About This Item About
Related Items


Interview with Miguel Diaz




Miguel Diaz was born in 1987 in Uriangato, Guanajuato, Mexico. He graduated with his Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Concordia College. At the time of the interview was working on a Master's degree at North Dakota State University and was living in Moorhead, Minnesota. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Family - Latinos in Pelican Rapids and broader Minnesota - Lutheran Social Services - Mexican cultural traditions, celebrations - cultural events in Pelican Rapids.





World Region



Miguel Diaz Narrator Abner Arauza Interviewer February 23, 2013 Minnesota State University, Moorhead Campus American Multicultural Studies Office Moorhead, Minnesota

Miguel Diaz Abner Arauza


AA: This is Abner Arauza in Moorhead, Minnesota. I am interviewing Miguel Diaz. Today is February the 23, 2013. And I am interviewing him on the MSUM [Minnesota State University, Moorhead] campus in the American Multicultural Studies Office, and the interview is for the Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Project. Miguel, thank you for giving us time for an interview. And to start off, would you state your name and ethnicity please? MD: Yes, my full name is Miguel Angel Diaz Martinez and I am a Hispanic. AA: Okay. Give me the names of your parents. MD: Yes, my father’s name is Jose Jesus Diaz, and my mother’s name is Amada Diaz Martinez. AA: Okay. And where were they born? MD: They were born in Guanajuato, Mexico. AA: Guanajuato, that’s a state. So what city? MD: Uriangato, Guanajuato. AA: Okay. Okay. Ah, there’s a lot of people from that city in Pelican Rapids. MD: That is correct. AA: Okay, brothers? How many brothers and sisters do you have? MD: I have four brothers and four sisters. I am the second youngest of them all. AA: Okay. Can you give me their names and ages?


MD: Sure. I’ll give them to you in order as well. AA: Okay. MD: I have the youngest being Maria Guadalupe Diaz, ah, Miguel Diaz, Gabriel Alejandro Diaz, Gerardo Diaz, Fernando Diaz, Vanessa Diaz, Aurora Diaz, Manuel Diaz, y [and] Maria Juana Diaz. AA: Okay, give me their ages also. MD: I will do my best! AA: [Laughs] Do you know them? AA: [Laughs] MD: No, I don’t, actually. I can probably name two or three, but not all. AA: Get close. [Chuckles] MD: Yes. [Chuckles] Let’s see here. We have Maria, she is twenty-one. Gabriel is twenty-six. Gerardo is twenty-eight. Fernando is twenty-nine. Vanessa is treinta, ah, thirty. Fernando is thirty-one. Aurora, thirty-two, Manuel, thirty-five. And then Maria Juana, thirty-six. AA: Okay. MD: I am off mostly likely on most of them! AA: [Laughs] Okay. But close. MD: Yes. AA: Ah, and what is your birth date? MD: My birthday is September 14, 1987. AA: Okay. Now were you born in Uriangato or here? MD: I was born in Uriangato, Guanajuato as well. AA: Okay. Were most of your brothers and sisters born there? MD: Yes. All of them were born in a little ranch, what we call a ranch, called La Presa. And that is basically a ranch or a small town close to the actual city of Uriangato. AA: Okay. How large is that little town? 9

MD: Hmmm? AA: How large is that little town? MD: That little town, I would say, it used to be smaller. Right now it’s much bigger, but it used to be, I would say, less than two hundred people. AA: Oh. MD: Yes. AA: Okay. Now what is your education level, Miguel? MD: Right now I have a degree in business administration. I’m actually working on my master’s degree in business administration. AA: Okay. MD: But I do have my bachelor’s degree. AA: Your bachelor’s is from Concordia? MD: Concordia College. Correct. AA: And your master’s program is MD: Is through the NDSU [North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota]. AA: Okay. What do you hope to do? MD: I hope to continue my education, fulfill my degree, of course. AA: Yes. MD: Ah, after that, my goal is to have a stable job that is relevant to my degree. AA: Okay. What year did your family settle in Pelican Rapids? MD: It had to be in the year 2007. AA: Okay. MD: Ah, it’s more than thirteen years now since then. AA: More than thirteen years, so that would be about 2000. 10

MD: 2000. Is that right? AA: Yes, because 2007 is about six years ago. MD: Yes, okay, so 1998 yes, so about fifteen years. AA: So fifteen years, about 1998. MD: Time does fly. AA: Yes. How did your family hear of Moorhead and make a decision to come here? MD: Great question. My parents used to live in California. We used to live in California for about a year and a half. The reason why we moved to California in the first place was because my dad actually got through the 1987 immigration law that occurred in the United States, he was able to get a residence for himself and his family. And as a result, we were able to get legal residence. He was working there, illegally, in the prior years, and then in that year he was able to get residence for us. And then we have an uncle who still lives in Pelican Rapids. And he was working in the current job that he is currently in, in West Central Turkeys [Incorporated]. And as a result, my dad actually connected with my uncle and decided to come to work here for a better job, better paying job, and better conditions in that particular job. AA: What kind of work was your dad doing in California? MD: Yes, he was actually just a farm worker, a laborer, just like anyone else in California back in the day, where they would be picking up grapes, working in the fields, and doing all kinds of jobs there. AA: What other kinds of things did they do in farms aside from picking grapes? MD: Right. That was mainly the big thing. Other things would be cutting fruit from the trees, basically. AA: Sure. MD: Or any type of fruit, you name it, they would be doing that. It would basically run from anything from picking up the actual fruit, to putting it in an actual basket, wrapping it up, getting it ready to go out to the stores. AA: Okay. Prepare them for shipping. MD: Correct. AA: Now, were all your brothers and sisters and mom with your dad in California or was he there on his own? 11

MD: Right. The very first time that we immigrated to California as legal residents, it was only my oldest siblings that came with my dad. Simply because my dad had a strategy. He couldn’t afford bringing everyone at the same time. AA: Sure. MD: And so what he did is he brought those who were able to work. AA: Okay. MD: To be able to help him save some money so that he would be able to bring the rest of us to the United States. AA: Wow. And it worked. MD: And it worked! AA: [Chuckles] MD: It definitely worked, yes. AA: Yes. MD: After a year and a half, it definitely paid off. AA: Let’s back off a little bit. In Uriangato, how did he hear of California? How did he end up in California? MD: My grandpa actually was an illegal immigrant as well. AA: Okay. MD: He would be traveling seasonally from Uriangato to California and he would work for a full season. And then when the season was over, he would go back to Mexico and spend the money that he had saved in that time. My dad, when he was very young, I believe at the age of seventeen is when he started accompanying my grandpa and then he just kept on going. AA: Sure. MD: At a later time, my grandpa was not able to, obviously, travel anymore or he didn’t want to do it anymore, and my dad kept on doing it up until that year where he was able to get us all a legal residence.


AA: Okay. So it sounds to me like the period in which your dad worked in California, and basically on his own without bringing all of the family yet actually went for several years, not just for a few months. MD: Yes, since he was seventeen up until, if I recall correctly, I was about eight years old. AA: I see. MD: To when my dad, still, the last time that I saw him coming from the United States, what we called the North. [Chuckles] That was one of the summers that I saw him after that, that he returned back home and then he gave us the news that he was going to bring us all to the United States. AA: Wow. So how many years transcribed? MD: [Sighs] From 1998 when he mentioned that to us I think it was close to a year. AA: Okay. MD: Ah, that he was able to get everyone a year and a half. He was able to get everyone on board, with the exception of our last, oldest sister. Ah, my sister was not able to make it due to her age being past eighteen. AA: Okay. MD: So she was not able to get legal residence through my parents, through him. AA: So she had to stay behind though? MD: So she had to stay behind, yes. AA: And did she eventually make arrangements to come or is she’s still there? MD: Yes, it was I would say a decade, about ten years after that that then my dad was able to get her legal residence. There through the immigration laws, she had wait a certain period of time. And so she did, and after that, after meeting that time frame, then she was able, my dad was able to get some legal residence for her. And it’s been yes, about three or four years that she’s now living in Pelican Rapids also. AA: Okay. So at some point then your dad in conversation told your uncle in Pelican, look, we’d be; how is Pelican? You know. MD: Yes. AA: Was all of your family by this time except your oldest sister in California?


MD: By that time, no. We had one, two along with my oldest sister, we had one, two, three of them that were still behind, so in total four. AA: Okay. So those four didn’t come to the US until you were already in Pelican? MD: Correct. AA: Okay. Okay, and so at some point your dad told your uncle, you know, I want to move from here. What year was that? Do you remember? MD: That year? I think it was 1998. AA: Okay. MD: 1998, yes. Because that should be the first year that we came to Pelican Rapids, 1998. And I remember it was during the time of when we arrived here was when the snow was melting. AA: [Chuckles] MD: And so we had not experienced the snow at that time. AA: Yes. MD: It was only after almost a full year that we actually saw snow. But yes, it was during the month of March, I believe, actually. Yes. AA: So by the time you actually saw snow it was too late. [Chuckles] MD: It was too late! AA: [Chuckles] MD: No, I was not able to go back! [Chuckles] AA: How did your family actually get here? Did you drive, did you fly? Did your family come alone? Did you bring part of the family then the rest of you? MD: Yes. My dad did it where he had to go through this specific city on the border, the Mexico border. It’s called Ciudad Juarez. AA: Okay. MD: That’s where he was able to get legal residence. And in fact, since we are from the middle of Mexico, in the middle part of it, the center of Mexico, we had to drive, take a bus to Ciudad Juarez to be able to get the documents that we needed to be able to come to the US, and so we


did it this way. And then after that we went from Ciudad Juarez to California. And then from California, we flew to Fargo, actually. To Fargo here. And then from Fargo, we took a taxi! AA: Oh, really? [Chuckles] MD: A taxi, yes, which was very expensive. And of course there was plenty of us, so we couldn’t [all fit into] one taxi, so we had to have two taxis at that time. It’s kind of interesting because even though it was only about a forty-five minute drive, it was totally different. It just was totally different. AA: [Chuckles] Wow. Okay. And at that time did your whole family come to Pelican? Of all the ones that were in the US? MD: At that time, we had all of them, yes, who were in the US. Yes. AA: Okay. So you got to Pelican Rapids. Now you had to stay somewhere. You had to get around. You had to go get in school, you know, all those things. Was there a support network that helped you do that? MD: Not in . . . AA: Maybe we can start from where did you stay? MD: Yes, definitely. Right when we got there my uncle was the one who gave us, all of the support that we needed. Really, at that point, by the time we got there, he had already established himself. AA: Sure. MD: And so he owned a home and he was living in a different home. And there was the home that he was renting out at that time, we were actually able to stay in, and then we were able to rent it out, rent that home. AA: Okay. MD: For a period of time. I believe it was about two years. And then we moved to another house that, well, that which we were renting as well. Ah, and then that took another, I would say, half a year minimum. And after, I would say, two and a half years, two, three years, with my parents working, both my mom and my dad, with two of my brothers, siblings, working, and the rest of us going to school, we were able to find, buy a mobile home. A mobile home, and that’s where we spent most of our time in Pelican, in this mobile home. We eventually, after six years, I want to say, six, seven years of having this home, is then that my parents decided to purchase a home. AA: Okay. 15

MD: And then after that, that’s where all of us then purchased that home. And then after that we ended up by that time, my oldest sister got married. One of my sisters got married, another brother got married. And so they started building, having their own families. AA: Okay. Okay, but when you just first arrived, you know, you stayed with your uncle and you told me that. But you also had to get into school; you had to find maybe medical services when somebody got sick. MD: Yes. AA: You had to find a job, you know. How did that happen? MD: We have a lot of support, if you will, at that time from agencies. Ah, there was one agency, Lutheran Services that would work and would help refugees at that time. AA: Okay. MD: And Hispanics as well. The majority of it, we did it through us, the young ones knowing some English, because if you recall, it was only about a year and a half that we had gone had learned English. And so we did it where we would be the ones translating. AA: Yes. MD: Going to the clinic, going to school to get involved in school. And that was basically the way we did it at that point. Right away. So that’s how we became enrolled in at school, that’s how we were able to attend, you know, the clinic and other agencies or places where we needed to go. AA: And enrolling in school, how did you figure that out? Who goes where and how to get registered. MD: We had at that point there was a teacher who spoke in Spanish. And she was able to basically help us kind of go through that. AA: Sure. MD: I guess what you would call the courses that were needed, or the grades that were needed to be able to be enrolled, they were transferred from California to here. AA: What was the name of that teacher? MD: [Sighs] The name of that teacher. Let’s see here. Margarita Reese. AA: How do you spell Reese?


MD: Reese. R-E-E-S-E. AA: Okay. MD: Yes. That at that point, she was the only Hispanic teacher that was there. And in fact, she wasn’t an actual teacher; she was more like a paraprofessional. That was assisting Hispanics at that time. AA: Okay. Okay. So there was a mixture of formal and informal support system in that you relied on some relatives for some things and Lutheran Social Services or the teacher, I mean this Margarita Reese, for support. MD: Yes. AA: Can you think back of a time or an experience that you had that would give us an idea as to how this support service worked, or this support network worked for you? MD: [Pauses] I guess going back trying to remember the first year that I went to school; I was going to be in elementary. Now it would have been my last year of elementary school. And the way it was done, basically we would meet the person who would assist us at school and she would be doing the translation for us. Through my parents. I mean, they would be answering any questions that they would need to ask us. In terms of the assistance, there was, we just needed to get to places. At that point, we didn’t own any vehicles or anything, so we would go from my uncle’s place to school walking. And we would meet the person and that’s how we would be able to connect with them at that time. AA: Once your family was here, you know, as often happens after a little while, then you kind of decide we’re staying or we’re leaving. [Chuckles] What kind of factors or what kind of things did your family discuss or talk about to decide whether to stay or leave? MD: One of the things that my parents, the main reason why they came to Pelican Rapids was for the job itself, right. My parents had been working out in the fields for my dad, more specifically, for more than ten years of this. AA: Yes. MD: And working at the West Central [Turkeys] Plant was definitely a different experience. It was a better experience for him due to the working conditions. Comparing it to, once again, the farm jobs that he had previously. AA: Okay. MD: And so they had a job. A job that was there for them. The place was close to our place as well. So they had no difficulties in making it to work, versus what they had when in California where they had to drive about half an hour to get to work.


AA: I see. MD: Actually, it was much easier. So that was one of the big factors that they took in consideration when deciding to stay. And other than that, the living aspect of it, how were we, their children living, how were we enjoying the stay, it played a significant role also. They knew that we were having a good time learning, going to school. AA: Yes. MD: And also participating in some activities, such as soccer, for example. And so the lifestyle in California compared to Minnesota was different. And a positively different for them, that they took that as another factor for deciding to stay. AA: So it was a place where they felt like it was a good place to build a home. MD: Exactly. AA: Now you mentioned earlier that your dad didn’t have a car when you or the family didn’t have a car. Did he have a vehicle in California? MD: Negative. We didn’t. AA: So how did he get around? Because if they drove thirty minutes to work. MD: Yes, he had to pay for getting a ride to work. AA: Okay. MD: So that’s how he would get to work. AA: Yes. MD: He and my siblings as well. AA: Okay. Were there any adjustments that your family made when they settled in their area? I mean, you mentioned there was a difference between California and here. What were some of those differences and how did your family make that adjustment? MD: One of the biggest differences I would say was the crime, if you will, than there was in California. We lived in a city called Dinuba, which was bigger, much, much bigger compared to Pelican Rapids. AA: What city was that? MD: Dinuba.


AA: Okay. MD: Dinuba. Yes. And knowing that we were able to walk to school without having to worry about any crime was definitely important for them, for my parents. Yes. So I would say that would be the biggest reason there. AA: What other adjustments would you say the family made? MD: I think in terms of adjusting, it was a lot of us and, still we have a big family. We had to adjust to live much, much closer together, if you will, in a home. Being able to adjust in terms of learning new things that would help us get to certain places or that will help us move forward. AA: Sure. MD: And one of the things was learning how to drive. My siblings were the ones who learned how to drive. And then they would be the ones giving my parents rides. AA: Okay. Was there anything that you missed about California when you moved here? MD: [Sighs] Hmmm. AA: You just said, “Gee, I’m glad I’m rid of California. And I love this place.” MD: I know, in California one, of the things that I enjoyed at that time was the fact that the school system was a little bit different. In California, knowing that there were many more Hispanics at that time. I think the school system incorporated the learning or the teaching of the English language to Hispanics. And that’s exactly what happened in California, is that they would actually have an actual class where they would pull all of their Hispanic students into one class, if you will, and teach them English. AA: Yes. MD: For an hour, an hour and a half or two. AA: Okay. MD: And I think that’s one of the ways that I learned English the best and the fastest. And that’s one of the things that I say, I guess, I missed immediately at that time. When I was here, when I came to Pelican Rapids, there was no concentration in learning in teaching the English language. It was only later on that there were ESL [English as a second language] classes offered. But not as specific as it was in like in California. AA: So were you all pretty fluent in English when you arrived here? MD: Not at all. Not at all.


AA: Okay. MD: We had only been in California for a year and a half, like I said. AA: Sure. MD: And that was not enough that is not enough for someone to be fluent, at least in my opinion. Ah, in fact, that I was the one who would feel more confident speaking or translating. At that point it was a lot of translating at that time. And that’s how I actually increased or improved my ability to speak in English as well. AA: How did your younger brothers do? Or older brothers and sisters? MD: Right. They were doing fine. I mean, they were learning. Ah, some of my older siblings, they had to take some time off from school when they had to work. Due to the economic situation. My younger siblings were learning as well. And I think they now can speak in English fluently. But at that time, I think they relied more on me, and they would actually kind of quote/unquote “force” me to do everything that needed to be done in terms of translating. AA: [Chuckles] Okay. MD: So I think even though I was forced to do it, I got a benefit out of it. AA: You know, so every day, you were in school, so you were picking up things and learning and so on and so forth. But your mom and dad, how were they handling it? MD: My parents actually never learned English. My mom and my dad, both of them actually made an effort to try to learn, where they would go to evening ESL classes. But to be able to get along, to be able to go to the store, to be able to go to the clinic, we always had to bring our own translators. And it was either me or my siblings. As of today, it’s my understanding there is no actual requisite of having to know the English language fluently. And so what they do at work is they process frozen or cold or warm food, and they package it and then they get it ready for shipping. But they don’t really necessarily speak or have to speak while working. So they were able to get along. And they’re still able to maintain that job for that reason. AA: Communicating is not a problem at work then. MD: Correct. AA: Because?


MD: Communicating at work, you don’t necessarily need to communicate when you’re working. However, if you have to go, say, have an actual request for some time off, or if something goes wrong, there’s an issue, then of course you have to bring your translator. Ah, the company at that point offered they had others who had worked there for a while and who were able to do translation for them. AA: Latinos? MD: Latinos, correct. AA: Okay. So is it mostly Latinos at the plant? MD: Ah, currently there is a big diversity right now. We have anything from Hispanics, of course, Somali refugees. AA: Sure. MD: We have refugees from Asia. We have people from Russia. AA: I see. MD: And then of course Americans also. And people from Bosnia as well. So there’s some big diversity there right now. Ten, fifteen years ago, there wasn’t as much. But with time, of course, just like the Hispanics, every other community will actually bring their own into the city. And that’s how each community, in terms of the different ethnicities, would increase. But at that time, when my parents started working, I would say that the majority of them were Hispanic. AA: Okay. Now this goes for your family, first, but also for other families, I know that many people that move into an area always have in mind sometime moving back home. Others move here, they adjust, they put down roots, they say, “Hey, this is my home, I’m not going anywhere.” What do you see the prevalent attitude? First, let’s talk about your family, you and your family. MD: [Sighs] Yes. The way it worked out for my family is that, back in Mexico, we were not poor but we were also not rich. Due to the fact that my dad would be traveling back and forth, as an illegal immigrant, he always had the idea of bringing his family to the US, because he had a vision of how he wanted us to live. He wanted us to live a better life. And that was the whole idea when we came to Pelican Rapids, to be able to improve our lifestyle, to become more prosperous, and just have an actual life in the US. AA: Sure. MD: My parents, they do have the idea of going back to live back in Mexico. When you have lived in a certain area and you adapt, positively adapt to it, and you improve your lifestyle, your 21

mentality changes. Speaking from experience, you know that you have lived in a certain area for so long that you kind of almost treat it as your home now. And so, eventually, what was home no longer is home, and what is a new place is now your new home. And because you grew up with it, you have had the best time of your life in the new place, then now instead of calling home your home, which was back in Mexico, you now call it a place to go and visit, you know, and enjoy the time that you are there, but I don’t necessarily call it home anymore. This here in the US I call where I am at right now, I call it home. Because I have seen that my lifestyle has improved significantly. I have more educated. And essentially, that’s what my parents wanted us to do. AA: Sure. MD: Is to improve our lifestyle. AA: How about other families? Have you noticed any kind of prevalent sentiment about whether they feel like this is their permanent home or that it’s temporary and I’m moving on? MD: My family? AA: Both. MD: Yes. AA: Your family and others. MD: Yes, [Sighs] It definitely does have to do with each family’s experience that they have had. For example, in Pelican, right, if they had a positive experience where things have gone the right way or the way they wanted them to go, jobwise they have had a consistent job, they’ve gone through some education, their kids have gone through education, I think that’s what determines how each family sees or considers it a temporary home or a permanent home. AA: Okay. Have you maintained contact with family and relatives back in Mexico? MD: Yes. I continue to have communication with them. I have family members from my mom’s side. Aunts and uncles who still live in Mexico and we continue to speak to them every so often over the phone. And when we go visit them every two years, every year, for less than two or three weeks, then we continue to have that contact with them. AA: How do you stay in touch? MD: We stay in touch by calling them. We connect with them through the phone. We talk to them. Ah, right now, that’s how my parents actually connect with them mainly. AA: Do you go visit?


MD: We go visit when we get the opportunity to travel to Mexico. Many times it’s during the month of December, so a lot of the times that’s the month where there’s time off for them as well from work and for us. And also because there is festivities going on at that time, of course! AA: [Chuckles] Yes, I was going to say and there are a lot of festivities going on down there. Do you attend those? MD: Yes, actually. There’s always festivities in the month of December and a lot of people from Pelican Rapids, who are from the same town or city or state from where I am, enjoy traveling to Mexico during that period of time, simply because all of the festivities that are going on are enjoyable there. You can go with the family, you can go with friends, and you have a really good time. AA: What kind of festivities? MD: Yes, anything from having, like a concert, from professional singers, for example, to a bulls show. AA: Okay. MD: Toreros. [Bullfighting.] Hmmm, or just attending to special places. A celebration of certain, what we call saints from our hometowns. AA: I see. MD: The church saints, where they have dances, where they have parades. That’s always fun to see. AA: Which saints are celebrated at about that time? What saints are celebrated at about that time? MD: Specifically where I’m from we have a church called San Miguel, named after the archangel San Miguel. [Michael] AA: Okay. MD: And it’s during the month of December that they celebrate that particular saint as well, and it is a big celebration. AA: How is it celebrated? MD: It’s celebrated through parades, through dances, through performances from important artists. Hmmm, mainly, that’s how it is celebrated. And of course a lot of food! [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles]


MD: We cannot forget food. AA: [Chuckles] Yes. So it’s a multi-day celebration for San Miguel? MD: Correct. AA: Wow. MD: It’s a multi-day; I think it goes for about a week. And just like that, you have other celebrations such as the Virgin of Mary celebration which is on December 12th, and that also goes for about a week or so. And then you move on to the Christmas celebration, then you move on to the [Tres] Reyes Magos [Three Kings], what they call, right, it’s like Santa Claus, but it’s the three wise men celebration that they have. AA: Okay. And when is that? MD: That is in January. January 6th, I believe. AA: [Laughs] MD: [Chuckles] AA: Yes. So any of those traditions, cultural traditions or religious traditions, have any of those been brought with the family to Pelican? MD: Yes. AA: The family as a unit and then maybe the community? MD: Yes, definitely. We, as a family, I think we continue to celebrate certain things. The fact is that in Pelican, we were not able to do a lot of things, a lot of events, and a lot of festivities, due to the weather right at that point. When it was time to celebrate, we had snow, it was cold, and we were not able to go outside. Ah, with time, with the Hispanic community getting bigger. We started bringing more traditions, such as Las Posadas. This is the tradition that we celebrate through the church as well. Where we have certain days where we celebrate certain parts of the church. [Las Posadas re-enact Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter; in Spanish, the word means “inns” or "lodgings."] AA: I see. MD: And where we have readings, where we also have food, and where we also have songs to sing, and where we as a community participate. AA: Sure.


MD: Each family gets an opportunity to participate by hosting a posada, where each family is in charge of having, you know, a food ready for those who attend the posada, and being able to participate in the readings and in the lectures that are going on. AA: Describe Las Posadas. MD: Las Posadas, it’s during the month of December. And it has to do with the days before Christmas. Hmmm, in Mexico, what they do is they go from house to house and each family takes a posada day, and when you go and there is this tradition where all of the attendees or the people who are part of the posada are praying, are asking for a home, a place to stay, and that’s why it’s called a posada, because they’re asking for a place to stay, just like the history tells, or the story tells, I should say, from the Christianity story of Mary and Jose. You go and ask for a place to stay and you eventually find a place to stay. And that’s how it is, and it is done for a period of time, I would say I think it’s about a week and a half. And every family participates. We have a full block back at home, it’s a full street, if you will, and that participates in this. Yes, and each block, each street gets an opportunity to participate in their own posadas. In Pelican Rapids, due to the fact that it was this much smaller community, of course, everyone participated, and those who wanted to be part of it would actually volunteer to do it, a posada, to host a posada. And then others would just attend. And this was all done due to the weather; this was all done in the church. AA: Okay. MD: And as of right now, we don’t do it as we would have liked to do it, where we would want to go to different homes and host a posada. AA: What other traditions are observed in Pelican Rapids that you’ve brought? MD: [Sighs] I’m thinking about the actual traditions where we celebrate anything, a birthday more specifically for, let’s say, children, kids. We always have a piñata. [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.] A piñata, it’s a very popular tradition that we have in Mexico. And that’s just basically to show our appreciation to the kids, and for them to have fun and enjoy breaking a piñata. [Chuckles] And other traditions, I guess, food. I mean, the enjoying along with these festivities we celebrate, but we also bring certain dishes, that they are very traditional in Mexico. AA: Okay. MD: And these, we make them when there are special events because, for one, it’s not real simple to make, but for two, it’s one way to kind of say for families for moms [chuckles] for the cooks to kind of to show their appreciation for the actual event or the festivity that is going on. AA: Which one of those dishes is your favorite? 25

MD: Ah, personally, I love the tamales. [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] The tamales it’s what I love the most. I enjoy them because I grew up with them. And I enjoy having them on certain festivities and they’re delicious! [Chuckles] AA: Now traditionally they are made at home, but they’re also very available at stores. Which ones do you have? [Laughs] MD: [Laughs] The tamales, actually, you can easily tell which ones are homemade and which ones are brought from the store. AA: Yes. MD: But I love homemade tamales, of course! AA: [Chuckles] So do you make them? Does your mom make them? MD: Yes, my mom, my sister. My sisters make them. I could not make a tamale by myself. AA: [Chuckles] MD: It’s complicated! AA: [Chuckles] Yes. Which language do you speak at home with family? MD: With my family, I speak in Spanish. And the reason for that is because many of them, all of them, I should say, I’m sorry, speak Spanish, but not all of them speak English. AA: Okay. MD: So to make it more comfortable for everyone, I speak in Spanish. AA: Now you say that some of your brothers and sisters speak English. What do they speak at home? MD: Everyone speaks Spanish at home. AA: Everybody. MD: Everybody. AA: So, when guests come over?


MD: When guests come over, it depends on what type of guests you have. If you have Hispanic guests, it’s always Spanish. When you have guests, American guests, for example, then my parents still speak in Spanish. [Chuckles] AA: [Chuckles] MD: Because they’re not able to speak English. But we then accommodate and we speak in English. AA: Okay. How about outside the house? MD: It depends on where I go and who I am with. At work, my primary language is English, because I have to communicate in English, I have to present in English, I have to direct in English. With my friends, right, if it’s Hispanic friends, then in Spanish. We communicate with them in Spanish. However, it really does depend on who is there. Even though they’re Hispanics, who is there, and you know, why are they more comfortable with in terms of which language. But almost always it’s in Spanish. I also have friends from here, of course, and then when I am with them, speaking to them in English is no problem. AA: So if you are at the grocery store, you’re walking down the aisle, and there comes this person that looks very Mexican, you know, from the features, but you really don’t know who this person is. And you want to approach them and you speak, what do you speak? MD: I would speak to them in Spanish. That would be my first, immediate response. It also depends on their age, right? Nowadays you have people, Hispanics, first, second, third generation, and that makes a difference. But when you see someone, say an older person, or even just a person of my age or older, then I guess I would speak to them in Spanish, assuming that I had not spoken to them, that I had not had any contact with them. AA: We’ve talked a little bit about cultural traditions and that some of them have been brought. Was that deliberate? In other words, let’s do this because that’s been our tradition, or do you just kind of do it because that’s life? MD: Yes, I think we, when I say we, I mean the community in Pelican, and I think we did it because we didn’t think it was that we had to do it, but it just happened. Right. AA: Okay. MD: So there was something that was missing at that time. For example, the posadas. During the month of December, we would celebrate by going to church, but there was something that was missing, that tradition. I don’t think anyone really thought of a kind of bringing it because we had to, but it just automatically happened where someone said, “Oh, we’re missing Las Posadas,” or, “We’re missing this festivity, we should do it.” And then everyone just started cooperating and then that’s how we brought it here. AA: So it’s really not an intentional effort to say, “Let’s pass this culture on down to the younger ones.” You just lived it and it passes down automatically. 27

MD: Correct. Correct. You just kind of live it and as long as you’re part of that culture, the community, the family, it continues to be a tradition. AA: When you have children, what’ll you do? MD: I hope that I continue to pass on the traditions that I have. I want my children to be as Hispanic as possible. Whatever that means! AA: [Chuckles] MD: But I do want to keep the traditions going. And as I stated, I don’t think I’m going to be forcing them, I think it’s automatically going to happen, because they’re going to be part of it. AA: Because they’ll see you live it and then they start emulating that. MD: Exactly. Because I will be able to continue with my traditions and automatically they will they will be part of that, yes. AA: Okay. Is some of that changing? That maybe families, or younger ones, or just people that are changing are either changing the traditions or not accepting them, not embracing them? MD: Yes, from my experience, I think that is changing. I think it definitely does depend on the parents and how they make their children part of each cultural tradition. Some of the Hispanics have lost that. It really does depend on how much of those traditions are done in each family, and how participant are those families in these traditions in their communities. And yes, it is changing. Nowadays you see some children, kids, Hispanics, who not only do they not want to be part of these traditions, or do they not like it simply because they haven’t experienced it, or they haven’t lived it as some others, some of us have, but also the language itself. You now have kids who, due to the fact of that they have been hanging out with peers, American peers, for example, friends at school, and they have had much more contact with these friends than their Hispanic friends. For whatever reason, whether it’s because they live farther away from where the actual Hispanic community is, or because of extracurricular activities, sports, that they’re actually getting away or not using as much of their first language as they would normally do. And as a result, then later on in the years, then they start avoiding or speaking in their first language. AA: What type of relationship did you and your family have with other people in the community? Neighbors, people in church, people in schools, just people in the community— including the white community. MD: I believe that in Pelican Rapids even though we have communities from different races I believe that there is a big community out there. Whereas the Minnesotans would call it, “Minnesota Nice.” Everyone gets along well.


Within my community, the Hispanic community, my family, many of the families that reside in Pelican are actually relatives. And so almost not because we have to, but because it’s normal for us, we get along. We are part of the community, as a result, we get along. I know for us who have moved out in the area where there’s the majority of the Hispanic community resides, we have moved out of that area. And as a result, we have created a relationship with other communities, the American community, for example. My brother, for example, he has a friend who is American. He works with and he lives close to us. And we’ve created this relationship where whenever this friend of his comes over to our home that we provide him with some authentic food. And many times he has helped us a lot by, for example, shoveling during the winters. Clean out our driveways and whatnot. And there’s some mutual assistance, if you will, but it is more than just helping each other out. It’s has to do with the fact that we live in the same area and we are a community and then he; they see us as such, as part of community members. AA: Sure. MD: Ah, it’s no longer, you know, a different family that comes from Mexico, but it’s just more like another family that has moved to the area. AA: So you feel a part of the community now, both the white community as well as the Latino community? MD: Correct. And even though we don’t directly hang out or have a strong relationship with our American friends in terms of going to their homes and chatting, I believe that we still consider ourselves part of that bigger community. AA: What kind of jobs, what kind of work were Hispanics doing as they arrived? And I know that it’s kind of a fluid arriving of people, you know, people keep coming, keep coming. What kind of work do they do? MD: Mainly in Pelican Rapids most of the Hispanics worked in the plant, the West Central Turkeys plant. Where there’s a bunch of different jobs that they can do. Anything from cleaning the machines to, once again, preparing the product and having it ready for shipping. And where you could work at a very, very cold area or you could work at a very, very warm area. It just really depends on what you do there, what position is given to you. Ah, you can also have people who are supervisors, for example. Aside from that, you have others who work at construction, who are part of a construction company. And then others who work at other places, not in town but outside of town where they have to travel to another town to work on, for example, out in the fields, too. I know that during the summer there are people who work out in the fields, on the farms, I should say, just like any person in California would. But in the Pelican Rapids area, the biggest company that recruits or that has the Hispanic community is the one that the company that’s in Pelican Rapids.


AA: How do they recruit? MD: The way it’s been done, they don’t recruit. People go there and actually apply for a job. AA: Okay. MD: And it’s very regular, they’re looking for jobs. In fact, that company specifically has expanded due to the production that they’ve had. That they have expanded and as a result created more jobs, which of course allowed more people to work there, you know. And that’s how it mainly has been, yes. AA: What is the ethnic composition of the community? You mentioned that there are some people now from other countries coming also. Are they about equally divided? You know, how is that splitting up? MD: Ah, I think it’s actually getting to the point where it’s equally divided. And although you see a lot of Hispanics, you are now seeing an increase of other ethnicities. I think rapidly. Everyone, the different ethnicities are actually looking at the opportunities that Pelican Rapids has to offer. AA: Sure. MD: It’s looking at the diversity. And it’s actually just like the Hispanic community; they are also seeing that Pelican Rapids does offer diversity, a rich diversity. And they enjoy having the diversity. As a result, they continue to come. AA: How are the different groups, different countries, and different ethnic groups getting along? MD: I think nowadays they get along very well. I think nowadays you have someone from Russia who is friends with a Hispanic who goes to the Hispanic Mexican restaurant and purchases tacos or tamales. Ah, and vice versa. AA: [Chuckles] MD: Right. And nowadays you see it where the families are now connected and it has to do with the fact that they’re working at the same place and that all of the communities are treated equally. And it also has to do with the actual kids at school, right, having to have their children having to go to the same sport, or the same event, or same activity. It quote/unquote “forces” them, allows them to get to know or actually become involved with other communities. AA: How about the composition of the Latino group? Are they mostly from Mexico, mostly from Texas, mostly from? MD: Right. I believe that the majority of them are Mexicans from Mexico. [Laughs] Mexicans from Mexico!


AA: [Chuckles] MD: Are people from Mexico. The Latino community does have people from Guatemala, people from; if you consider them from Texas, you have Mexican Americans. AA: Sure. MD: But they consider themselves as Texans but they are Hispanic. AA: Yes. MD: But I believe that the majority of them are from Mexico. AA: And I know that people from different countries, you know, take pride in where they’re from. How is that mixing? How is that blending? Or is it not? MD: I think each community or each group from different countries, Latin American countries more specifically; they each take pride of being from where they’re from. For example, the Mexicans, they have a lot of pride calling themselves Mexicans. But in Pelican, the community, the bigger community which is the Pelican Rapids community, allows or it has been positive in that we haven’t had any major incidents. You don’t see a completely separated community from the rest of the Latinos just because they are from this other country. AA: Okay. MD: Everyone gets along. There’s different activities that the Latino community has actually, they’ve done, such as playing soccer, for example, soccer tournaments. Where they include anyone in from any community, really, where you have all types of Latinos, Latinos from Mexico, from Guatemala, and also other communities such as people from Bosnia, people from Somalia, people from Russia. AA: I see. MD: To the communities, I believe that the communities themselves within each community. So say that the Latino community and the Somali community, they have grown together, that they have actually wanted to be a bigger community. AA: Yes. MD: And it has been a positive. Very positive. AA: Good. Talk about the state or the condition of education among the Latinos in Pelican.


MD: [Pauses] My parents, for example, they didn’t have high school education, they only had elementary education. And I think we have some Hispanics, Latinos that are in the same situation. It’s mainly the parents that currently reside in Pelican. Those kids, children who live in Pelican, as they come, of course, they are enrolled at school. And as a result, they start or they continue their education. But I believe that it has to do with, you know, when you actually arrived to Pelican. If you arrived into Pelican when you were eighteen or older, there wasn’t much opportunity for you to do it, even though we have some who have actually finished their education or continued their education back in wherever they are from, Mexico, for example. AA: Yes. MD: Then they come to Pelican and they start working. Right. Then you have others who even in Mexico did not have an education because of their economic conditions, for example. They had to work. And so in coming here, what they do is they continue to work. So then you have all types of educational levels, if you will, within the Latino community. And then you have others who are very interested in learning, in becoming more educated at school. And those kids, you have other kids who are Latino who don’t really enjoy class, who like to have a lot of fun, who like to just be with their friends and just enjoy the time that they have with their friends at school, not necessarily learning, not necessarily going to class. AA: What role is it playing among the families, education? Or isn’t it? MD: I think it is. I think it’s very important for the Latino community that nowadays the education is playing a significant role. Nowadays we’re looking at how are our children, kids doing at school, and what are they doing. That they’re quote/unquote “representing” the families, right. To represent the families. So I strongly believe that the education is very important for the Latinos nowadays. And that every Latino in Pelican Rapids, they want to continue to improve, to become better at whatever it is that they want to do. And only can they do it through education. AA: So is this the parents or is this the children that think that way? MD: I think right now it’s the kids right now. AA: Okay. MD: The parents, I think they have a perspective and they see it having the previous experience of having to work for their entire life. I think what they want to do is they don’t want their kids, right, to go through that same situation. And as a result, what they’re doing is they’re actually working, putting in a lot of time working. They’re doing what is needed to do in terms of enrolling their kids at school, of course, allowing them to participate in other extracurricular activities, so that they continue their education. AA: Are there community organizations in Pelican that provide services to the Latino community? Whether it be job seeking, job skills, housing, and education. 32

MD: I do know that there is, you know, for like education, for example, there is the ESL courses, night courses that were offered not just the Latino community but any other type of community that wanted to learn English. Hmmm, in terms of organizations, I don’t believe there’s any actual organizations there, but there’s agencies that assist with, for example, legal stuff that Latinos or anyone really needs. But you don’t have an actual specific organization for the Latinos only. AA: What organizations would come to mind? MD: In Pelican, I said, Lutheran Services, once again. AA: Okay. MD: The school district, of course, they do assist with that. And I guess any situation that is needed, for example, if needed clinics, hospitals, too. They assist with translation, with providing information to them, to the Latino community. But almost always you have to bring your translator. You have to be able to have someone there for you who can do a translation. AA: Okay. MD: The education, the different institutions in Pelican, they do offer educational services, informational meetings for whether it’s, you know, hospitals, for schools, for libraries also. But almost always a translator is needed. AA: Are Latinos involved in political activity, either like running for office, or campaigning, or speaking out for or against political issues? MD: [Sighs] There wasn’t any of that going on, I would say, five years ago. Recently, we have had political parties getting assistance from the Latinos, to have the Latino community participating in the political, voting for example. That was a big one. But not for running for, you know, for a mayor position, for example. AA: Okay. MD: Or anything like that but those candidates or potential candidates are using some of the Latinos to be able to engage the Latino community. AA: Okay. Are Latinos voting? MD: Latinos are being educated, the Latinos are learning through their kids. They are learning through TV, of course, that voting is important. And they are voting. They are voting. Ah, just from personal experience, you know, my family those who could vote five, ten years ago, did not vote. In the last election, for example, everyone who was able to vote voted.


AA: As new groups and new families arrive into Pelican, how are they being treated and what kind of a reception are they getting from those who have been here for many years, like Latinos that have been here for fifteen, twenty years? MD: If I may focus on the Latinos, I can say that those families, new families or individuals who come to Pelican Rapids, they are actually welcome, they are actually welcomed. You have many families that are well established, that have experienced the coming to a new town, and who know how that feels. And those families are ready and they do help the individuals, the new individuals or the new families to adjust. And they accommodate them through assistance such as housing or economic assistance, as well. It’s not something done through official means. But many times, the new families or the new individuals have a relative or two in Pelican, in this area. So that’s the main reason why they come to the city. You do have some who come because they’re friends of other friends who are already here, but it’s very rare when you see someone, a Latino who comes to Pelican and has no relatives at all, or friends, or acquaintances. AA: Now you made those comments about Latinos. How about other groups, like say a new Somali family. Do you know? MD: I think, from what I know, I think it works exact same way. AA: Okay. MD: I think, the Somalis, the refugees, they have someone in Pelican who they know. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a person that they have worked with in the past that allows them to be welcomed to the community and allows them to assimilate to the community and have a positive experience when they come to Pelican. AA: So, you know, those who arrived here ten or fifteen years ago faced certain issues. Now because, well, from what you’ve told me, especially among the Latinos, a lot of them are families, so they had a support network, an informal but automatic support network there. The new ones that are arriving, certain things have happened in Pelican. Number one, because there’s a lot more Latinos, number two just because cities change, and needs change. Are they facing different issues than you did when you arrived? MD: I think so. I think having a bigger, more stable, stronger Latino community than what we used to have back when, for example, when my parents came to Pelican, I think it has made a difference. I think the fact that there is a community, Latino community that is actually connected and willing to involve or become stronger or bigger allows anyone, really any Latino that comes to Pelican, to be easily to adapt to the city rather easily. AA: If a friend of yours from Uriangato or somebody that you met at Concordia but is now in Texas or somewhere, and they call and say, “You know, I’m thinking of moving up north somewhere, and I’m considering Pelican Rapids,” what would you tell them about Pelican Rapids? About the people, services like medical services, about the schools, about police. 34

MD: What I would tell them is that the people are very nice. Ah, the people like to see new faces. The people enjoy having new community members. I would also like to tell the person that there are plenty of activities for the family if there’s some family coming, or there’s plenty of quote/unquote “stuff” to do. Whether it’s at work, whether it’s during the summer, or whether it’s at school. I would also tell them that there is more than enough assistance given and that if required for a translator or for any type of that assistance, that it is available without a doubt. AA: Sure. MD: And that I would also tell them that there is, you know, crime, it’s not a problem in Pelican Rapids. Of course, just like any city, I believe, Pelican has its news, its negative news, right, where they talk about something negative that happened. But, overall, I strongly believe that the city of Pelican Rapids is a very calm, a crime-less city. AA: Have you always felt that way about Pelican? Or has it changed over the years? MD: It’s changed. It has changed, yes. It has changed in that the events that would happen in Pelican Rapids are not as many events or news. We don’t hear a lot of news in Pelican Rapids. And many times, no news is good news. AA: [Chuckles] MD: Hmmm, but it has changed. It has definitely changed. For example, not all the time did all the communities from different countries got along. And it wasn’t necessarily the family, the parents, but it was the children, the kids, right. But I think the reason for that is because the community itself, the Pelican Rapids community was not as strong as it is right now. Back when I came to Pelican Rapids, I know that we, the Mexicans and the Latino community, the Mexicans would actually have its own group at school where they would hang out, play soccer, do whatever, but it was not common to include others from other cultures. And in fact, many times during my first year, if I recall correctly, which was my last year at elementary school, Mexicans and Bosnians, for example, would fight. AA: I see. MD: For whatever reason, whether it was, you know, because we didn’t quote/unquote “like” each other or we just didn’t hang out with each other. And it created that barrier right there. But with time and the fact that both communities, just giving an example, Mexicans and Bosnians, for example, that they had to live together. AA: Sure MD: Eventually, instead being quote/unquote “forced” to live with the other culture, they engaged and they assimilated to be part of that community, bigger community. And that’s why I believe that today the community of Pelican Rapids is a stronger community where you have


different cultures, different ethnicities, but that they all work together, that they all get along together, and that they participate in different activities together. AA: Now just recently, more specifically last summer, you moved and bought a home in Moorhead. So let’s say that you didn’t go back to Pelican Rapids for five or ten years, although it’s close by, but let’s say you didn’t. So now you go back. And how do you describe Pelican Rapids in five or ten years? MD: I want to say, that due to the system that the Pelican Rapids community has in that the system it wants more cultural differences, yet they want to include all of the different cultures. I want to say that I want to see Pelican in five or ten years have more, for example, organizations that assist each or certain cultures, specific groups like the, for example, Latino groups. I also want to see more minorities or Latinos, if I want to be specific, take on other roles such as, you know, school teachers, for example, I also want to see Latinos have their own businesses! AA: Yes. MD: Improve the economy of Pelican Rapids. Because that’s essentially what is allowing the Pelican Rapids community to keep moving forward is that with the diversity that it has, it’s actually moving forward. AA: Sure. MD: It’s allowing not only different cultures from other countries to assimilate, to help, to be part of the community, but also the people from Pelican Rapids that are from here, it’s allowing them to be more diversified. AA: Okay. MD: And so that’s what I want to see. AA: So the diversity; you’re saying that diversity it was giving Pelican strength? MD: I think so. AA: Okay. Well, do you? Is there anything else you would want to add that we have not talked about, about Latinos in Pelican Rapids, and the history of Latinos in Pelican Rapids? MD: [Pauses] I guess what I want to end with is that the Latinos in Pelican Rapids have definitely changed Pelican Rapids. I believe that the Latinos have done a lot for the community, but I also believe that the Pelican Rapids community itself has given a lot to the Latinos. And so this mutual effect is allowing the Pelican Rapids community to once again continue to become more vivid, more satisfying, for any type of individual who comes and lives in Pelican Rapids. AA: You know, actually, there’s a question that I wanted to ask you from the very beginning, and I kept putting it off and I almost forgot. Do you know when families began; Latino families 36

began to move into Pelican Rapids that started to settle, rather than just coming and working, and go back home? MD: [Sighs] That that would take me I know that my dad used to have conversations with older, I guess, Latinos from Pelican. And from what I recall, there were the people from Texas, what they consider as Texans. That people from Texas were the ones who, it’s my understanding, would come and go. Ah, work for a little bit and then go back to Texas. In fact, the company where they, where the Latinos, most of the Latinos currently work, I used to work there for a summer. And I know I had a conversation with one of the company managers who were part of the management there. And they did also offer housing for people from Texas. AA: Okay. MD: So that’s how they used to recruit them. And if I’m not mistaken, that’s how the Latino community started moving here, because they were being recruited from Texas. They would be here for the summer and when it started snowing, when the cold started coming, then they would run. [Chuckles] They would go back to Texas. AA: [Chuckles] MD: And that’s my understanding is that that’s how the Latinos from Texas or actually, the Texans started adapting and wanting to live here. I know that my dad, the second house that we lived in, there was a person from Texas. This person actually had lived there for many, many years. And I know that he shared his story with my dad and my dad shared it with us. And he would tell my dad that when he was there, there wasn’t anyone else living there but him, he and his family. So I think it all started, my understanding is that it all started from people coming from Texas as seasonal workers and then eventually becoming more permanent workers for the company. AA: Do you know what years? MD: [Sighs] It must have been, I would say between twenty-five to thirty years ago. AA: Okay. So in the 1980s? MD: Correct. Yes. AA: Well, Miguel, thank you very much. I appreciate the time for an interview. Good information. Thank you! MD: Thank you very much.