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Interview with Leonard Lopez

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Leonard Lopez was born in Bass City, Kansas, on Jan. 24, 1921, and moved to St. Paul in 1933. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and joined the St. Paul Police Department in 1949. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Childhood - work in beet fields - service in World War II - his Spanish and Indian ancestry - his career as a police officer - and his family and marriage.

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/ / ' J

Transcript of an Oral History Interview with Leonard Lopez August 4, 1975 Interviewer: Grant A. Moosbrugger

This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota.
,

Leonara Lopez was raised as an only child by his mother, after his father died when he was eight years old. of the depression. Together they struggled through the years

In 1942, Leonard had completed the training and obtained Working as a police officer and part time hairdresser,

a hairdresser's license.

Leonard has managed to provide his family and loved ones with a good life in which they could enjoy the security and opportunities he never knew, due to the difficult
t~mes

of his childhood.

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. The original tape recording is avail-

able in the Audio-visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH LEONARD LOPEZ August 4, 1976 Interviewer: MOOSBRUGGER: Grant A. Moosbrugger

This is Grant A. Moosbrugger interviewing Officer Leonard Lopez, at the West Side precinct. Today is August 4, 1975. Do I have your

permission to record your history for the Minnesota Historical Society's Mexican American Hisuory Project? LOPEZ: MOOSBRUGGER: Yes, you have, Grant. Thank you. Can you start by telling us who you are, where you were

born, when you were born, and some of your background? LOPEZ: I am employed with the city of St. Paul. I have been a police officer I went to grade

for 26 years and I have been in St. Paul since 1933.

school in St. Paul from ijovember to April, and them from April to November we were migrant workers in the western part of the state, Hector, Bird Island, Stewart, Lake Lillian, Olivia,Dand Brownsville. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: Where were you born? I was born in Bass City, Kansas 'on January 24, 1921. old.
MOO~BRUGGER:

I am 54 years

Do you have any older brothers and sisters? No, no older brothers or sisters. eight years old. My dad died when I was seven or She must have

LOPEZ:

I did have a sister, but she died.

been about two or three months old when she died. or so after she was born. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: So now there is only your mother' and you? My mother and I, yes. reno MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ:

I was born a year

Then, 6f course, my children and my grandchild-

Was there anyone besides you and your mom that was working out state? Well, yes, an uncle. In 1929, my dad died, I was eight years old.

My mom and I went to live with my grandparents, who were my mother's

-2-

LOPEZ:

father and mother.

In 1932, during the depression, my grandfather We came up north

was laid off from the railroad in Horton, Kansas. in 1933 and we stayed with my grandfather. was Martinez. Lillian.

My mother's maiden name

We worked in the sugar beet fields in 1933 in Lake

In the winter we would come to St. Paul and go on Welfare. If there was no I'd

Of course, that was pretty common in those days. work, you had to go on Welfare.

I was only twelve years old. In April we would go back

go to school from November to April.

to the farm and the next year we would probably go to Bird Island. Every year we would be at a different place, wherever we worked as migrants. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: What school did Franklin.
you~~80

to in St. Paul? Then I went

The old Franklin down on 10th and Wacouta.

to Mechanic Arts High School from November to April. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: How old were you when you stopped going to work in the fields? The last year was in 1939. the heck is the use? I dropped 9ut of school. I figured, "What In those

You can't go to school really, so ••• "

days there were a lot of drop-outs.

I went to work and I saved enough I got a barber's license

money to take a barbers course in 1939-1940. and a hairdresser's license in 1942. I was married in July of 1942. Marine Corps.

That is the year I got married.

In October of 1942, I went in the My wife and I went tp high

I was gone for four years.

school together. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: What was your wife's maiden name? Granger. That's of English descent. Our first girl was born in Jannow~

uary of 1944.

She is thirty-one years old

Gee, no wonder my

wife is getting old! I_I started in the police department in July of 1949. My second daughter was born in June of 1951. They are both

-3-

LOPEZ:

married and have their own families. east and she has three children. little boy.

One of my daughters is out

The one whe lives here has one

Her married name is Anderson now, and my grandson is Then we have a boy who's twelve

a little red-head with blue eyes.

He is an adopted son, a little Mexican boy who we adopted when he was a week old, in 1962. We have had him since he was a week old, but it took three or four months to have papers written out by the attorney and through the court. of 1963. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: Was he born in this country? Yes, he was born here. He was born in St. Paul. He
k~9WS

Legally we adopted him in January

that he and

is adopted and everything is fine. he is going to be
~n

He goes to private

~chool
• 1

the eighth grade now.

We plan on sending him That is why

to the Concordia Academy when he goes to high school.

I want to stay at my job for at least another five years, untill:he gets out of high school. After he finishes high school, we will Well, that's about the extent of

see what happens about college. it. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ:

I have been on the job since 1949.

What moved you towards police work? Security, and the fact that I was an MP while I was in the Marine Corps. Also, maybe because it was a different type of work, a little It isn't like regular routine office work or barber I'm doing barbering work at I

excitement. work.

I could never stand barbering.

an average of twelve hours a week, and that's part time work.

work from 4:30 to 8:30 three times a week, but I wouldn't want tp do that eight hours a day. MOOSBRUGGER: I'm sure it's been working out fine. Len, I know that you have had

interest in taking time to do some reaRing about Mexico and about

-4MOOSBRUGGER: some of the history as it relates to your ancestry. Do you

want to tell us a little bit about some of the things you discovered? LOPEZ: I would like to trace the ancestry of 9un family. know I come from the "Tarhumara Indian." MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: How would you spell that? T-a-r-h-u-m-a-r-a. That's on my father's side, Lopez. They were born in Mexico. His I don't He As far as I

name was Crisencio Lopez.

remember exactly what part of Mexico.

He was born in 1870.

married my grandma who's name was Loreto Francoso. were Spanish.

Her parents

Her grandparents came.right from Spain, back in My grandfather's parents worked on That is where he met my grandThey were about sixteen

1840, 1841, 1835, perhaps.

the hacienda for the Francosos. mother.

They were married in 1887.

or seventeen years old. they were married.

Theyycame to the United States after

When they came to the United States, they

came to Dodge City, Kansas. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: Is this when they were about sixteen years old? Yes, they were about sixteen or seventeen years old. back in 1887. That was

From there they moved to New Mexico, Arizona, During all this time They settled in

Texas, and as far west as California.

they had, well, they had children on the way. Dodge City in 1903. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: Dodge City, Kansas? Dodge City, Kansas in 1903.

They both died in Dodge City.

My They

grandma died in 1956 or 1957, and my grandpa died in 1959. had thirteen children. in Dodge City.

My grandpa worked for the Miller Ranch

It was one of the biggest ranches in Kansas at

-5-

LOPEZ:

the time. Dodge City.

Inifact, there is a school named "Miller" in It was named after the Miller family who my And the funny part, Grandpa used to say

grandpa worked for.

that when he started working for Miiier, Miller told him, "Why don't you go down to the south part of the ranch and build yourself a,.home and raise yourself a family?" Grandpa did. He had thirteen kids. And

My mother and father were

married in Dodge City.

I think they were married in 1918. My mother's side

That's on my father's side of the family.

of the family comes from the Azteca Indian tribe and perhaps they had a little Spanish in them, tool But I figure I have

at least 3/4 Indian blood in me and 1/4 Spanish which, of course, makes me a Mestizo. At the time of Cortez, in 1519, Nine months after they arrived
women'~there,

they called Mexico "New Spain".

there they started having children with the Indian so, they had to name the country allover. the name Mexico came from, the word Mestizo. I'm of mixed blood, you know. doesn't it? It seems that way.

So, that's where This means that

Sounds kind of logical, too,

In the book written by Sernardo Castillo, the "conquistador" with Cortez back in 1519, there was a Martin Lopez who came with Cortez. He was a carpenter. That's the first place In fact, Lopez

that I canppick up the name Lopez in Mexico.

was the one who built those sloops in order to defeat the Aztec empire. island. At the time Mexico, "Tenochit1an", was on an

The only way you could get there was by canoe, boats At

that the Indians had to communicate from the mainland.

-6-

LOPEZ:

that time it was, of course, Tenochitlan.

Lopez was the carThey were

penter in charge of building these thirteen sloops.

bigger than the canoes and they would ram into those canoes. They were navigated by the Aztec Indians. AccorHing to Bernar-

do, that's the way that Cortez finally defeated the Aztecs. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: It was due, in part, to the boats that they had? Yes. The sloops are bigger than the regular canoes. They

would ram the sloops into the canoes.

Of course, they had

the animals and the horses, but they were never seen by the Aztec Indians or the Indians who they encountered first in Vera Cruz. As they came toward Mexico City they encountered As they went along, they migrated. Cortez

the other tribes.

conned these Indians to come along with him because at the time they were dominated by the Aztec empire. They were highly taxThey figured that

ed by the Aztecs and so they wanted revenge.

Cortez was their leader and they joined Cortez to get to the Aztecs.
thirty~

Consequently, this is how Cortez had managed to recruit forty-thousand Indians to fight for him against Montezuma. But now,

That's the first time I came across the name Lopez.

whether that was related to the Lopez or not, I don't know for sure, but I had to start somewhere. MOOSBRUGGER: At least we know that there were Lopez' in Mexico dating back to the time of Cortez. LOPEZ: That's right. Then, of course, Grandpa Martinez, who was my He's the one

mother's father, his name was Manuel Martinez.

that comes from the Aztec Indian tribe and he also came to America back in the 1880's or 1890. They also settled in Kansas,

-7LOPEZ: in Dodge City. Some of the kids were born there and some of the

kids were born in Arizona. MOOSBRUGGER: Did the Martinez side of the family mostly stay around the Southwest? LOPEZ: No, they all migrated to Minnesota during the depression. Lopez' went from Dodge City to the hot cities of Illinois. were in Rock Island, Walline, and Silvis. of the Lopez' lived. The We

This is where most My
~ncle,

They still live there.

my father's

brothers and sisters and their families, are all in Rock Island. We have a family reunion every couple of years in Rock Island, Illinois. That's where my ancestry comes from. The two Indian

tribes, and my grandma being Spanish. MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: MOOSBRUGGER: LOPEZ: The influence also, then, ~ Spain? Yes. I guess that's it. Thank you very much for the interview.

You·'.re welcome, Grant.