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Interview with Rudolph Saucedo Jr.

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Rudolph Saucedo, Jr., was born on the West Side of St. Paul in 1951. He was an active member of the Brown Berets, an organization of young Chicano men, from 1968 to 1973. He died in 1979. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: History, goals and activities of the Brown Berets - community feelings toward the group - police harassment and other problems encountered - leaders - and the group's future.

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TRANSCRIPT OF AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH RUDOLPH SAUCEDO, JR.

This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Rudy Saucedo, discusses the history of the Brown Berets: active from 1968 to 1973. from 12 to 27 years of age. ization. The Brown Berets were most

Its members were predominantly Mexican American, ranging They had fifty active members at the peak of their organMost of the members were

All of the members were from low income families.

known by the police and had been in reformatories. The Brown Berets tried to prevent juvenile delinquency and improve education, housing, recreation, unemployment, and welfare problems. They were involved with the Arts &

Crafts fair at the Neighborhood House, week-end camp-out trips for West Side children and Christmas parties at the Neighborhood House. The Brown Berets encountered some difficulties through their efforts. They were

thought of as a gang instead of a Civic Organization and consequently the community lacked respect for the Brown Berets. Police harassment was their major problem.

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

Audio-Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

(Rudolph Saucedo died 1979.)

INTERVIEW WITH RUDOLPH SAUCEDO, JR. AUGUST 9, 1976 INTERVIEWER: GRANT MOOSBRUGGER

Moosbrugger:

This is Grant Moosbrugger interviewing Mr. Rudy Saucedo, Jr. August 9, 1976, for the Mexican American History Project.

Today is

I am interDo

viewing him regarding the organization known as the Brown Berets. I have your permission to interview you for this history project? Saucedo: Moosbrugger: Saucedo: Yes, you do. Could you tell us your name and where and when you were born?

My name is Rudy Saucedo.
in 1951.

I was born here on the West Side of St. Paul

At the present time I am 25 years old.

Moosbrugger: Saucedo:

You are active in an organization known as the Brown Berets? Yes. Between the years, 1968 to 1973, the Brown Berets were most active

on the West Side of St. Paul. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: Was that a national organization? That's right. We weren't a national organization during those years. We didn't However,

We didn't know who belonged to the national organization. know who the members were.

We were asked to become members.

at the time, we felt that the national organization was dealing more at a national level. Where as we, on the West Side, had many problems

and felt that our local needs were overriding the national needs. Moosbrugger: Was this club made up of just Mexican American kids or were there other nationalities in it? Saucedo:
Y~s,

it was mostly comprised of Mexican American.

We did have a few

Indians and Whites. in the organization, but that's what made up the group.

-2-

Moosbrugger: Saucedo:

Mostly Mexican kids? Right. seven. Our youngest member Was twelve, our oldest member was twentyThe average member was about seventeen years old. Most of our

members were school-aged and were in school.

This is where we were The different schools

doing most of our recruiting, from the schools. in the West Side. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: How big did the organization get number wise?

We had approximately fifty active members at our peak. members known as associates.

We also had

These were members that advised us, and They were older Mexicans. People who did They

that worked with the school-aged kids.

were people we would get a lot of information from.

provide us with information, but did not want to become known as official members. Moosbrugger: What were some of the hopes and goals that your club tried to take care of? Saucedo: The needs that we wanted to stay in, were in five different areas. One

is to prevent juvenile delinquency, since most of our members had contact with the police department. Most of us had police records. We an-

wanted to find an alternative for the local youth to resort to. other area was education.

Since most of our members were on welfare or All of our members were from a low-

had been on welfare at one time. income area.

No one there could be considered middle class or even Sa then we were looking for better housing, pre-

lower middle class.

ventative juvenile delinquency, recreation, education and employment. These are the areas that we try to get into. ment as an escape from proverty. Moosbrugger: Were any of your members interested in the University, or any prior We look towards employ-

-3-

Noosbrugger: Saucedo:

education? At the time, they felt that when they got out of high school, that would be the end of it. higher education. They'd be free from school. They didn't know about They did

They didntt know it was available to them.

not know how to go about getting into it.

The knowledge that they had

was, either going into the service or going into jails, or going on welfare. Moosbrugger: These were the avenues that they knew.

Then your group never was active in meeting with higher education people, or asking them for anything?

Saucedo:

Yes, that was one of the areas we tried to reach out into. educate our members, first. available.

We tried to

We tried to first let them know what was

Then, through word of mouth, try to educate the community.

We tried to be a service to our community, that's what our purpose was. Moosbrugger: Did you ever have a meeting with the president of the University of Minnesota? Saucedo: At one point, when the Chicano students at the University felt a need to have their own study center. Liberation. At this time there wasn't any Latin

We did have a confrontation with the President of the As a result, he looked at

University, on why this need wasn't met.

that need and the Latin Liberation was formed shortly after that. Moosbrugger:
'I" .

During the years your group was active, did you meet with any opposition ,from bhe police department or any other organization? Most organizations didn't recognized us. us. They for sure, didn't respect

Saucedo:

They thought we were loud-mouth punks, young, and didn't know what The only seriously thing that they took from us

we were talking about.

was a threatening one, thinking that we would get back at them plysically. I don't think they considered the points we brought up. I think

-4-

Saucedo:

the most opposition that we had was amongst our own community, our own second generation of Mexicans. The ones we wanted to be of service to, This was our biggest opposition.

they didn't want to recognize us. Moosbrugger Saucedo:

You had parents working against your group? Parents, I guess, you can say too, were working against us. They would

have their. children stay away from our group, trying not to affiliate with our group. At that time, a lot of our members were known as deA lot of

linquents and were in training schools and in reformatories. our members were Vietnam Veterans. the community about us

So there was a lot of skepticism in They thought at first

and a lot of suspicions.

we were out for ourselves and more or less thought of as a gang, rather than a Civic Organization. Moosbrugger: What are some of the incidents of police harassment that you mentioned before? Saucedo: One of the reasons why we became less active in the community was police harassment. There were a lot of different areas that the police, either Directly, if we would
b~

directly or indirectly, harassed us.

riding in

the community in our car, our license would be checked.

Many of us" did

not have new cars, so we almost always got tickets for faulty equipment on our car. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: When they stopped you did they ever make you get out of the car? Yes. It was mostly physical abuse that occurred during the time the guy Instead we'd either get our hair

should have just given us the ticket.

pulled or get yanked out of the car, we'd get clubbed and end up going to jail for disorderly conduct. the next day. We'd find ourselves in the court room

Many of us spend a lot of money on bail, twenty dollars It was money that we didn't have,

here, and twenty dollars fine there.

-5-

Saucedo:

money that our friends didn't have, or their parents. direct ways.

These are all

The police also werein contact with many of the community Many of our mem-

members, letting them know about our police records.

bers had trouble in the schools, and didn't have a good school record. Like I mentioned earlier, education was another area we wanted to meet. We knew, that because we had messed up in school, we wanted to show the value of our members being in school. tried to warn the kids about us. The teachers knew about us and

We had harassment from all different There were two or three
ill ',,,

angles, but the police were the maj or ones.

members that would go into a bar together to have a drink. would go into the bar to see what we were doing. the bartender and ask if we were old enough.

The police

They would go up to

The bartender didn't need

that type of business and would ask us not to patronize his place. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: He didn't want the police coming in all the time? Yes. He may have had bigger action in there that he didn't want to be He didn't want us around. That happened to us in many of

busted up.

the places on the West Side. West Side we could go into.

There were only two or three bars on the If you get barred from those two or three That's where the traffic ticket The local employers

places, you have to go way across town. come into play.

Then, trying to look for a job.

knew of you, the police knew of you, they are in contact with those employers. That will limit your chances of getting a job. Then again

you have to have a skill, but that's another matter. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: Moosbrugger: If the police were down on you, that might cost you a job, too? Yes. That might cost you getting your foot in the door, ( How

Did you mention some of the good things the organization did? were you involved with the Arts & Crafts Fair?

Who puts that on?

-6-

Saucedo:

The annual Arts & Crafts Festival it's held at the Neighborhood House once a year. It started in 1973.
p1an~

This was the third year.

We were

active in originating the major role in that. We have many festival.
10ca1~

and getting that going.

We played a

It turned out to be a pretty successful thing. as well as, non-local people, that come to the

They listen to the music, see local talent, and crafts. It was a good thing

It's a place where you can come for the day. that we established. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: Who was involved?

Of course, there was other help involved.

The Brown Berets, the Guadalupe Area Project (GAP), and the Neighborhood House w,orked together in getting that going.

:1

We have also had outings. We had outings at

Many of our doings were directed towards the youth. Camp Owendigo. trips.

We took forty to fifty children on week-end camping

The Brown Berets would provide the tr.ansportation, the food and We only

lodging, all the activities, the equipment and the chaperones. charged $2.00 for that. It was a very minimum fee.

This activity was

open to all the West Side youth. went. Moosbrugger: Saucedo:

White, Indian, Black, and they all

That was $2.00, per kid, per week-end? Right. I don't feel that you can find that service around anymore. We

were also responsible for the Christmans party that they had at the Neighborhood House. The Brown Berets went to all the local businesses;

hardware stores, Spartan's, Target's and Penney's stores for donations, for gifts, and for toys, things like this. We went to the
On
mi1~

company

for milk and to the bakery company for cookies.

Christmas we had a I don't know ,if

big Christmas party for all the kids on the West Side.

you are familiar with .the Christmas party that they usually have at

-7-

Saucedo:

Our Lady of Guadalupe. paper doll. gifts.

They give each child a toy.

A good toy, not a

These were good Tonka toys, trucks, good $7.00 or $8.00 It just so hap-

A lot of the children got two or three gifts.

pened, that one year we were really lucky in getting donations from a store. It had a lot of surplus toys and they just gave them to us. It

was still the work of our members, that got these gifts. children got them.

And the local

These are services that the Brown Berets have perAlthough, we had bad creditability

formed for the West Side community.

and maybe it followed us for two or three years afterwards, that was our downfall. We had power, but we didn't have the experienced person
t~

speak for us.

We knew where our power was; in the youth, in the school, But we didn't know who to take that power to. We did

and in the home.

not know how to express our service.

Also, at the time we were develSome of the ser-

oping these ideals and goals as we were going along.

vices that you see on the street today, you can say that we are responsible either directly or indirectly. You don't see any hard drugs on These were areas that we comThese These

the West Side streets or any prostitution.

bated effectively because these were things that we knew about. were people that we knew we could talk to, and how to stop it. were people we could control. about new programs effectively. welfare board.

We couldn't talk to anybody in welfare We didn't know who to talk to on the

The streets we knew about, and we could deal with it. We weren't experienced in those areas.

Political areas we didn't know. Moosbrugger:

The fact there is no prostitution or hard drugs like heroin on the West Side, was due to the influence of .the Brown Berets, because they knew it was bad news?

Baucedo:

That's right.

At that time we didn't know the people who were pushing

-8-

Saucedo:

the drugs. drugs.

They were informed to stay out of the West Side with those

Those were measures that we could deal with ourselves.

Moosbrugger: Saucedo:

Do you see any hope for getting the Brown Berets active again? I can see the need. Many of the members have gone on to jobs as organ-

izers, community leaders, in the NYC program, and in the Youth Service Bureau. There are capable young men here who could get it started. They

are more informed than we were at that time.

I would be willing to help

organize it or get it started. But for me to take an active role, or any of the other members of that time taking an active role, I don't know if we would be able to. There are people here, on the West Side, that could I would

get it going, but I don't know if they would do it at this time. be proud to see it, I'd like to see it.

When we marched through downtown

St. Paul, I felt proud, and I felt that I could feel it through the other Mexicans that were on
th~

streets.

It is part of the same way the Irish

people feel on St. Patricks Day. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: On what occasion did the Brown Berets march? In the Mexican Independence Parade in September. parade a couple of times. I would like to see it. We marched in that I would be proud of

any person who claimed to be a member. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: Who were some of the first outstanding leaders? I would say, the most outstanding ones were people like Pedro Zarate, Alfredo Verdeja, Carlos Verdeja, Nicholas Castillo,Jr., Lolo Castillo, Richard Verduzco, Michael Martinez, David Verdeja, Tom Aguilar, and Pete Martinez. help. Moosbrugger: Saucedo: Did you have any girls in the organization? Yes, we had Kathy Martinez and some of the Montantes girls. They were I could name quite a few young people that were a real big

-9-

Saucedo:

younger girls and I didn't even know their names. representation from them. the movement. up their end.

We did have a good

We expressed to them that they were half of

We gave them equal responsibilities and they did hold

Moosbrugger: Saucedo:

Thank you for the interview. Thank you.