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Interview with Louis Medina




Louis Medina was born in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1907, moved to the United States in 1916 and to Owatonna, Minn., in 1929, and got married in St. Paul in 1929. He worked at a variety of jobs and retired from Cudahy Packing Co. in 1973. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Early life in Mexico - struggle against poverty in the United States, which appeared to be a new land of promise - work in the beet fields, Twin City Rapid Transit Co., and the Northern Pacific Railway - marriage and children - life in the United States - and community involvement and social life, particularly the League of United Latin American Citizens.





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This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Louis Medina, relates the memories of his childhood in Mexico. in 1907. He was born there

He shares with us the adventure of moving to the land of promise, the His struggles to overcome poverty here and to maintain his human

United States.

dignity"apd:that of his loved ones. As the interview continues, we learn about Louis Medina's success as a family man, gainfully employed, providing for the needs of his wife and children, that they might enjoy a greater share of the opportunities that comtemporary United States life has to offer. He tells of his experiences and participation in fraWe can easily see how his efforts in this area

ternal and sociel organizations.

reflect a respect and loyalty to his heritage and origins in Mexico. This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. The original tape recording is available

in the Audio-Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.



This is Grant Moosbrugger interviewing Mr. Louis Medina for the Mexican American History Project under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society. When were you born, Mr. Medina?

Medina: Moosbrugger:

I was born 1907, in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico. Do you recall anything about your parents, or your family, your brothers or sisters?


Well, the only thing I can tell you about them is that my father was a railroad man, and my mother was just an ordinary woman and housewife. My brothers, they were just common laborers.

Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina:

This was in Leon, Guanajuato? Yes. How many brothers and sisters did you have? I have two brothers and two sisters. Are any of your family still living? The only one living is my youngest brother. And where does he live? He lives in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. When did you decide to move to the United States? During the Revolution in 1915-1916. Mexico in 1915. How did that happen?

We came to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas,

We stayed there, the last part of 1915, then we moved aMy mother and two brothers came across. They would I

cross in 1916, in July.

not let me come across on acount of my eye sight. was in the river swimming everyday.

I had bad eye sight.

When it came time for me to come across She dressed us up and

my mother doctored my eyes the best that she could.

-2Medina: and took us across. and I had to go back. They said, "No, you can't go across." So they left me, The third

I made three trips trying to get across.

trip, I met a lady on the bridge, I was crying because I was lonesome for my mother. Moosbrugger: Medina: You must have been about .•• I was about six years old. I was crying for. She met me on the bridge and she asked me what

I said, "I am crying because my mother and my brothers I am staying with some Well, she said,

are over there and I am over here all by myself. people that I don't know.

I don't even know my neighbors."

"If I were you I wouldn't cry.

You get behind me, when we get to the end of

this bridge and I tell you to go, you go, don't listen to anybody, just go". So I did. In those years ladies wore long dresses, so I hid behind her. She

was a pretty heavy set lady, I'll never forget that. the bridge, and she said, "Go". 9:00 at night.

We came to the end of

I went and I hid down there until 8:00 or I

I could see them looking for me, they couldn't find me. Mother was there and I went up to greet her.

got out of there at night. Moosbrugger: Medina:

You were able to find your mother? Oh, yes, I knew just about where I was. Everyday I used to get out and see That's the only way I kept

my mother and wave to her late in the evening. myself living, waving to my mother everyday. Moosbrugger: Medina: Keeping your hope alive. Yes. We stayed in Laredo.

I think it was in 1916 when we went to San Antonio.

From San Antonio we went to Parkingberg, Oklahoma, then we went to Indianapolis, Oklahoma, and then to Arkansas, where we got together· with my father, there



were five of us, because my sister came along too.

We traveled.

Our life We

was like a gypsy, you go where the folks go, wherever they take you.

worked in the cotton field, picking cotton and we did a little of everything to help my father along with the family. Kansas City, my father got sick. and the family got separated. Moosbrugger: Medina: What year would that have been? It must have been in 1925. Oklahoma. In 1924 we went to Kansas City, from the state of Then we came to Kansas City. In

My mother and father had some difficulties

I was driving an old Chandler car, I don't know whether or not you

know the name. Moosbrugger: Medina: Chandler? Chandler, an old Chandler Touring. people taught me how to drive. I didn't know how to drive, but some

These people

father some money.


couldn't pay him any other way, so they gave him the car and taught me how to drive. Boy! That's how we came to Kansas City. That was the life.

an old Chandler Touring.


I didn't know how to patch a car or take the tires Then my father passed away in 1926, I went from

off, but I learned, you live and learn. July 4th. I didn't have a job.

I was just 16 or 17 years old.

house to house to beg for money so I could bury my father. city would take care of him.

They told me the

When your dad died, they took him and that's all. They would get four or five persons toI said, No,

You stayed there and they went away.

gether, and they just threw them in a hole and covered them up. that's my father! that way.

I am poor and all that, but my father is not going to go I gathered about $17.00.

That's when I went from house to house.

Then I went to see a lady from the funeral home, see if she could finance me, to take my father. She said, "Son we don't do that." Well, I have no other

way of burying my father.

I have this amount of money that I collected from

-4Medina: different people and that's all I have. at me and looked at me. Well, son I don't know. She looked

Then she said, "Are you sure, son, you'll pay me?" At

Yes, yes, madam, as soon as I get a job I'll pay you every cent of it.

that time i t only cost you $70 or $80 dollars fo([" a half decent casket, but I got the casket I wanted. company. Right after that I got a job with a street car I used to give that lady so My mother had my brothers, and

I was getting $18 dollars a week. I just kept myself alive.

much every week. I was all alone. since then.

My mother and father separated in 1926, and I was alone


Lost track of them?



Then I got a job in a hotel.

I used to work in a hotel as a bus boy. Then I was working

Then I got to be a bell hop. for Fred Harvey. Harvey?

Then I became a part waiter.

You know the Union Stations have a big restaurant, Fred


Oh, yes.


I worked for them. Fred Harvey. to New York.

When we moved from Kansas City, I got a letter ftom I was going to go

It was a recommendation to go to New York.


What year was that about?




What year was that when you were leaving Kansas?


'Pe leU-in 1929.

-5Moosbrugger: When you say "we", had you gotten married then?


No, no, just me and my mother.

I got together with my mother and my brother That was in 1929. We got as far as We started working

again and we came to the Twin Cities. Owatonna.

That's where we landed for the sugar beets.

in 1929 in the sugar beet fields.

I didn't like that, so I got myself a job Then I got myself

as a teamster, I learned how to drive a team in Oklahoma. a job as a teamster.

I don't know whether you can remember, way back in 1929 You pulled the lever and they dumped

they used to have these dump wagons? in the center?

They left your dirt there.


I have never seen them.


You are a young fellow, I don't think you have ever seen them.


I seen them in pictures.



That's what I was doing there.

I didn't like the sugar beet fields, so

I got myself a job as a teamster.

They asked me i f I could harness up a team. We used to have three horses.

I said, "Yes, I know how to harness up a team."

We had to get up in the morning and hitch them up, carry them and clean them up. Get them ready to work. After that, the beets came along. My mother

said, "Well, son, you have got to come over and help us." Then I went in with these sugar beet men. St. Paul late in the fall of 1929. I wasn't going to get married.

Well, I quit that. Then we came to Well, We

That was in 1929.

That's when I got married, 1929.

We left Owatonna and then I met my wife.

weren't going together that well, but she was an orphan, her mother had died. She was staying with her two brothers and her uncle.


Moosbrugger: Medina:

Was that in Owatonna or up here? That was in Owatonna. were going. When I left, I went up to visit her and I told her we Then I went back with my brother That was She

Anyhow, we came to St. Paul.

to Owatonna, I saw my wife again.

She said, "I am going with you."

something, no job, nothing, no money. said, "That's alright. home with you."

I said, "I don't have any money." I am going

I am not going to stay here any more.

"Alrightl" I said.

So she came home, and I kept her home. She said,

Within three days her family came over and tried to take her back. "No, I have made up my mind. I am going to marry this man." But, here we are.

I don't know We got married Every year

why) I wasn't worth it, for goodness sakel in 1929 and we had our children.

Of course, there was no work.

we would go back to the sugar beet fields, she and I. a wonderful worker.

She is a good worker, So it was every

Boy, she'd put rings around me any", day.

year back to the fields until 1935, I think I got a job at the Twin City Railway, the Twin City Lines, I used to work there. They gave me a job all That was a heck of Terrible,

summer, so I didn't have to take the family out anymore.

a job, to bring up children, when you go to the sugar beet fields. I don't advise anybody to do it. Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Was it too hard to get the kids into school?

Yes, yes, to take the children out, and the children can't go to school. Can you tell us, Louie, how many children you have? was he or she born? Who is the oldest? When


I can only remember Claude. in 1929.

He was born December 20, 1930.

We got married

In 1930 he was born.

Like I say, I can't remember the dates.

-7Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: That's O.K. Then we had Frances, then Gabino. Frances is the daughter? Yes. And then Gabino is the son? Gabino is the son. Then we had another daughter. We used to call her Porky. We

I can't remember her name, she died.

After she died, we had Stephanie.

have pictures of Porky and Stephanie, they look like the same child. Stephanie, we had Arman, Diane, and John. Moosbrugger: Medina: How many are living? Seven are living. one died. Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: That was it.


Seven of them.

There would have been ten, she had two miscarriages, and That is pretty dog-gone-goodl

We have seven of them.

Nice family. Yes, it is a nice family. So it was about 1935, that you started with Twin City Railway Company. With the Twin City Railway Company. wife would stay home. I used to work in the summer time. My

Sometimes she would get a part time job, working with

the Jewish, taking care of their things, she would make $2 or $3 dollars a week. Enough for show money. I wasn't making very much. I kept on working

with the Street Car Company until 1948 or 1949. They just cut me off.

They laid me off entirely. In 1935 I

Then I went to work for Swift & Company.



worked for the Twin City Railway Company in the summer and Cudahay's in the winter time.

Hoosbrugger: Hedina: Hoosbrugger: Medina:

What kind of business was that? A packing plant. Cudahay's Packing Plant? Cudahay's Packing Plant. I worked for them, then I worked for Swift & Company. After they laid me off from

Most of the time I worked for Twin City Lines.

the Twin City Lines, I was working here and there,

I could get a job. They had a branch

I was working for the United Refrigerator outfit in Hudson. here on University. they wanted me to go. I worked for them part time, "No,"

when they moved to Hudson Then I got

I said, "It's too far for me to go."

myself a job for the railroad, the Northern Pacific. I got laid off. Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Is that when you retired? Yes. What year was that? That was in 1973.

I stayed with them until

Far from-1being inactive outside of work, Louie, I know you have been extrem1y active in some of the organizations. Cuo1d you tell us about that?


The first club I belong to was a ... Oh, what the heck is the name of that? My compadre, Joe Medina, Kenneth Garcia, and Joe Elizondo, they were all younger

-9Medina: than me, had an organization there at the Neighborhood House. if I wanted to join, so I joined. I forgot the name of it. They asked me Then afterwards

I belonged to the Mexican American Club there, too.

Like I said, we are all There is always some-

the same, regardless of what organization we belong to. body coming in and busting it up or something. get away from it.

That is our history, we can't

It was the same thing when I joined the LULAC Club, of

course the only thing-about LULAC's is that we went to big conventions and things like that. Moosbrugger: When did you join LULAC and how did you participate in it?


Well, I joined LULAC way back in 19 ... I don't remember what year, but I was in it for 15 or 20 years.

Moosbrugger: Medina:

What did it stand for?

What activities did they participate in? You just did your duty, whatever

It was the United Latin American Citizens.

you wanted to be or whatever you wanted to do. Moosbrugger: Were there always committees that you could join? For instance, social com-

mittees, and fund raising committees and things like that? Medina: There was a fund raising committee, I did my share of collecting for that fund. We used to have little books where we had to record the name and amount given. With the funds, we used to have our big festivities. Moosbrugger: Did they give scho10rships? Yes, we had a scho10rship fund. We gave money to people. What I wanted was


to give the money to .the people that gave us the money, give them back their money. That was my biggest idea, to give it back to them. My idea was, "Let's



go and check with the families that have children, I said, "If they can't afford to send the children to school, that's the people you give the money to. They'd appreciate it." But no, I couldn't get it to go. That's the

way they wanted it, there was nothing that I could do about it. Moosbrugger: Medina: Were you an officer of the club? I was just the treasurer. I was the treasurer for about two or three years.

I liked it. It wasn't me that was doing all the figuring, my wife was helping me too. Moosbrugger: Medina: Did they have an auxiliary for women as well? Yes, they had a club for the women too. They were pretty big. Then they had

one for the smaller generation, the younger kids. got in there, and my compadre Louie. ized the younger generation. Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: You mean Louie Trejo? Yes, he did quite a bit.

That's when George Galvin

My compadre Louie is the one who organ-

Louie, getting back to your family, I know you had to work hard all your life, and you didn't have time for formal schooling. schooling through life. gain a formal education? Oh yes, I went to school, up to the fifth grade. away. us." In 1924 my sister passed Of course, you picked up your

Were you able to encourage any of your children to


After whe passed away, my father said, "Well, son, you have to help Then I started working for the Santa Fe. That's why I said, "no, my

children are not going to go through what I went through, and they haven't,



Thank God. 1I

School is an awful nice education.

You can't beat that.


an education, you aren't going to get anywhere. school, Cretin High. He graduated from there.

My first son went to high He made up his mind that he

wanted to go to college.

I said, IIO,K, son, you can go to college I am not The only thing we are going to give you Your mother is going In the summer-

going to put anything against you.

is room and board, your washing and things like that. to do your washing for you.

That's all we can help you with.

time he used to work for the Street Car Company. to college. Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: The same thing with my other boys.

He saved his money and went

Which college did your oldest boy, Claude, go to? Claude went to the University of Minnesota. And what did he take up? Pharmacy. Is he a pharmacist today? Yes, he is a pharmacist now. to-do. He has a nice home, a nice wife, and he is we11He has a nice family

He is really not wealthy, but he is comfortable. It can't get any better.

of six children. Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger:

Where does he live? He lives at 318 Butler. Butler is where? West St. Paul. So you have given your children a chance for an education?


Medina: Moosbrugger:

Oh yes, I'd never take education away from anybody. I know you have seven children living now, how many grandchildren do you have?

Medina: Moosbrugger:

We have twenty-eight. Twenty-eight. Are they pretty well scattered out, or are most of them living

in the Twin Cities? Medina: Moosbrugger: They are all living in the Twin Cities. We have one great-grand-son.

For the record, and the future, could you give us" the names of your sons' and daughters'? And give us their married names and how many children they have?


Claude Medina, he has six children, Frances has four, Gabino has nine, Stephanie has three.

Moosbrugger: Medina:

What are Frances' and Stephanie's married names? Frances' is Lopez, Gabino of course is Medina, and Stephanie, she has three children.

Moosbrugger: Medina:

What's her married name? Stephanie Marsh. Diane is Hottinger, she has three children. Arman, well of

course he is Medina, he has two girls.

Then we have John, he doen't have any

children now, but one is coming up, we don't know what it is, or whether it's going to be dead or alive. Moosbrugger: Medina: Your son John? Yes, John is my youngest. I think I have them all there.



Well, you haNe had a rich and varied life, Louie.

Is there anything in par-

ticular that you do to try to keep alive the Mexican heritage amoungst your children and grandchildren? Medina: I never tell them that they are not Mexican. Mexican. They never regret the term

They always say that they are Mexican, nobody is going to take that They are Mexican and that's the way its going to be, regardNot us. None of them regret the name

away from them.

less of who tells them anything else. they have. Moosbrugger:

They are proud of their last name. For instance, do you have any

What are some of the things that you do? Mexican meals?



We have parties here, we have the baseball club.

We give them parties. All the Mexican food is That's the

We give them tacos, enchiladas, tamales, everything. right there.

All the American people and everybody loves it.

woman right there, she makes all of those things. Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Your wife? My wife. Have you gotten back to Mexico lately? I just w.ent in March. I went to Mexico and I stayed for three weeks. I go

down there to see my brothers, that's about all. Moosbrugger: Medina: Do you take any of your family with you? Yes, I have taken my grandsons, I take my wife, I have taken my daughters, and I have taken my sons. Moosbrugger: Every time they want to go, they go with me.

Do they maintain some Mexican traditions or heritage through their cooking?

-14Medina: I have a daughter that is married to a Polish man. He'd rather eat Mexican food than anything else. He loves Mexican food. All my children.

My son,

comes down here and has his "frijoles", and "tortillas" food.

they love Mexican

I haven't seen one of them that doesn't come here and has a meal with

us., they love Mexican food. Moosbrugger: Medina: Have your children studied Spanish in school? Do they understand Spanish?

Kimberly, my little grand-daughter, is taking Spanish. are all taking Spanish. They love Spanish.

My oldest boy's kids

I have a daughter-in-law, she

can make any Mexican food that you want.

She is married to a Mexican now. She

I don't know what she is, Irish or something, but she loves Mexican food. can make anything. If she can't make it, she is going to learn right now.

She makes up her mind that she is going to make it and she'll make itl all like Mexican food, there isn't any getting away from it. Moosbrugger: That's great. That will help to keep alive the heritage.


Thank you very much

for the interview.

Right after you and I had finished recording we started You started touching

chatting about the Revolution and the old days in Mexico. upon some fascinating facts.

Could you tell us your early history, what you

remember of the revolution, and how it touched your family1 Medina: I must have been about four years old. to visit us in Mexico. my uncle. My father came from the United States

They all got together and said they were going to visit

We were going on the road and all of a sudden the soldiers caught They stopped us right Of course my brother, my The

up with us, whoever they were, Carranza or Villistas. there. sister They said they were going to hang my father. and I were on a donkey.

At that time, all you had was donkeys.

donkey wouldn't stop for us. went back.

So we kept on going.

Finally he stopped and we

We were all crying, and trying to convince the people that my

-15Medina: father wasn't a soldier of any kind, didn't belong to any unit. been for my mother, I don't know what would've happen. men that lived next door to my grandfather's house. he told them right there, "You can't hang this man". This man just came from the United States. If it hadn't

She knew one of the Then

He recognized her. I know this person.

He is not a soldier of any kind.

Then they released him and we kept on going to the farm. Moosbrugger: So, you actually witnessed this close break that your father had with the soldiers? Medina: Moosbrugger: Medina: Moosbrugger: You were how old?

I was about four or five years old. It would have been 1911 or 1912? Yes. Well,' that was a fascinating story. Thank you very much, Mr. Medina.