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Interview with Sebastian R. Jara

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Sebastian Ramon Jara was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, in 1906 and immigrated to Texas a year later with his mother. He spent his next seventeen years on a ranch, "Los Quinientos Acres," near Edinburgh, Texas. He and his mother left the ranch after a feud, and he worked as a chauffeur in Edinburgh for some time. After another controversy, they ended up in North Dakota, where Sebastian Jara worked the beet fields for one year and later worked in a mill. Next they came to St

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TRANSCRIPT OF AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH SEBASTIAN RAMON JARA

This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Sebastian Ramon Jara, was born in 1906 in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. youth, from ages one to eighteen, on a ranch in Texas. ranch after a feud. He spent his

He and his mother left the

He worked as a chauffer in Edinburgh, Texas, until another disaHe worked in North Dakota for a

greement forced Sebastian and his mother to leave. year; in the beets and at a mill. stopped in St. Paul.

On their way back to Texas, Sebastian and his mother

His mother liked St. Paul so much, they decided to remain here.
marrj~ge

Mrp. Jara discusses his family history, the various jobs he has hald, his children, personal experiences with the Anahuac Society and the church. some of his own philosophy and advice to the younger generation. This is a translation of a tape recorded interview in Spanish.

and

He closes with

The original tape re-

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

INTERVIEW WITH SEBASTIAN RAMON JARA AUGUST 8, 1975 INTERVIEWER: VICTOR BARELA

Barela:

This interview is with, Mr. Sebastian Ramon Jara, who lives at 1213 Bradley, St. Paul, Minnesota. This interview is taking place at the State Historical We appreciate your giving us this inter-

Society, the date is August 8, 1975. view. tape. Jara:

To make this interview legal, I must ask for your permission to do this I will start by asking for your full name. I have a son who is named after me, so I sign my name

Sebastian Ramon Jara. Sebastian R. Jara.

I am retired and I used to work for the railroad.

Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara:

Where were you born, Mr. Jara? I was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, in 1906. What date? February 29, 1906. So, my birthday is every four years. But I think, with

all the confusion that leap year causes, I was registered as being born on the 28th of February. Barela: Jara: Are you registered in Monterrey? I don't really know, because I had lawyers looking for my birth certificate and they never could come up with it. I have heard that during the Mexican

Revolution, the building where the birth certificates were, was burned down. Then I went to Mexico City to see if they had a record of my birth there, but there wasn't any record. I finally had to ask my mother, she was living here She gave me my life history; telling me I was raised

in St. Paul until her death in 1934.

who my father was, where I was born and all the other facts.

from the age of one year, until 1924, in a place called "Los Quinientos Acres" in Edinburgh, Texas. In 1924, we came up north. I didn't have a father.
,

When I came up here, I didn't know any English.

I had gone to private school

-2-

Jara:

in Edinburgh, Texas.

After learning Latin, I was transfer to study in Spanish, My mother took me out She

which wasn't difficult for me, until the sixth grade.

of school because she said that the information I knew was sufficient.

never gave me the opportunity to learn English because she had sworn, that during her lifetime, she would never change her feelings about white people. She didn't like them at all. Barela: Jara: My mother was a Tarascan Indian.

Can you tell me something about your parents?

My father was born in Los Angeles, California.

He was also raised there and They were mar-

later in his life, he went to Mexico, where he met my mother. ried in Mexico and then my father was killed. mother did not know what to do.

After my father's death, my

A man told her that he would bring her and He took us to a place close to

me to the United States, and he did. Brownsville, or Corpus Christi, Texas. Barela: Jara: Where was your mother born?

In Ario de Rosales, a small town in Michoacan. sent me there to visit her relatives. customs were very different. communicate.

I remember that one time she

I didn't like it at all because their

Also, they only spoke in Tarascan, so we couldn't

Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Barela:

What was your mother's name? Her name was Luz Jara. What was your father's name? Avaristo Jara. What was your mother's maiden name? Ibarra. Do you remember your childhood in Mexico? No, I was just a year old when we left Mexico in 1907. Then you were raised in Texas. young man? Where did you spend most of your life as a

-3-

Jara: Barela: Jara:

On the ranch, about ten miles from Edinburgh, Texas. Do you remember your life as a young man in Texas? Life was very rough because we were isolated from the rest of the world. didn't go to school until I was about eight years old. I

During my childhood

and throughout my life, I wrote a diary which I hoped would someday be published. I left this diary with a friend when I went into the service. When

I returned, it had been destroyed.

I have tried to remember as much as I can, I am even for-

but you know how easy it is to forget very important things.

getting what little I knew of the Tarascan language; I haven't spoken it since 1934. Barela: Jara: Do you remember your mother? Of course I do. I supported her until she died. Now I am almost 70. I was about nineteen years When I came here, my inten-

old when I came to St. Paul.

tions were to educate myself some more, to get to know the people around here, and find a life better than just working in the beet fields. to work in the beet fields at all. Barela Jara:
~

I didn't like

Did your mother live with your step-father and you? Yes, until there
w~s

some sort' of feud, which I never knew what it was about. I worked for John Sims, a very wealthy His

Then my mother and I went to Edinburgh. Texan.

I was his private chauffeur, until another incident occurred.

family was having a feud with a very wealthy Mexican family. having fathered a girl's child.

I was accused of

My mother asked me if I was sure I wasn't Then we left as quickly as we could

responsible, and I told her that I wasn't. and wound up in North Dakota. Barela: Jara: Did you travel by train? Yes.

My mother had signed a contract so that we could work in the beet fields.

I forced myself to work there for that one year, but I didn't like it at all. I wanted to receive more education, like I mentioned before. Since I had to

-4Jara: Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: take care of my mother, I was never able to do so. Do you remember when your mother was born? Well, according to the date on her grave, she was born in 1850. So your mother was pretty old when she died? Oh, yes. She gave birth to me when she was in her fifties, that is what I

heard, in those days a young boy didn't talk to his parents about such things. Anyway, I decided that I was going to find a job that I wanted. There were a I

lot of people who were interpreters for me when I was looking for a job. found a job with the packing company, the railroad and others.

In those times,

there were a lot of jobs available than, and there are still jobs now, except now people are lazy. Barela: When you came to North Dakota, did you come straight through or did you make some stops? Jara: We came straight from Texas to Aminia, North Dakota. year. Life was pretty good to us. We stayed there for a

I worked at a mill and the people there

were very kind to me.

After seeing that I could make it on my own, I told my I said that we could go back to

mother that it was time for us to move on. Texas.

In a small town in North Jakota called Ke1sington, North Dakota, I It was a Model T Ford and it cost me about $600. Then we came

bought a car. to St. Paul. Barela: Jara:

So you didn't return to Texas as you had planned? We were going back to Texas, but we didn't make it. you. Let me tell the story to

While we were here, I would take my mother out to the lakes and as many When the date to go back to Texas got closer, my mother I

places as I could.

told me that she really liked the city and that she would like to die here. told her that I didn't know any English and that it was going to be very difficult for me here, but seeing that she really wanted to remain
h~re,

I decided We

that I was going to do my best to learn the language and get a good job.

-5Jara: went to the YMCA and both of us learned English. I. This was in 1928 Or 1929. She learned it faster than

I didn't like it at the Y too much, because This I have never liked, because I feel Each

there was a lot of discrimination.

we are all equal and that we are all sons of God or sons of the devil. one of us is destined for one thing.

Some of us are poor and others are rich.

Then I decided that I wanted to see what the Anahuac Society did as far as regulations and what the organization was all about. I really liked it and

the fact that it was recognized by the State of Minnesota made me like it even more. I think that it was in 1927 or 1928, when I decided that I wanted to

make things better not· only for me, but also for my mother. Barela: You were very young when you did all this. who were the members of the society? Jara: Mr. Agustin Rodriguez, who is my compadre, and others that are still living. By being a member of this society, I was able to meet people of La Raza. 1928, there was an argument in the Neighborhood House. speech and it took me about two months to do so. otic feast. In Do you remember who the people or

I had to memorize a

This speech was for a patriA

Well, at that time I was an honor guard for the speakers.

young man was going to be presented with some honors. to me and told me that he didn't care for such a thing. I didn't even give my speech.

This young man came up I got so upset that

I swore that I would never again get involved I get letters to partici-

with that society or with any other, I never did!

pate in the different organizations for senior citizens, but I will not take part in anything. At about this same time the church was being organized. I spoke

We rented a hall for ten dollars a month to have our church there. to several people about becoming members. to see if they would help us, and they did. our church I used to help him during Mass.

Then I went to St. Thomas College When the first priest came to Then came Father Dicks. He even I got

into an argument with him and he threw me out of the church.

-6Jara: excommunicated me. Our argument started because I told hilim that all these

religious people, like priests, thought they were the only ones who could read the Scriptures. Then I said other things which I shouldn't have said. What

he said to me made my blood boil, that was in 1932. mained in the church for one more year.

Both my mother and I re-

I remember that I used to say to my-

self, "I have done so much to get the church started and on the go, and this is how I am repaid." Then I started thinking that it was about time that I I also thought that I'd like to know more about

found a woman and got married.

getting other priests that understood the Mexicans better, than the one that came to say Mass for us. We had something like a church at mr home. A priest

from St. Thomas would come every Sunday to say Mass, hear confession and give communion. Meanwhile I still helped out at the other church. After I was

excommunicated, I went to all the churches of all denominations to see what their beliefs were. I wanted to find a church because I expected to get marFinally, I

ried and I wanted to give some religious guidance to my children. came upon a Baptist Church that is located on 9th and Wacouta. it, and I am still a member of it now. children were baptized there. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Whom did you marry? Balbina Jara. What was her maiden name? Estrada.

I really liked

I was married in that church and my

She was born in Granada, Minnesota and was raised by her grandparents.

She was born in 1925. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Barela: She is not from Mexico?
No.

Is her family from Mexico? Part of her family is. Where did you meet your wife?

-7Jara: Barela: Jara: At the church. What is the name of the church? First Baptist Church. large organization. members. Barela: Jara: What are the names of your children? The oldest is David. thirty. He is thirty-two years old. Then Sebastian, who is Lastly, Pablo, who I am a member of the American Baptist, which is a very I believe that it has between twenty and thirty thousand

Rachel is next and she is twenty-seven years old.

is twenty-five. Barela: Jara: Barela: What year did you join the Baptist Church? I beieve somewhere around 1929 or 1930. Did you look for this church for a long time after you had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church? Jara: I think that it took me about two years to find this one. I really liked it. The

I went to a church for one year and that is how I got to know Christ. people from that church sent me to this one, which I liked. Barela: Jara: Did you get married after that? I married my wife one year later.

I had been living with a woman before I met It was because of this that I had

my wife and this woman became pregnant. problems with the church.

I had to wait until this child was born before I David was the child

could get into this church and come in with a clean record. born of this woman. the office of Deacon.
As

Up to now, I am still a

membe~

of that church and I hold

far as work is concerned, I worked for packing companies and the railroad.

When I returned from the army, I worked for Horsack's Iron, Incorporated, where I made molds. This corporation does not exist anymore. A short time after I

started working there, I began losing my vision.

This was because I didn't use I quit as soon as

my goggles and all the machinery started affecting my eyes.

-8-

Jara:

this began to happen and I went to work for the railroad. into the locomotives.

There I put fire

Barela: Jara:

When you first came to St. Paul, where did you work? For the first year and a half that we ::were here, we were supported by a Jew, who used to sell fruit. for them. His las name was Seduay. Mother used to keep house

After I had been working for the railroad for thirteen years, I I worked for the

accepted the job the church had offered me as janitor. church for thirteen years as relief man.

It was very easy to get the job beI still

cause I had the license of a maintenance engineer from the railroad. have this license. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: When did you serve in the army? I was drafted in 1940. Where did they send you? I went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Not the prison, the fort. I was sent to school to learn English.

Then I was

asked if I wanted to enlist and I said no, so I was sent back here as a 4F. My first child was born then and another one was on the way. I went to work This time

for the packing company and from there, the army called me again. I went to basic training. Barela: Jara: Where did you receive your basic training? I went to Camp Hood, Texas. was in Africa. Then I went overseas.

The first place we landed

We couldn't get in through there so we had to enter through We went to Sicily and then to a big seaport in Italy.

the:. mediterranean. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara:

Did you return from the army in 1943? I was discharged on December 20, 1945. Did you work at the packing company when you returned from the army? No. I lost my discharge papers after I got out of the army and no one would I had to wait for seven months

hire anyone unless he had his discharge papers. until I finally received my new ones.

-9Barela: Jara: Where did you work when you finally got your papers? For those seven months when I didn't have my papers, I sold junk from the junkyard. I had to work because I already had two sons. Then after I got my papers, Then I went

I began to work for the Horsack's Ir0n, Incorporated, as a welder. to work for the railroad. Barela: Jara: For how long did you work at the railroad company? For thirteen years, and then I worked as a janitor for the church. the last job I had. Barela: Jara: Then I retired.

That was

Did you and your mother come to St. Paul to work in the beet fields? No, it wast1for the agriculture. Like I said before, I only worked in the beet For the years after that, I

fields for one year because I didn't like it. found other ways to make a living. Barela: Jara: Why did you choose to come to St. Paul? My mother chose it.

She really liked it and she said that she wanted to spend After my mother died, my brothers and sisters Ever

the rest of her life here.

wanted me to go back with them, but I told them that I didn't want to. since then, I have never been in contact with them. Barela:

When you and your mother were first looking around the iity, was the Mexican community, the West Side, already established?

Jara: Barela Jara: Barela: Jara:

Yes, it was already established. Who was the first person you met? Alfonso Galvan. Did you rent a house or buy one? We rented one. We lived on Chicago Avenue first, and then Indiana Avenue. I

didn't like the people or the customs that they had when we lived on Indiana Avenue. I became isolated from everyone. Then I rented a house on Mounds We had the church, or

Boulevard.

We lived there and on Mounds and Fifth.

-10Jara: the services like I told you be'fore, in our house. After my mother died, the

people of the church started talking about me, saying that I was committing adultry. That was when Father Dicks and I said a lot of things which neither

of us should have said. Barela: Jara: Did you participate in the patriotic feasts on the West Side? Yes, for one year. House. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Was this with the Anahuac Society? Of course. So then you got away from the church and settled on your own beliefs? Yes, and I still do. Did your family get educated here in St. Paul? My wife was in school here. I married her when she was very young. Right now, I was a shepherd in a "Pastorela" at the Neighborhood

she is only fifty years old, and I am going to be seventy. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Were your children educated here in St. Paul? Yes, all of them. What schools did they attend? Lincoln was the first school that they attended and they graduated from Johnson High School. Barela: Jara: Did your children do well in school? Yes, they all did well. I used to drive myself like a slave so that I could I was very happy that all

support all four of them, and my wife and myself. of them had finished high school. to the University. go.

Then I asked them if they wanted to go on

I told them that I would pay their way if they wanted to The eldest one

I wanted them to have the opportunity that I didn't have.

said that he didn't want to go. year.

The next one did, but he only went for one

Then he found himself a girlfriend and colleged ended and they got

married.

-11Barela: Did you ever feel like going back to the community and your friends after you isolated yourself from them? Jara: No, I never went to see my friends, but I ,always hoped that one of them would be interested in knowing more about the Raza and Mexico. night school, I had a lot of problems, so I quit. When I went to attend

I said to myself, "1'11 find
And that is

and make my own life and I won't have any problems with the law." the way i t was. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Did you ever visit any: friends on. the West Side during this time? After I left the West Side, I never went back again. Did you have any conflicts? Very much.

My intentions were very different, but in those times there wasn't
I

anyone who attempted to help me. just got away from everything. Barela:

was supporting my mother at the time so I

Do you maintain Mexican customs with your family? any of the patriotic feasts?

For example, do you attend

Jara: Barela: Jara:

No. Do your children speak Spanish? Yes, they understand it and speak it. demanded of my children. know two languages. That was one one of the things that I

I would tell them that they would be very proud to

Barela: Jara:

What about the foods? We eat Mexican food. (pepper) • My wife makes me tortillas and I like to eat chile

Barela: Jara:

So then, you haven't lost the cultural and traditions? No, it still exists. I do respect all the festivities and all of us have to

respect each other, so that we can help each other. Would you believe that in the fifty years that I have been here, I never did go to school to learn English? My mother said to me, "I will not put you in a

-12Jara: school here to learn English so that you will never learn to bark like a dog. All the Anglos take advantage of us." That was the hatred that she felt.

Probably I have that hatred too, but I have never discovered it. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: Your mother had bad experiences with the Anglos? Yes. What part of your philosophy has affected your personal life the most? Since I am a very religious man, the church has had a lot of influence on me. My mother was not a Roman Catholic, she was an Orthodox. exists in Mexico. That religion still I was

But on Sunday, it was a must that I go to church.

twenty-nine years old and my mother slapped me because I was parting from many old traditions and beginning my own beliefs. before I was old. Barela: Jara: What advice would you give the younger generation on how to lead a good life? It all depends on their way of life. have got to be stopped, if possible. If they are going the wrong route, they I would try to tell them my experiences. The experience that I I developed these beliefs way

I had no school, no society and no one to support me. have, I got on my own. ,)

While I was working at the church, many young girls

and boys, about seventeen years old, would come and ask me if I could teach them Spanish. That was my obligation. It was like Benito Juarez said, "El (When you respect others, you have peace).

respecto 8.1 derechQ aj eno es la paz." I like to read a lot.

In 1946 or 1947, the church had an open house in the I prepared a speech

Minneapolis Auditorium and I took my sons and daughter. in Spanish, and my children sang hymns in Spanish. the church that I attend.

They were all baptized in

While I was giving ,my speech in English, I, all of

a sudden began to speak in Spanish, and had to continue doing so because I just about forgot all the English I knew. laugh. Everyone in the audience began to

While this was happening, I prayed to God to forgive them for not I finish my speech

knowing that I had a differnt native tongue than they did.

-13Jara: anyway. When I met with a group of people from the church, I a'sked them if

there was ever another speech for me to say, if I could say it in Spanish? They said that of course I could. in Spanish. Barela: Jara: Barela: Jara: What advice would you have for me? It would depend on what you would like to know. Advice to live happily. Find your own happiness and the happiness of those around you. anyone, no matter what race they are. Be active and be frank. Don't criticize Your happiness Vp to now, all my speeches have been said

not only comes from what you do, but also from God.

Christ himself said, "Come If one confides Have

to me if you are tired and I will show you how to be rested;"

in God through Christ and the priest, everything will turn out all right. faith, hope and confidence. them.

If any of your friends give you problems, ignore This is what I have always been looking for.

You look for your future.

I always ask God to help me guard against blasphemy toward him and the hatred for my people. I always had my children with me until they got married. ) I always told my wife

the first' thing we have got to do is to have harmony at home, with your neighbors and others. If ever there are any problems with neighbors, ignore them. I will never
forge~

Have faith in God because he will always look after you.

what my step-father said to me, "Son, when you are a grown man, never play with money, because money never stays in your pocket, it is always spent. play with fire, because one day you will get burned. because women are firm believers of vengeance. venge." Never

Don't play with women,

And a woman will get her re-

These are a lot of the things I can talk about because of experience. God has always blessed my eldest son. Ever since he got

There are many more.

married, I told him, "You are going to be responsible for this woman, don't treat h,er as your slave, she will be your companion." I spent two hours in the

-14Jara: Barela: basement of the church telling him all this just before he got married. Mr. Jara, we would like to thank you very much for your kindness in permitting us to have this interview.