that we weren’t going to be traveling back and forth. And we kind of lived kind of like very isolated to a certain degree, my parents. So you know, it was home here, too, because I grew up here five, six months out of the year, actually never spent one single summer in my home state. And so therefore this was home, too. AA: Sure. LS: So then I decided or we decided that we would stay. And so then here is where I stayed since 1975 and made it my residence. AA: So until 1975 the family kept going back and forth, they didn’t settle in Borup. LS: My parents were migrants from before he was married until 1988. AA: Okay. LS: They never settled here. They, always until that time, would travel back and forth. But when I married in 1975, I stayed. AA: Yes. LS: And so then they would come, but I stayed at the same place that my parents would work.
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AA: Sure. LS: So except when I had a year round house versus just a cabin or bunkhouse, kind of like. And so then once they retired, then I got into professional jobs versus live in the fields. Which I used to do in Eagle Pass, but because of my commitment to my parents, I felt that I had to be there with them. AA: And when your husband was offered a job it was here in Crookston? LS: No, it was offered there at the farm, where we were at. AA: Okay. Okay and so what brought you to Crookston? LS: Well, I started working with Minnesota Migrant Council. AA: Okay. And that was in? LS: In Moorhead, and they had satellite offices. AA: Okay. Sure. LS: And I worked out of the Ada office. AA: Okay. LS: And so therefore I worked for them for three years as a human resource developer aide. And so then there was a position that came open year round with them, with the Domestic Abuse Program. And it was offered here in Crookston. And so I was working in Moorhead at the time, so I decided, well, you know, that wasn’t too far from where I was commuting to Moorhead anyway. So I decided, why not commute to Crookston? [Laughs] AA: [Chuckles] Sure. LS: So I started working with this program under Minnesota Migrant Council here in Crookston. AA: Okay. LS: And I would commute the fifty miles one way every day. AA: Sure. LS: And until I moved to Crookston in 2005. So I did it for twenty years. Kind of, more or less. [Chuckles] So then my husband started working at a different elevator, because he was working
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year round at an elevator as an assistant manager. And so then we were both commuting and my kids were going to Ada to school. AA: I see. LS: Borup and Ada went up, you know, becoming one, so therefore my second youngest son was in his senior year. So he was going to be taking off to college anyway. And so I figured, well, which would be our better location to settle or move to . . . AA: Yes. LS: Yes, it was either going to be Halstad or here, and I said, well, if you’re to go to Halstad, we’ll still be commuting! [Chuckles] Except for him. AA: Yes. Yes. LS: And since he started at a later time than I did, I figured somebody; I was going to give it up. AA: Seniority rules! [Chuckles] LS: Yes, seniority ruled. And so, yes, then I was working here already, knew the community and had worked here for many years. Started looking and then we found a house and we moved here from Borup. AA: Okay. LS: In 2005. AA: Let me go back a little bit. Or longer, I’m not sure. When your dad first started to come to work in Borup, how did that happen? He’s in Eagle Pass, there’s work in Borup, how do the two connect? LS: There were, obviously, crew leaders, field men, they used to go from American Crystal and the employment office and or, word of mouth as well as the newspapers, and they would put it in Spanish, right. My dad didn’t know too much English, he picked it up later. So, therefore, he was recruited, and so that’s how he started before he married. To come to Minnesota and or other states, in the truck. AA: Okay. So he would come with a group? LS: With a group. AA: Now okay, when the family came here, both to Borup. Well, let’s start with Borup. But then also when you moved to Crookston. Was there a support network in place when you arrived? Whether it was formal or informal, families or agencies.
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LS: Because we were so isolated and not close to any really metro area like Moorhead or anything like that, you could find those types of supporting agencies or programs within those areas. There was some outreach that was done, I think, by some of those as well. However, the farmer that we worked for didn’t believe in getting anything from the communities. He kind of would lend my dad some money. AA: Okay. LS: So that he could provide for the family while he was here, he would open up credit at a gas station and grocery store and hardware, which were basically the three things that, as a family, we would need. Gas for getting to our jobs. And at the end of the harvest or whatever we were doing, he would deduct whatever he had loaned in so he could pay whatever credits he had open for him so that the family could survive while he got paid. And so the only ones that would come out to where we were occasionally was some ministry. Our farmer was Lutheran, so therefore those were usually who would come out sometimes to where we were residing or living. AA: Sure. LS: In a bunk house, and helped, you know, in support as it relates to some of the religious portion of ministry. We didn’t find out that there was some programs out there that could help migrants and are, you know, medical or anything like that until maybe in the 1970s or somewhere around there, only because some of the families that Dad would bring with had already had that connection and so, therefore, they knew about social services and some of the resources that were out there. Because, apparently, they were already getting some assistance somewhere else. And so then that’s how we eventually learned that there was those services out there. AA: Okay. LS: But we really never utilized any of them. We basically, you know, paid from the same thing that we worked or any of those needs that the family needed, including medical. AA: Do you remember what agencies those were or organizations, churches? LS: There was one in Halstad that apparently there was some that had gatherings for Latinos. They used to do, obviously, the ministry as well as potlucks and those types of things. Minnesota Migrant Council apparently was there as well. The Diocese used to have someone as well that would go out in the farmsteads and community to reach out to some of the Latino migrants that were in the area. AA: That was the Catholic Church?
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LS: Yes. And so that’s what we found later that that was there. But really we never utilized or they wouldn’t come around, you know. AA: Sure. LS: We used to get out in the fields between five to six in the morning and wouldn’t get back home until about nine at night since the summer days are so long. AA: What years were those? LS: Well, definitely all the 1970s and 1980s! [Chuckles] AA: Okay. And now, in time, there was the Minnesota Migrant Council and, eventually, you know, to provide services. LS: Yes. AA: Do you know about what year, years that was? LS: [Sighs] I would say, it was after I married, because there was a flood. AA: Okay. LS: Everybody lost everything. And so there was somebody that came out, and I think it was from the employment office, and also American Crystal, and had us go to Moorhead and Minnesota Migrant Council was there. And they needed help in helping some of the migrant workers. And I remember being at some school that was there and I was already married. And I got recruited to help in the intake process. AA: Oh. Okay. LS: So that’s when I started learning about what was out there. We never, you know, had known that was there. But, like I said, we’d only come into town when we had a need. And that would either get groceries or we couldn’t wash it at the farm, so we’d go to a Laundromat, and those types of things. AA: At the farm, you mentioned a bunkhouse. Was your family the only family living there? LS: There were two bunkhouses. AA: Okay. LS: One for the men and one for the women or for the family. AA: Okay.
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LS: And our family was the one that had the bigger bunkhouse because we were usually six that would have that bunkhouse, and the other one was just for men. AA: Okay. And not all the same family? LS: Correct. Well, sometimes my parents would bring, you know, like a brother-in-law or, you know, someone that was related, you know, but single. AA: It seems like coming here and returning here and eventually resettling here was employment-driven. Or were there other factors? LS: Ah, I think it was employment-driven pretty much. And for me, when I married, I liked living on a farm, I liked, you know that beginning. And I wanted that beginning for my kids. You know, it wasn’t in the city, but at the same time, those needs would be met as it relates to schooling and those types of things. AA: Now when you decided to settle in Crookston, or Borup, but this area principally for you was, you know, you got married and you settled here. So there were those adjustments of having gotten married. But were there other adjustments that you had to make or that you went through that have created some memories? And having moved from Eagle Pass to this area. LS: Well, like I said, the transition wasn’t all that overwhelming because when I was growing up it was from home to school. AA: Sure. LS: Work, home, to school. You know, so those were primary, where we would go. We had extended family but it was very short-lived that they would take us there. AA: Okay. LS: So we were kind of very isolated to a certain degree, so you know, going to dances or even when we were in school to have interaction, entertainment and/or social type of things. It wasn’t all there, you know, or either going to the movies, it was work and school and home. And so that way, you know, I couldn’t miss what I didn’t have. AA: [Chuckles] Okay. LS: You know, so later on, my mom because she didn’t want me to settle over here, she wants, you know, “Aren’t you going to miss this, this, and that?” And I said, “Well, Mom, you never allowed me to do that then, so what am I going to miss?” [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles]
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LS: You know, so it’s like, “But no, you know, the music blah, blah, blah” And I said, “Well, you know, you didn’t let me hear it then!” [Laughs] AA: [Chuckles] LS: So that way, you know, it wasn’t a hard adjustment. AA: Okay. LS: Because of that. I just blended in. AA: So you started basically here. LS: Yes. AA: What experiences, when you think back, come to mind? Some of your first experiences in the area. LS: As it relates to employment, schooling, what? AA: All of it. LS: Well, my parents used to take us out of school about, somewhere in May. Usually early. So it’s about a month before school was over. AA: Before school ended, was over. LS: Yes. And they’d bring us back, you know, two months later. So therefore sometimes integrating into the schools was very difficult. Obviously, here, you know we had to deal with; we had language barriers in the early parts of our education. So there was a lot of racism going on during that time. It was difficult for us to integrate sometimes with them because we were minority and we had some disadvantages. When we’d go back to Texas, you know, we weren’t allowed to start school here. AA: Oh. LS: We were out working. So oftentimes they would hide us. [Chuckles] You know when somebody was doing a check to see, you know, that kids were supposed to be where they’re supposed to be. AA: Sure. LS: We were obviously hiding, and then as soon as they leave, we go back at whatever harvest we were doing. Oftentimes, it would be like, you know, cucumbers, potatoes, or onions. Ah, at that time was school! [Chuckles]
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AA: Okay. LS: So that was kind of, you know, difficult. When we would arrive over there, my dad was very quiet. He didn’t want us to be labeled as migrants so he would make us catch up with the rest of the kids that started in September. Versus letting us get into the programs that were there to help migrants catch up, which started earlier in the day. And so he didn’t want any of that. So, you know, even though that was there, they didn’t want us to get that label. And so we would catch up. And because we didn’t have all this extra activities. We were able to do it to a certain degree, because the A’s and B’s were still required! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: So that was hard and difficult to do sometimes. And especially when you needed, you know, in high school that you needed your credits. Anyway, that was kind of what happened there. AA: Now do you perceive your stay in Crookston as temporary or permanent? LS: [Sighs] I don’t think it’s temporary. I can’t say it is permanent because I don’t know the future. Obviously, we plan to retire here as it relates to now. AA: I see. LS: Ah, like I said earlier, my daughter is really doing all she possibly can with guilt trips and so forth to try to get us to move back to Texas. But when we go down, you know, just to visit, we just like it here. You know, it’s too fast. You have to be on the go all the time. And here we are on the go all the time, but at a different pace. So I don’t know. I think that this is home. AA: Okay. LS: And I consider this home. However, you know, I don’t know the future, if something that may direct us in a different direction. But so far this is the plan, to stay. And it has been since, you know, for a while. I tell them they’re the ones that chose to move! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: They were born here! AA: [Laughs] LS: They were all born here. AA: Yes. So when somebody asks you where are you from you don’t say San Antonio, I mean, Crookston, you say Crookston.
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LS: I tell them I was born in Eagle Pass. However, I reside here in Minnesota. AA: Yes. So this is where your roots are. LS: Yes. AA: Have you maintained contact with, obviously, you’re close to your daughter and sons and you maintain that contact. But the other family members, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles? LS: We are very close. I’m very close with my sisters and my parents. However, they obviously don’t make it this way as they used to. We try to make it down to Texas at least twice or once a year. We pretty much have daily contact with them. With my brothers and sisters by phone. Also with, doing Skype. There is a close relationship. We usually stay two weeks, or at least try to stay two weeks, at least. And when we’re down there we do even go to Mexico, because we do have extended family, especially on my husband’s side, there in Piedras Negras. As well in, you know, in Eagle Pass. And even Houston and Austin and Waco, and San Antonio. [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: You know, family has, really spread out. Arlington. . . [Chuckles] So we try to, you know, to do what we can. Texting and cell phone, obviously, and technology has come a long ways. To make that possible. So that way, you know, yes. AA: Now you said that family, they don’t travel anymore. Were they migrant families? Or when you say “travel” you mean they used to come visit? LS: I’m meaning my parents. AA: Yes. LS: Ah, no longer, obviously, come. AA: Okay. LS: Especially, they come for special occasions like; you know, graduation, those types of things. AA: Okay. LS: But mostly, you know, we’ll fly them up or emergencies that may arise based on health and those types of things, we’ll fly down. AA: Sure.

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LS: But usually we drive. Kind of alternate [drivers], making it in twenty-four hours or twenty and we’re there. AA: [Chuckles] Oh, my God! LS: Yes! AA: You drive straight through? LS: Race . . . race . . . AA: Wow! LS: We just alternate. And one of my sisters has retired. AA: Okay. LS: And so she spends half of her year here with us or even the whole year sometimes if she can! But, you know, she does have her daughter living in San Antonio as well. So she runs over there when she needs to take care of business. And are with her. She retired from law enforcement. AA: Yes. LS: She had worked for Homeland Security. But she loves fishing, she loves Minnesota for that. She had never done that in her life until after she retired. AA: [Chuckles] LS: And she came to Minnesota to visit. And so now she’s got a passion for it! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] Wow. LS: So and she brings my other sister with as well. And she spends; you know, two, three months here. That way, you know, we’re close. And my brother has come as well. When we’re over there, we all get together and do the family thing. Usually we don’t go around Christmas, New Year’s, so we start the year that way. AA: Which language do you speak in the home? LS: Being bilingual, I can get away with both! [Laughs] AA: [Chuckles] Okay.

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LS: It all depends who is at the house and who I’m addressing. If, you know, sometimes somebody will come and visit and Spanish is the only thing they speak, I’ll just speak Spanish, you know. Same here in work, I do the same thing depending on who I’m addressing or who I’m working with. If they’re not bilingual, and if they are, well, we speak English. With my kids, even though they understand the language, they prefer to speak English, especially the one that’s over here, even though he wants to go to Spain. [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: Speaks English, so I speak English. And if I don’t want him to understand something, sometimes I’ll do some Spanish but I can’t get away with it because he does understand. AA: He understands. LS: Yes, more than I’d like to sometimes, but no, that’s a good thing! [Laughs] AA: [Chuckles] Yes. LS: So yes, it all depends on who I’m addressing. AA: How about when your sisters come visit? LS: We do both. You know, one minute we’re speaking English. And one minute we’re like, okay, finishing a sentence in Spanish. [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] Okay. LS: So we, you know, we go back and forth, so, yes. AA: But with your husband? LS: The same. AA: Okay. LS: And it’s like, you know, this Tex-Mex thing, it’s like we’re speaking them, both languages all the time. AA: Yes. How about at church or when you’re out grocery shopping and you run into another Latino? LS: Again, there’s a lot of Latinos that do not speak Spanish.
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AA: And you already know who they are. LS: And, yes. [Laughs] And so usually the older ones, the, you know, the ones that immigrated here versus who were born here. Will have the language barrier sometimes. Or they’re more comfortable speaking their Spanish. And so, you know, for their comfort, so I have no problem in just having a conversation all in Spanish with them. So that’s kind of what I do. As it relates to my language. AA: Tell me about some of the Latino or Hispanic or Mexican American cultural traditions. Which ones would you define as being, you know, cultural traditions? And, let’s go there first. LS: Well, I think that one of the ones that always comes first is usually the meals. AA: Okay. LS: You know, even though we have a diverse population of Latinos here, you know, from El Salvador, you know, and they have the different types of tamales in Guatemala, and all this. [Tamales are a traditional Latin American dish made of masa (a dough made from corn) wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. Tamales can be filled with meats, beans, fruits, vegetables, or any preparation according to taste. Tamales have been traced back to the ancient Mayas.] And all we have a lot of things that are, you know, similar to a certain degree, even called the same, but not necessarily prepared the same. [Chuckles] Ah, so obviously the language being the other cultures, you can see my office is culturally decorated from different countries in South America because they bring that here. AA: Oh. LS: I mean, it’s not, you know, like you go to anywhere else, you know, usually it’s like you have to fit into them versus fitting into ours. And so I have the same thing at home. And so, you know, even though I’m not living in the dominant culture whereas Latinos; I bring whatever I can home. And so, you know, those are some of the things, you just can’t get, let go of it! [Chuckles] AA: Yes. LS: So yes, the language or foods. And I’ve been very active in a committee for the Fiesta Cinco De Mayo. [The fifth of May -- commemorates the Mexican army's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867).] AA: Oh, sure. LS: And September, you know, I’ve done that for quite a few years. [Mexico declared independence from Spain on September 16, 1810.] So I try to also educate others on our culture so that they’re culturally sensitive as well as knowing some of our traditions and so they become
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our allies to a certain degree more, versus being fearful of, you know, us being here. And so that kind of helps out. AA: Have you retained some of the Latino cultural traditions? And which ones? LS: Virgin de Guadalupe, obviously, how we celebrate Christmas, you know, we have both worlds to a certain degree. [The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the Patroness of Mexico and the Continental Americas. She is popularly invoked as Patroness of the Unborn. On December 12, Mexicans and other Latinos observe La Virgen de Guadalupe, an advocate of the downtrodden.] So we can combine them if we want to. Or either how we celebrated in Texas in our culture. AA: Okay. LS: And las carnes asadas and menudos, la Easter hunt, you know, cracking the eggs and all of that, so, some of those things are still there, you know, and Memorial Day, Dia de los Muertos, you know, ah, those are a little different than it is here. You know, obviously, so, yes, we practice some of those different events. [Carne asada is the thinly sliced, grilled beef served so often in tacos and burritos or as an entrée with rice and beans. Carne asada often is marinated in mixtures developed by and kept confidential within a family. It is often served with fresh guacamole, grilled onions, cilantro, and assorted veggies.] [Menudo is a soup made from beef tripe and hominy. It is garnished with lemon or lime juice, chopped onion, and chopped hot green peppers.] [Easter eggs. Egg shells are emptied of the white and yolk by creating a small hole. After cleaning them and dying them in bright colors, the eggshells are filled with confetti. Then, the small hole is covered with a piece of paper, usually crepe paper. Having a cascarón broken over one's head was said to bring good luck. At other times, it was considered part of a courting ritual. Although this tradition might have had significance at one time, now it is just a game, for the most part.] [El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), a Mexican celebration, is a day to celebrate, remember and prepare special foods in honor of those who have departed. It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit their families on October 31 and stay until November 2. As part of the celebration, families often make altars and place ofrendas (offerings) that include pastries baked in shapes of skulls and figures, candles, incense, yellow marigolds and memorabilia of the departed soul. Mexicans react to death with mourning along with happiness and joy.] AA: Yes. So did you do cascarones for your children growing up or did you have to adapt for that? LS: Oh, yes!
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AA: [Chuckles] LS: We did that and we did the piñatas. [Bright, colorful, and formed in many different shapes, a piñata usually is made of papier-mâché with pottery inside filled with fruit, small toys or candy. It is broken as part of a celebration while the participant is blind-folded. The children gather the prizes, like party favors.] AA: Yes. LS: And the Easter Hunt and yes. No, we did a lot of those things that, we did when I was growing up. AA: So a lot of this was transferred to your children or passed down to your children? LS: Yes. Actually, now, you know, being that my daughter lives in San Antonio, you know, including my other kids. They even do even more than I do! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: Because I live in Minnesota and the weather just doesn’t permit certain things to happen. AA: Right. LS: And so no, I mean, and have picked up even more because she’s there. And you know it’s all over the place. So yes, and she’s got my grandson doing the same thing with that. AA: So it’s being passed on down to your grandchild now. LS: Yes. Yes. AA: Okay. The next question would be is it a deliberate passing down the culture or is just, hey, this is our life and you just pick it up as you go? LS: There were some things that were deliberate. AA: Okay. LS: Obviously, as they were growing up, because they lived here. And like I made the quinceañera for my daughter. [Quineceañera is the celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday. It marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood. The celebration varies significantly across Latin American countries; in some countries taking on, for example, more religious overtones.] Being Minnesota born and living in the area that we live, that was something that she wasn’t growing up with our culture other than the immediate family.
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AA: Sure. LS: You know, she being in school, I mean, there was something that she wouldn’t have known anything about, you know, other than sweet sixteen. Versus, you know what a quinceañera is all about. So what I did was, you know, I wanted her to have that. Even though I didn’t have a quinceañera because my dad said, well, if I’m not going to do it for one, I’m not going to do it for any. And we were three girls, so therefore it was cheaper that way! [Chuckles] AA: [Laughs] Okay. LS: And she being my only daughter, so I said, no. And so I sent her to Texas to be with my mom so she could take all the classes and all of that. And we went down and celebrated her quinceañera we took some friends of hers down and so that she could know what that was all about. AA: Okay. LS: And what those traditions are and the symbolism of it. So she took the classes and all of that and my husband’s family is such a huge family that most of her cousins were the majority of her damas. [Ladies in waiting, similar to bridesmaids, who are part of the quinceañera’s court.] AA: Oh, okay. LS: So you know that way became a big family affair, obviously, and it was something very nice for her to have. And now the memories and the tape and all of that. She knows the symbolism of what that was all about. AA: Wow. So that’s a memory for the rest of your life. LS: Yes, I told her, “Well, if you don’t get married at least you had your day with your beautiful dress and all this!” AA: [Chuckles] LS: And you know, yes. So yes, we tried to keep as much as we can. She traveled to Spain and she was over there for six months and they’ve gone to Mexico as well, New Mexico to learn of their heritage as well. So I’ve tried to, even though there have been, you know, born over here, to also know what beauty we have in our culture as well. So yes, and my youngest one is planning to go to Spain, too. So and he wants to go study abroad! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: So yes, they have a lot of interests and are proud to be Latinos. AA: Good.
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LS: Yes. AA: Good. In your family as well as other families in the community, are some of these cultural traditions changing? LS: Oh, yes. AA: How? LS: The more that they integrated to the dominant culture, there are losing a lot. You know, some of the younger generation doesn’t even have the language there anymore. I mean, they’re going through school or we’re going into the schools because I do that as well, they know very little. You know, it’s like some of the parents aren’t passing it on. Some are. But a lot of them aren’t. And some of the kids don’t want to at this time, but some of them that haven’t done it are now learning that that they need to have that. And so they’re going back and trying to figure out, you know what their culture is all about. [Chuckles] I guess it’s better late than never. [Chuckles] AA: And is there a resistance? Or is it’s just not being passed down? LS: I think it’s got a few different things that are going on there. Where some Latinos aren’t too proud of being Latinos. And or either they’ve been oppressed too much and so therefore, there is, obviously, some biases out in the community or stereotyping and those types of things. So I think some of our younger generations may feel a little lost as it relates to who they are as a culture. AA: Okay. LS: And as a race. And so they have mixed feelings as to where they want to be. But I think eventually they find their way. And I know that it’s got a lot to do with, obviously, the dominant culture of where our kids, you know, are with their own culture. AA: Sure. LS: And I know that there is more diversity. It’s easier on them because, you know, they’re not just, you know, that population that needs to move somewhere else where they came from and they were born here. It’s like they’re in between two different worlds and then not necessarily knowing which one is, you know, where they are. It’s home. AA: Yes. And that affects relationships. LS: It does. It does.
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AA: What kind of relationships did your family have with others here in the area? And by others I’m talking about neighbors, fellow churchgoers, employers, and teachers. LS: Well, as I was growing up as when I was with my family, obviously, because they only interacted with the community as it relates to farmers, or who they were seeking employment from, they come into the community to meet some needs. And obviously you would always feel and or the comments from, you know, pass-byers, you know, people in the community. That would demean them. Or be racial slurs or whatever. So that was very, you know, hurtful. So they kind of, you know, mostly isolated themselves. [Chuckles] Because English was not their first language, obviously. And they did have language barriers that were difficult. In wanting to come to town or be part of the community. And so it was very minimal for the vast majority until we started, you know, integrating more, it was difficult in school. Obviously, for the same reasons. The farmer that we worked for was really nice. He was very well-known and very respected. So that when he was around, or, he would bring us as a family unit and then everybody was just like super nice. But, you know, he stepped away or we’d do it on our own, or you know, to be out there, it was a different take. AA: I see. LS: Of how receptive people were to have us around. For my kids in school, they had their moments. And so I had to intervene a few times but because of the work that I’m in, and because how long I’ve been in it, there’s a lot of people that know me. From Moorhead all the way [chuckles] to Thief River. I mean, I’ve been all over the state. And so therefore I do have a lot of allies and my name, you know, more people know me than I know them. [Laughs] AA: [Chuckles] LS: And because, I’m singled out to certain degree because I’m more noticeable. AA: I see. LS: Of course, we all look the same, but . . .! [Laughs] AA: [Chuckles] LS: However, obviously, has had a ripple effect on my kids, you know. And they themselves, you know, are good communicators, they know who they are. And they’re leaders. I’ve kind of tried to make sure that they stay in that role to a certain degree for their own self esteem. And they carry it. That’s why they are the way they are. AA: Good. LS: So they haven’t dropped out. Or either isolated themselves, or not interacted, or not wanting to participate in this and that because of how they’ve been made to feel.
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AA: Sure. LS: No. They don’t stand to any of that. And so therefore I think that’s got a lot to with where they’re at now and where they’re going. AA: So they were aware of feelings, antagonistic feelings, but they weren’t held back. LS: They wouldn’t allow them to. In school, maybe because I don’t know if it had to do because I got involved versus my parents weren’t involved. To them it was, if you went to high school that was more than enough. Because you know, obviously, their education level was third grade in Mexico. AA: Yes. LS: So high school was a big deal. But they really didn’t encourage us to go any further than that. Because that was good enough. But with living in this world and how it changes and all of that, our kids need to go further. And so I made sure that those obstacles that were the reasons, and it’s still the reasons for a lot of Latinos to drop out that that wasn’t going to intimidate them and or they were going to give up just because they were made to feel this or that. AA: Sure. LS: No. You’re just as good. AA: Okay, so your parents didn’t get involved but you did. So is it a different personality or is it progression in involvement, or more knowledge? LS: Well, I tell you, I was the quiet one, I was the middle child. And the shy one and maybe submissive to a certain degree as it related to family because we weren’t allowed to do too much integrating with others without their presence. I think that when I settled here and because of the line of work I was doing, what I didn’t do for myself, I did it for others. And so if I did it for others, wouldn’t I do it for my own kids? And so I had them learn English as their first language versus Spanish as their only language. AA: Okay. LS: Ah, I remember we weren’t allowed to speak English for practicing at home because Mom would think that we’re talking about her! [Laughs] AA: [Chuckles] Okay!
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LS: [Chuckles] So therefore, “You don’t speak . . . ah!” AA: [Chuckles] LS: So anyway, with my kids, English was their first language and Spanish was their second language. AA: Okay. LS: And so that helped for them not to have the accents and or them not knowing how to communicate properly. And so before they went to school, first grade, they already knew all their alphabet [chuckles] and they were like, ready! And so therefore, yes. AA: Wow. LS: So we made it, and to a certain degree sometimes I wonder, I should have done the Spanish, too. But I didn’t do that until later when it was a second language. And I had to, my parents sometimes I would allow them to spend a month with them so they pick up the Spanish like that. [Snaps fingers] AA: Sure. LS: That was really good. But yes. That helped them to a certain degree in getting accepted a little bit more into the dominant culture. AA: Now a little earlier you said that one of the reasons that made this a bit easier is that a lot of people know you so that in itself would change, influence how they treated your children. How about if you had been a stay at home mother and nobody knew you in town? I guess the question is, how did other families who aren’t as well-known and respected in the community, how is their situation? How is their condition? LS: Kids are not doing as well. They’re more timid. Parents aren’t coming forward and defending their kids or don’t know about what’s going on with them. However, they’re not wanting to continue their education and or either their getting bad grades. They don’t go to the conferences because they’re intimidated by, you know, the teachers and or they don’t know enough to be able to ask the right questions and or neither they’re understood. AA: Sure. LS: We do have a school liaison here, but that’s, you know, something that hasn’t always been there. And sometimes, you know, they don’t know about it. There’s a lot of stuff that is not information and or either resources that’s not channeled into the Latinos unless it’s usually something, someone like me.

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That you know cares enough to say, “Hey, you know, this family needs your help, this in Spanish, or this, you know, needs someone to reach out. And do you know about this? Or do you know enough about that?” And making sure that there is that other person that can be able to help with that. Advocates, basically, for them. It isn’t out there, sometimes. Then if there is, it’s very limited, and families don’t know about it sometimes. Once they know, then they definitely, you know, some of them want to get involved, but some of them are too busy in just surviving, you know, with their jobs but, you know, the financial portion of it is not always there for the kids to participate in this or that. And if there is monies there, they’re not made aware of it through this program your kids can get whatever they need, an instrument or whatever, so they can be participating in the extra activities, and or either there is this tutoring or they don’t know all the information that could be so useful for those kids before they fall so far behind. You know, and so that is something that’s there. Some of the families are removing their kids from the local schools here and moving them like to Fisher or Climax because they’ve had some kind of conflict with an educator, or either the ones that are in administrative positions, and or either other kids, and they got punished for something they shouldn’t have or, you know, the communication wasn’t there. And so they have been told to go to an alternative school and not graduate with the rest of the class. AA: Okay. LS: And so those things, you know, impact those kids. Not having that support that person to back them up and or either just to, you know have them heard. And it leaves, obviously, things in them, why go any further? I mean, I’m going to get this all the time, you know. And being teenagers, you know, it’s the present pain that they’re going through versus something that they can overcome in the future. AA: Sure. LS: And or either take different directions to making it happen. And sometimes counselors don’t give them the right information or the same information they’re giving the dominant students so that if they want to pursue an education, further than high school, that they are prepared to be able to do so. You know, so the opportunities of information and or scholarships and so forth, it’s not there. Or even to the parents, you know. AA: Go on. LS: So I think that with me I made sure I educated myself in that area so that, you know, my kids would not have that disadvantage. And I guess I did okay. AA: It sounds like it from what you’ve told me! LS: [Chuckles] You know, so yes.
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AA: So at any time was the issue of acceptance or non-acceptance by the majority community here, did that ever play a part in your deciding to stay here as your kids were growing up? LS: You know, there was a lot of different times that, you know, if I would have been the person before I married, when I married, or shortly after that. AA: I see. LS: That I didn’t, you know, get out of my shell and get involved. That would have been the easiest route to go. I remember that when I went and registered one of my kids, well, it happened to most of them. The principal there, as I walked in and was registering my son, he automatically said, “Well, he needs to be in ESL classes.” And never even speaking or addressing him, he automatically was going to put him into some kind of program, and he wanted me to sign all these papers and stuff. And I said, “Have you spoken to my son?” He automatically thought that he had a language barrier, that he only spoke Spanish. And so therefore he was making all the arrangements to put him here now. He didn’t know Spanish. [Voice chokes.] AA: Okay. LS: His first language was English. And he was excelled over the first grade. AA: Wow. LS: And before he even opened his mouth he was already being put down. He didn’t take the time to, you know, look at whatever came from, obviously, they get the screenings prior to. AA: Sure. LS: Right. Nothing. Automatically. [Snaps fingers] So I said I had to take a step backwards. [Sucks in breath] [Sighs] [Chuckles] And so, you know, I brought him to his attention. I said, “I suggest that you speak to him and then tell me where he needs to be.” AA: Okay. LS: “Or maybe I should tell you where each needs to be!” [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: In a nice way I told him. And so he got all red and then he talked to me, “Oh, yes.” He just took off speaking and talking about things that, you know, he had no idea that, you know, that our kids are sometimes coming into school and they’re bilingual. They know two languages. And if it’d be someone from the dominant culture, they’d be saying, “Oh, this child is gifted! Knows
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two languages before you get in first grade! Oh, my God!” However, with the Latinos, it’s like a barrier, like a deficiency. And so that itself, it’s, you know, difficult. AA: Go on. LS: And especially if you’re going to be put that way. When I moved to Crookston, my youngest son was in fourth grade. And so I brought him in. And they sent his transcripts and all of that. He was an A student. And here at the school again, you know, you have to sign papers when you get in there and so forth. AA: Yes. LS: And he was being taken out of his class and I didn’t know that. And then my son said, “Mom, I don’t know why they’re taking me out of my class. And they’re taking me to this other class that the people that are getting really bad grades and that they have disabilities. They’re taking me to that class and I can’t understand the teacher.” AA: Sure. LS: Because he was talking down to him. And wanted him to go to something and he was, you know, way above that. And I said, “What?!” So I made some phone calls. I also was part of the Title I. AA: [Chuckles] Sure. LS: And readiness class for kids that have disabilities, you know, attention deficit and all of that. And I knew what they were going through as far as funding and so forth. And so he told me what they were doing to him. And that he was being picked n by other students that, “Why are you being put in that class when you are smarter than me?” You know. AA: I see. LS: He was. And so he was getting that. And so I called the teacher. And he says, “Ah, what, Mrs. Sanchez?” [Chuckles] I said, “Why is my child being taken out of his class to go to Title I? Or this other class for getting them into learning English?” “Well, the Title I coordinator needs all these kids in that class.” So I started getting like, I don’t know, about five different phone calls from five different people once I made that phone call. [Chuckles] AA: Hmmm! LS: Including the principal and some program coordinator. And so you had to have written permission to do that. And they didn’t have it. And there was no assessment done on him to be able to enroll him in those classes. He would have flunked them, obviously, because he didn’t belong in that class. However, I found out that because they needed funding to fund this position,
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anybody that had a surname like Sanchez or, you know, were automatically being taken to this class so they could have their numbers. AA: Okay. LS: And I said, “So you’re double dipping.” AA: [Chuckles] LS: “Because you’re getting funding for my child sitting in the regular class. And now you’re using him regardless that he doesn’t have those needs. And you’re putting him in this class to also get money for that. And then you’re taking him out of that class and putting him in this other class to get funding for that.” Well, you know, so I had everybody, superintendent, everybody calling me, apologizing then for what they had done. I said, “Well, you know, and then you talk about how supposedly Latinos or people of color are coming in and abusing the system. What is your school doing?” AA: Sure. LS: “And you know, so you are not just doing it to my child.” Self-esteem issues, obviously, could impact him. Putting him with kids that have problems and that have mental needs. And I believe in those classes, but for those kids. Not for someone that doesn’t have it! And so, yes, it was something else that happened there. And got a lot of apologies. And my child was never taken out of that class again. [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: However, our numbers of how it goes up to the legislators for the funding and all of that, and they’re bringing these inflated numbers. And because I have also worked with the system, and I’m over there with legislating and all this stuff, lobbying and all of that, I know how all of that stuff works. And how hurtful it is in inflating those numbers. Then we’re, you know, obviously, being racially profiled because supposedly we’re abusing the systems. And it’s who’s abusing the systems? You know, it’s not just because of a surname, not because they’ve done any kind of assessment to really qualify that this child really needs that service? Because otherwise they would have found out that he’s an A student over here! I went to all the conferences. There were no problems with him. So what’s the disability? AA: I see. LS: So therefore it’s those types of things that were, just coming into Crookston as a resident versus just working in Crookston. So if I went through that, and I am visibly out there and networking and doing all these things. I’m working and I’m being a stewardship here at Crookston and involved in all of that. So what’s happening to the other families that have resided here before I did here in Crookston, even though I worked here?
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AA: Yes. LS: So what more can I say? AA: [Sighs] How are they dealing with it? LS: With my kids? Very well. [Chuckles] However I only have one child. However, you know, he still has some things there. But because I’m involved, that happens, but, you know, I work really hard to make sure that that school liaison is in school and reaching out to those. AA: Okay. LS: And I’ve interpreted and translated some of the information so that the parents are getting there and watch what’s going on with their kids. AA: Sure. LS: And I do go to the school system and I do support groups for the youth. And I find out a lot of the stuff that’s going on with them sometimes and so therefore then I get involved for the other kids. AA: Do you feel part of the larger community now? LS: Yes, I think that because of the line of work that I do, I think that I am down here as well as up here. AA: Sure, sure. LS: Within our own Latino community as well as other cultures, as well as those leaders. I have to. Because it does make an impact on the rest of us. And the decisions that are being made that a lot of times are not serving to or welcoming of the other community that is here. Even though we’re a minority, we’re still a growing population. AA: So it’s not just your children. LS: No. AA: What kind of work or what kind of jobs do Latinos do in the area? Especially like when you first moved here versus what they’re doing now. LS: [Sighs] Well, there are all different kinds of works nowadays and I get deeply involved in their direction, I refer them to as well. Because I do find out what is out there, you know. AA: Yes.
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LS: And there is like Dahlgren’s, which is a factory that does sunflower seeds and those types of things, packaging and distributing. And there is New Flyers of America, which they make buses. AA: Sure, okay. LS: There’s assembly lines there for painting and or either putting the buses together. There is Dees, which is also another type of assembly type of factory for like boats and different kinds of parts, you know. There is American Crystal. Now there are not just temporary jobs in the beet pilers, there’s also, you know, in the factory itself. [During the sugar beet harvest season, beets are stored in giant piles until the factories are ready to process them. These are commonly known as pilers.] AA: Go on. LS: Those are some the jobs that are factory-based. There’s Latinos that are now working in like family service workers, you know, more than there used to be. Still, you know a minority. However, you see more of us in professional jobs. AA: Okay. LS: In Polk County Social Services, public nurses, the health facilities like senior citizens homes, and the schools, colleges. Obviously, some of … like Wal-Mart and those types of things as well. Some commute back and forth to Grand Forks or even Fertile, Thief River, as well. There are some potato warehouses over there as well as the company Simplot. So, you know, you’re seeing more, you know, year-round employment with the Latinos and, obviously, there’s some paralegals, there are … Latinos doing interpreting, like with River View, the hospitals, the clinics, and those types of things as well, so does that answer your question? AA: So basically they’re all over the community. LS: Integrating. AA: Integrating. LS: We are. We are. AA: Rather than just staying in one area. LS: Yes there are still some migrants and there’s still some seasonal work. However, those pockets are much smaller. They’re much smaller than they used to be. They are still out, you know, doing farming and you’ll see them doing some of the farming as far as, you know, seeding and harvesting, but not as a family unit. Now it’ll be like, you know, just someone working for you know, one or two hired hands. Versus, you know, the whole family as it used to be.
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AA: Let’s go back a little bit. What issues, when you first moved here, you know, late 1970s, 1980s, what issues would you say were affecting your family and other Latino families who were settling here? In such areas as education, housing, employment? LS: Well I remember that when OSHA came and got involved with the housing issues for Latinos, or for migrant people or seasonal workers, it was really bad. There was no running water in there, wherever they were staying. Some of them were staying in silos and . . . AA: In to? LS: Farmhouses in the area. AA: Okay. LS: You know, surrounding area. And the reason I’m going there, as to how they started coming to town. AA: Sure. LS: OSHA put some regulations there for farmers, obviously, that used to offer housing to them. And some of them decided that it wasn’t worth them fixing up or providing housing for them. Some did bring some trailer homes and that type of thing and some did fix up their cabins or the bunkhouses. AA: Sure. LS: But not very many. There were some. So the farmers would give them employment but not housing. So they would tell them, “Go find your housing.” That’s when they started coming more into town and settling more into town and finding housing. However, landlords found it difficult to lease to them for a short period of time, and too many in the same units. AA: Yes. LS: And so that became a problem. Obviously, you know, as migrants, you travel. You don’t have vacuum cleaners and all this other stuff that you need, you know. AA: Sure. LS: And nor can you afford to buy them. Because you have to carry them and you’re coming in one vehicle or a couple. And so they had limitations, obviously, for the housing, and then the six month leases or the year lease and all of that. And too many living in one household. AA: I see.

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LS: Fire codes and all this. And so that still exists to a certain degree because, you know, our families, you know, kind of are bigger families versus, you know, two, three. And so that was an issue. The other one is that you see some of more of us in town now. [Chuckles] And probably because of education and the fears of, you know, those people. . . us! [Chuckles] It was difficult for them to integrate with or be accepted even in the apartment units that they may be in. AA: Okay. LS: So you’d obviously hear, you know, with us being a little louder, some people would say. AA: [Chuckles] LS: And putting the music, you know, louder. So there were some noise ordinances and stuff like that that may be different, and so we weren’t just quiet, for some families. And so, again, that could, you know, be something that other neighbors would not find very inviting. AA: Sure. LS: And so those were some of the things that, you know, got in the way as far as getting housing for them. Now you’ll see more people, more Latinos buying houses. Yes, there’s quite a few that are renting. However, there’s more that have settled that have bought. Even, you know fixer-uppers, as you may say, and or either in trailer courts. AA: Okay. LS: You’ll find more people living in those areas so they can buy their trailers for very minimal. However, the standards of living in those trailers are pretty bad sometimes. And some of the houses that they are buying or have bought are in really bad condition. But then you will see some of the professionals that are making a little bit more income that are able to get a little bit better homes. AA: Sure. LS: Whether they’re fixer-ups or habitat housing and those types of things. So there is a little, you know, more of that. And, you know, it’s difficult for them to get loans, you know, for Latinos. But it’s getting better. So that they can purchase their homes. Does that answer your question? AA: How about employment? LS: Employment. I think that for Crookston, I think employment is pretty good considering that, you know it is a small town but there are quite a few different factories in the area. Obviously, you know, for the ones that have language barriers, it’s kind of difficult, but with some of those assembly factories, you know, it’s somewhat manual labor, you’ll just learn that particular
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position that you’re going to be working at. And I know a lot of Latinos that have language barriers and are still working and employed. AA: Okay. LS: In some of those factories, so that’s a good thing. However, now, you know, they are requiring that, you know, you at least have a GED and/or a high school diploma, and some of them are coming out and saying, “Oh, how am I going to do it now?” AA: Yes. LS: You know. And some are hoping that, you know, they are grandfathered in, you know, because they do know the job. But for their records, I guess, you know; now on the application, you’ve got to have something in that area. AA: Sure. LS: So in that way, you know, for employment, I know that, you know, for some of the professional ones, they’re, you know, having to do the merit test, and you know, have the education that you have, and or either experience. And they’re doing the jobs. AA: Good. LS: Some of us are used as tokens, but however, we work our way up. [Chuckles] AA: It opens the door. LS: Yes. AA: Are there community organizations that provide services or in any way touch the lives of Latinos in what they do? What do they do? LS: Specifically for Latinos, Migrant Health Services here in Crookston is one of them. AA: Okay. LS: This is the Hispanic Battered Women’s Program and Sexual Assault Intervention Project. We don’t have a clinical unit here in Crookston that’s open year round; we do have the mobile unit that comes in the summertime and, you know, come and serve the population. However, because of my position here, I’m involved in so many different things. I work with the judicial system a lot. Oftentimes I’m being called by law enforcement and I interpret for them. Sad to say, sometimes, they call Border Patrol to come and do the interpreting. AA: Okay.
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LS: When there is someone that requests their service. And they have a language barrier or they’re not fluent and or either they have a strong accent. They’ll call Border Patrol. AA: Hmmm. LS: Which is very intimidating for them. AA: I understand. LS: It’s an unwritten protocol and it’s not a policy but that’s what they do. We, you know, in courts for our clients, you know, we request interpreters, certified interpreters, oftentimes coming from Moorhead. AA: Sure. LS: I am in the state roster, you know, to interpret. However, because I am an advocate for them, I can’t play both roles. I’m not permitted to do both roles if I am in court with them. AA: Yes. LS: Ah, so therefore I prefer for the purpose of the ones that I serve is to be their advocate versus their interpreter. Because then I’m allowed to do what needs to be done and counsel them to a certain degree with what’s going on. And with interpreting you have to go by, you know, word by word for what it is, and can’t give them any kind of direction. AA: Sure. LS: Or choices. And because I’m also in different sectors of the empowerment process for selfsufficiency and self-empowerment for them, it’s not just the only role that I do. I also interpret for them through the clinics and or through social services and our housing needs, immigration needs, I mean, there are a slew of things that I work with them, and if I don’t have the information, I will get it for them. AA: Sure. LS: So therefore we utilize MET [Manpower, Employment, and Training], who is no longer here in Crookston. AA: Right. LS: They’re in Grafton. I guess we don’t have it in Moorhead anymore. [Chuckles] Ah, so that was one of the ones that we used. Social Services or Tri-Valley is another one that we utilize. There are some family workers there that are bilingual, obviously. The Head Start Program, through Tri-Valley, it’s another one. The fuel assistance. Ah, and all of those are very helpful for our Latino population. Habitat Housing. We’ve gotten some families to be able to get into those
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types of opportunities. So that’s about it that we have here in Crookston. Obviously, we used to have Minnesota Migrant Council or Midwest Farmworkers Employment and Training, we don’t have that. AA: Sure okay. LS: We do have Jimmy, who is in the Workforce. I don’t know if you know him, he’s been there for a long time as well. AA: Jimmy? LS: Rodriguez. AA: Okay. LS: He’s worked for the Workforce for a long time, but also at one time or other also has the history of being a migrant and or his family. So, yes that’s pretty much it. And they are no longer here. AA: Yes. LS: Sometimes I have to access resources from the Twin Cities in order to meet some of the needs. AA: Okay. LS: For some of the population, or needs of the services that’s needed for some of the people that we help. So yes, that’s pretty much it. AA: Are Latinos involved in political activity? Either running for office or supporting? LS: Here? AA: Yes. LS: [Sighs] No. I know that [Danny] Chapa ran for sheriff one time but didn’t make it. I know that there are some that have tried to get into the school system and be school board. I don’t think that there has been anybody that’s been accepted yet. We had someone in law enforcement through the local police department that was a police officer a while back. Moreno. Jerry Moreno. He retired, so he’s not there anymore. No. I’m on the Crookston Stewardship Task Force, in that for improvement of, you know, what comes or goes within Crookston.

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AA: Sure. Okay. Now you mentioned that it used to be like all the migrants were from South Texas. The Valley or the Winter Garden area and stuff, but that there are others arriving now also from Mexico and Central America and South America. Which countries are represented? LS: Somalians are here and we’re seeing a few more of them. People from South America, I mean, El Salvador, Mexico and Chiapas and, you know there are different areas in South America. They’re coming, Honduras. And some of them have been here for a while but some have come and gone. They used to transition through here, through the homeless shelter that Sister Justina had, as refugees and asylees. And they used to transition to Canada. There’s less of that that’s going on now at the Care and Share. AA: I see. LS: There’s still offered transitional housing and homeless shelter. So that’s pretty much it. We have kind of like a population around Erskine area of Germans. AA: Okay. LS: Ah, there are some Native Americans that are getting out of the reservation and living in the community versus the reservation. AA: Sure. LS: And usually that has come to be because they have relationships that are not part of the reservation. So then they settle in Crookston. The college is recruiting a lot of students from other countries. And so you’ll see those populations during their school year. So and I am involved in a lot of stuff with the college. The multicultural programs there. That’s who you’ll see in the community. There’s Japanese, also Chinese that owned, you know, some of the Chinese establishments here, eating establishments here. They reside here. AA: If a friend of yours from Eagle Pass was to call you and say, you know, I’m thinking of moving up north somewhere. Tell me about Crookston. I’m considering moving there. What would you tell them about the job opportunities, the people, the education, health services? LS: Well, because I am in the Stewardship, I know exactly what’s in Crookston! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] LS: And so I know that the health care it’s very good. Not as good as in Grand Forks or, obviously, other places. However, it is very good. Employment opportunities I’m usually pretty much on top of what’s available, only because as a resource person I get people that are looking for that.
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AA: Yes. LS: And so I would, you know, definitely let them know who is hiring or not hiring and, you know, what’s available, if the pay is good or not. AA: Sure. LS: Housing opportunities, well, you know, there are some things there and they’re building some. So, you know, I have that information that I can, you know, give them and or if I know of somewhere else that is better than here, I obviously will share that as well. I’ll definitely give them their pros and cons. AA: Which are? LS: Well, obviously, you know, we do have a college. We have the clinic, we have River View and we have Altru. We have quite a few different factories for such a small community. We are in a location where they can, you know, have even more extensive ability to be getting their needs met. We don’t have too many stores as it relates, and locally we have, obviously, the WalMart, but then compared to other Wal-Mart’s [Chuckles] But, you know, we’re not that far from where they could. And we have the Diocese, you know, we do have the Hispanic Masses as well, you know, and apparently they do have dances and, you know, so the culture is there. AA: I see. LS: You know, and they’re settled. And there are some professional jobs as well, but depending on, you know their credentials that opportunities are there. You know, so if I know them well enough, can I give them a support system or a letter of reference depending on who they are, obviously, and what their needs are. So resourceful I have a lot of that. AA: [Chuckles] Well, good. LS: If they have kids, you know, we have a swimming pool. You know, we have the parks; Minnesota has ten thousand lakes and more. You know, so the fishing is good! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] Yes. That could be a deciding factor! LS: And we have an arena, we have a huge arena. AA: Yes. LS: We’re having more restaurants as well. So we’re getting a new hotel, you know.
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AA: Okay. Would you like to add anything else to this interview? LS: [Sighs] I don’t think so. I don’t know what else I could possibly add. AA: Okay. [Chuckles] We’ve covered everything? LS: Pretty much! AA: Okay. Well, thank you very much Leticia. We appreciated it. LS: Oh, you’re welcome.

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