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Interview with Jesus and Ramona Mendez



Jesus Mendez was born in Zamora, Michoac_n, Mexico, on Aug. 4, 1910 and immigrated to East Grand Forks, Minn., in 1927 on contract with a sugar company. Ramona Mendez was born in Texas and moved to Minnesota in 1942. They married in 1943 and had ten children. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Family history - education of their children, including discouraging children from working in the fields - Mexican customs - and Jesus Mendez's employment with the Migrant Education Program in Crookston at the time of the interview. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: In Spanish.





World Region




This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Mr. Jesus Mendez, was born in Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico on August 4, 1910. in East Grand Forks, Minnesota for the first time in 1927. whose family worked in the fields near East Grand Forks. Mr. Mendez, gives his family history, talks about his children, which Mexican customs are continued and his participation in organizations. This is a transcript of a tape-recoreded interview in Spanish

He arrived

In 1943 he married Ramona,

to English and

edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader.

The original tape

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




July 15, 1976 Saucedo: Today is the fifteenth of July. viewing Mrs. Jesse Mendez. Society. I am in Crookston, Minnesota.
I am inter-

This interview is for the Minnesota Historical I am interviewing them both,

Also with me, is Mr. Jesse Mendez.

at the same time. Could you tell me what your full name is? came to the United States? Mendez: My name is Jesus Arroyo Mendez. I was born in Zamora, in the state of My parents came to the United States Where you were born and how you

Michoacan, Mexico, on August 4, 1910. in 1927. Saucedo: Mendez: Saucedo: Mendez: Saucedo: Mendez: Why did you come to the United States?

My parents probably came here for a better life. What kind of work did your father do in Mexico? My father was a carpenter. And in Texas? No. We were never in Texas.

That is why we came here.

We crossed over in Laredo, Texas.

That is

where they contracted us to work in the beet fields in East Grand Forks, Minnesota,in 1927. The factory had set up a sort of colony for the people My father and other families decided

that wanted to stay for the winters.

to stay, because if you stayed, you would get a better price the next year. In those days, they would bring the people up here in special trains, not in trucks. Saucedo: Mendez: On the trains, they would give you food and everything.

How many families came with you on the train? That's kind of hard to say, because it was all one train. in Laredo. The train started

They started with about a hundred families in two train cars.

From there, they would pick up people in San Antonio; Dallas; and Fort Worth. They would add on extra cars as needed. worry about food, or anything else. Like I told you, you didn't have to


Saucedo: Mendez:

Did you decide to stay here that year, in 1927? Yes, we did, because my father thought there weren't any other jobs anywhere else. The only job that my father, brothers, and I did, was cut wood for

three years. Saucedo: So you stayed in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, for three years, and then you returned to where? Mendez: Saucedo: Mendez: No where.

stayed here in East Grand Forks.

Until what date? We left in 1943, when I met and married my wife. She got sick and the That's when The

doctor told us we had to leave the state so she could recover. we went to Fort Worth, Texas.

We stayed there from 1951, until 1958.

last job I had was working for the city, in Crookston. 1969.

I became disabled in They said that I

I have been to Rochester, Minnesota (Mayo Clinic).

have a very strange, rare sickness. Saucedo: You are working for Washington High School as part of the Migrant Educational Program? Mendez: Saucedo: Senora: Just for seven weeks. Mrs. Mendez, how did you come to Minnesota? I was born in Texas, in 1927. in Waseca, Minnesota, in 1943. Saucedo: Senora: Did your family come every year? No. 1942 was the first year we came to Minnesota. We decided to stay, beThe work was very irWhere were you born? My husband and I met

We came here in 1942.

cause my father didn't want to work in the coal mines. regular. Saucedo: Senora: Where were the coal mines? Melacual, Texas. tired.

They weren't working like before, and my father was very We stayed here the first winter, and I was already

We didn't have anywhere to go.

then we stayed for three more years and returned to Texas.


Senora: Saucedo: Senora: Saucedo: Senora: Saucedo: Senora:

married. How may children do you have? Ten children. How many are married? Four of them are married. Where were your children born? The oldest was born in Minnesota. rest were born here in Minnesota. Four of them were born in Texas, and the

Saucedo: Senora:

Do your children speak Spanish? The three older ones speak Spanish, but the rest don't speak it. stand it, because we always speak Spanish to them. They under-

Saucedo: Senora: Saucedo: Senora:

Do you celebrate the Mexican Independence? No, here they don't do anything like that. Do you celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe? Only six weeks in the summer, when the migrants are here, and on December Twelfth, which is the Feast-day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Saucedo: Mendez: Saucedo:

I notice that you bought your home. In 1964. You have worked here all your life. from the banks or stores?

When did you buy it?

Have you ever felt any discrimination


Concerning the banks, no we have never felt any discrimination. people that came from Texas weren't called migrants. wouldn't even let them go into restaurants. they never did that.

Before, the

In those days, they

But to my wife's family and I, That's

They knew us, and we knew who we were, Mexicans.

how it was, until it started changing.

Now it's ended, and open to everyone. I am

That is why I won't go into places where they wouldn't let in migrants. Mexican too. the Texans.

But for us, there wasn't any discrimination like there was to Now that is all changed.

-4Saucedo: Mendez: How did you decide to stop working in the fields? I worked for farmers by the month. needed to go to school. Senora: Our children never worked in the beet fields. beet fields, but they never did. Saucedo: Senora: Saucedo: Senora: Did they ever miss school? No. They never liked the work in the fields. Jesse and I worked in the Then my family was getting big, they

What desires do you have for your children? Good education. The six oldest have finished school. One just finished college. The oldest is a nurse The boys all joined He did

and the other got married.

the service after high school.

One worked in a store, Gibson Store.

not make enough money and moved to Thief River Falls.

Then the son we have We

home, who just returned from the service, is going to nursing school. encourage our children to get ahead and to go to school. portunities for them. Saucedo: Do you remember when you were a child in Mexico? your father had? Mendez: I remember a little. carpentry work. My faf-.her never worked on any "haciendas".

There are many op-

And some of the difficulties

He did

He looked for work in Zamora, Michoacan.

We were a big

family, and it was hard to make a living in Mexico. to come to the United States. Saucedo: Mendez: Was it hard in Mexico, during the Revolution? Yes it was. We always had trouble with the soldiers.

That is why he decided

There was trouble with

the Huertistas.

I remember in 1924 and 1925 there was a gorilla fighter, I really wouldn't want to see myself in a war like that

named Inez Chavez. again. Saucedo: Mendez:

What kind of Mexican customs do your children have? All of them. I was brought up that way, and they will be too, with Mexican

-5Mendez: Saucedo: Mendez: food and everything. Do you participate in any organizations in Crookston? No. I did belong to the Minnesota Migrant Council, but there are too many Here in Crookston, I have never joined any organization.

conflicts of ideas. Saucedo: Mendez:

In your opinion, is the Minnesota Migrant Council helping the migrants? Yes. I think so. They have improved the housing conditions. The

Migrant Health Services has helped a lot also. much, for v7hat he has done for the migrants. Saucedo: Mendez: Is this list, in your opinion, very important? Yes. To me it is very important.

Mr. Jose Valdez, I thank very

I wish this list would be presented to

the programs this school has. Saucedo: Mendez: Is there a program for the children that are older than five years? Yes there is, up to the age of thirteen. Under fourteen, they can't work. Saucedo: Thank you very much for the interview. At fourteen, they let them work.