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Interview with Leo Castillo




Leo Castillo was born in Venadito, Texas, on Aug. 19, 1945. He left Texas in May of 1964 to work in Nebraska and Minnesota. He worked in Minnesota and returned to Texas annually until 1968, and in 1969 he became a welder and lived in Litchfield to the time of the interview. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Work experience, including field work, self-employment as a trucker, and welding - social gatherings - and plans for the future. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: In Spanish, transcribed into English.





World Region




This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Mr. Leo Castillo was born in Venadito, Texas, August 19, 1945. discusses his experiences as a field worker, truck driver, and welder. He He

also tells how he decided to settle in Litchfield in 1969 and outlines his future hopes. Mr. Castillo talks about how the Mexican American holidays used

to be celebrated in Brownton, where they can get Mexican food and finally, the Eagles Club. This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview, edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. able in the

The original tape recording is avail-

Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH LEO CASTILLO July 2, 1976 Interviewer: SAUCEDO: Ramedo Saucedo

This is an interview with Leo Castillo, on July 2, 1976, for the Minnesota Historical Society. this interview? Do we have your permission to tape


Yes, you do. What is your name and where were you born? I was born in Venadito, Texas. What year were you born? In 1945, on August nineteenth. What were your parents' names? Silvestre Castillo, and my mother's name is Felipa Garcia Castilla. Where were your parents born? My father was born in Santa Librada, Tamaulipas. born in La Rosita, Tamaulipas. My mother was My name is Leo Vigildo Castillo.


Did you study in Texas? Yes. I went for a few years, because there were younger children My father was still in Mexico, until 1961, when he My older sister and I had to leave school to help my

in the family. crossed over.

mother work, so the younger children could go to school. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: How many children are in your family? There are six children in our family. Where did you start working? We worked in Venadito for Mr. Jose Geruza. the Peace" there. SAUCEDO: What kind of jobs did you do? He was the "Justice of

-2CASTILLO: We picked and cleaned cotton, cut squash, picked tomatoes, and cut bamboo. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SMCEDO: CASTILLO: You and your brothers? My oldest sister and my mother. What year did you leave Texas? We left the state of Texas in May of 1964. With your parents? Yes. Was this the first time you left Texas? It was the first time. pick cotton. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: In 1964, what state did you go to? To Nebraska, to work in the beet fields. Did you return to Texas after the beet work? No. From the state of Nebraska we were contracted.

Before, we used to go to West Texas to



It was for the "Mel Nigel Packing Companytl, packing

So you worked in Arlington with your parents? Yes, sir. Did your parents return to Texas? Yes. We returned to Texas the next season.

Was that in the summer? We returned again in the beginning of November, because when we finished the corncob work we went to Bird Island, to work for a man named Parks Dogger. He was a farmer who planted lots of beets. We had our own trucks. He

asked us to work for him.

He wanted us to

the beets to the dumping grounds, where they were put on trains

to Chaska.



So when did you decide to stay here? Then I decided to stay.

CA,STILLO: .1 ca;me and went until 1968. SAUCEDO:

When you worked with your parents in the beet fields in Arlington, how· was your life?'


It wasn't a life of socialization. made a lot of money. money.

But we liKed it because we

We worked by contract, so we made enough They were almost ready

The houses weren't fit to live in.

to fall down.

One time my father said, "We came to work, not to When we make more money, we will be goThen we will rest in our own

live in anything classy.

ing home and it will be different. beds.

Here we sleep in what we can, because this is only temporary,

until we go home." SAlITCEDO: CASTILLO: How did the farmers treat you? Was there ever any injustice?

The first year,yyes, because there were some changes in worlisz returned home early. farmers.


There were some misunderstandings with the We were good

The next year, the man asked us to return.

workers, and he needed our help. last year. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: So from 1968 on, you stayed here?

We worked for him, until the

How did you decide to come to Litchfield? In 1969 I came to Litchfield. A man who worked for "Jenny-O",

which was "Farmer's Produce',"; would would go to Texas to contract people. He would tell them that "Farmer's Produce" had turkeys, He was a contractor.

gave you a place to stay, and paid so much. He went to Arlington once in 1967.

He told us that "Farmer's Pro-

duce" needed a lot of people, and that they wanted to hire Mexicans.


-4CASTILLO: If we wanted to go and see if we 1iRed the work, we could. But we
we~e m~k~ng

enough money


the corncobs.

It wasn't fit to

leave, because we had a contract to work. my

In 1969, I turned over

'I thought I would stop driving a truck day and night. He was the one He took me to the He asked

I went to Willmar and I looked for Mr. Nelson. who spoke to us in Arlington. office. I spoke to him.

He remembered that he spoke to me in Arlington.

me where I was coming from. Dogger, in Bird Island.

I told him that I worked for Parks

He said he knew Parks Dogger well because He sold the turkeys to Litchfield He sold all his

he had a lot of furkeys too.

and "Farmer's Produce", that's now "Jenny-O." turkeys to them. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: That's how I got my job.

What job do you do now? Now I am welding. When I started to work for this company, I started as a helper. When I went to look for a job, the superintendent He showed me all the Dobs, and I answered, "No, sir.

took me allover the whole company.

asked me if I knew how to do this or that. I never did that."

Then he would take me to another job, and ask I never saw any of the jobs they had be-

me the same questions.

cause I grew up on a farm. SAUCEDO: GASTILLO: They showed you how to weld there? The superintendent showed me how to weld on Saturdays. month, I went to him. After a

I told him I wanted to learn how to weld.

He said, "If you want to, you can come in on Sattl'Vday mornings and punch in. I'll show you how, because there is a lot of scrap I'll show you how to use the machinery."

metal you can use. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO:

What is the name of the company? The company lam working for now is "Ranky Sheet Metal."

-5SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: Are you happy there? Yes. Is it better work than truck-hauling? No. It's not better work. The reason why is that I turned over It was a 1961 Ford. They sent me to

my truck, and the truck really had been used. I started this job and I liked it, so I stayed.

Willmar a year ago, to Vocational School, to learn how to weld aluminum. I never saw it being done. Then the superintendent,

Bud Miller, said that if I wanted to go, they would pay

It would be of benefit to them, because they wanted to start making windows that go behind the house of the tractors. the "Cozy Cabs". That's where I work. What we use are

We make all the windows

that go in the back. SAUCEDO:

That's the job I do for them. Your desires for your

Could you tell me your plans for the future? family?


The only plans I had, were that I wanted to move to St. Paul.


friends told me that the pay was good, but that the rent was too high.

is better to live in the·country thaIl. in the city.

I changed I put

my mind, and I am going to live in Litchfield for a while.

in an application with the city a month ago, because they pay well. They have a good retirement plan. job and work for them. If they call me, I'll change my

I also have an application with "Johnson's They

Construction", right outside the city, on Highway 22 South. make railroads and they pay well. SAUCEDO:

What kind of celebrations do you have on the 15th and 16th of September, of the 5th of May?


We used to go to Brownton with Mr. Luis Campa. there called the Brownton Inn.

He had a restaurant

Now it's called the Red Pepper.

-6CASTILLO: When he had the Brownton Inn, we used to go every year for the 15th and 16th of September. danced until the next day. They had a guitar and a violin. We don't go anymore. We

The man who played

the violin, and his son, who played the guitar, don't come up here anymore. They stay in Kansas. Only when someone has a birthday do We drink beer and talk, or they tacos; tamales; and mole.

we get together and go to the lake.

come to my house and my wife makes food: We drink beer, dance SAUCEDO: CASTILLO:

talk to pass time.

Do they sell Mexican food here, in the stores? Yes. At the Super Value they sell a little, like Chile Jalapeno. tortillas, flour, and corn. We go once a We

Everything is in cans: month to St. Paul.

We buy cheese and things we can't get here.

get a lot so it will last. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: What organizations do you belong to? The only organization I belong to is the "Eagles Club". Why did you become a member of the "Eagles Club"? I used to go there with a lot of friends of mine, to drink and talk. One day, they started telling me about activities that they had, and what they did with their money. When they have dances, they give Now that I am a

money to the crippled children and the Red Cross. member, we have dances to help the poor people. SAUCEDO: CASTILLO: How do you get along with your neighbors?

We only have Americans for neighbors, because there are very few Mexicans living in town. I have always lived here, renting my house They have never made any faces at

and having American neighbors. me,or me at them. SAUCEDO:

Have you ever had difficulties renting a house in Litchfield?

-7CASTILLO: No. I never had any difficulties renting a house. They have al-

ways rented to me. man.

They have told me that they knew I was a good

I have never been late in paying my rent, and I am a good They always speak well of me. We are very grateful for

worker. SAUCEDO:

Thank you very much for this interview. this information.

Hopefully, this will be beneficial to the people We will send you

in the future who are going to listen to this.

a copy of the information, so that you will see what to collect. CAST[LLO: Many more thanks.