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Interview with Carlos and Marcelina R. Urvina

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Carlos Urvina was born Nov. 11, 1922, in Piedad, Michoac_n, Mexico, and came to the United States under a contract to lay railroad tracks when he was eighteen years old. He also worked for a streetcar company. At the time of the interview he worked for the Mason Booth Company. Marcelina Urvina was born Feb. 1, 1918, in Dallas, Texas. Although she was a U.S. citizen, her family had difficulties working in the fields. At age twelve she came to Minnesota with her mother and worked the beet fields near St. Clair, Minn., and at the Green Giant Company in Le Sueur, Minn., until she was sixteen. She is now working for Harrison Elementary School as a nurse's aide. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Carlos Urvina describes coming to the United States - working for the railroad and as an iron and metal worker - and the beauty of knowing two languages. Marcelina Urvina describes coming to Minnesota - troubles her mother had as a result of not speaking English - working in beet fields - bringing up their children - the importance of a good education - and Mexican customs in the home. Both emphasize the value of education and bilingualism. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: In Spanish, transcribed into English.

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TRANSCRIPT OF AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH CARLOS AND MARCEL INA R. URVINA

This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Carlos Urvina, was born in Piedad, Michoacan, Mexico in 1922. States, at the age of eighteeen, under a railroad contract. I
: !

He came to the United He has also worked for

the street car company arid for Mason Booth. .i Marce1ina R. Urvina, was born in Dallas, Texas in 1918. She came to Minnesota at the

age of twelve and has worked in both the rural and urban areas of the state. The Urvinas discuss the importance of education and being good parents.
M~

Urvina

talks about his family history, employment history and the beauty of knowing two languages. Mrs. Urvina discusses her family history, personal experiences and the

. Mexican customs still practiced in their home. This is an English translation of the tape recorded interview in Spanish. The orig-

ina1 cassette recording is available in the Audio-Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH CARLOS URVINA AND MARCELINA R. URVINA JULY 8, 1975 INTERVIEWERS: VICTOR BARELA AND GRANT MOOSBRUGGER

Barela:

This interview is with Carlos Urvina and his wife Marce1ina R. Urvina. They live at 2108 5th Avenue North, Minneapolis, Minnesota The interviewers are: Victor Barela and Grant Moosbrugger. 55405. This

interview is for the project of the Minnesota State Historical Society. We will start with Sr. Carlos Urvina. Where were you born? Urvina: Barela: Urvina: Barela: Urvina: In Piedad, Michoacan, Mexico. Who were your parents? Jesus Urvina and Soledad Avila. And the rest of your family? One sister but she died, there were six brothers. There are five of us left. two of us here in Minnesota. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: Barela: Mrs. Urvina: Mrs. Urvina, where were you b0rn? I was born in Dallas, Texas, February 1, 1918. Who were your parents?
My father was E1igio Mora. and my mother Carolina Tobias.

November 11, 1922.

One brother died.

One lives in Mexico, two in California, and

My father was

from Zamora, Michoacan and my mother was from Coahuila, Tamau1ipas. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: How many brothers and sisters did you have? I had five brothers and four sisters. All of
the~

giris are living, and

all except my oldest brother who died in Dallas, Texas. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: Do they all live in Dallas, Texas? No, Juan Silva, lives in St. Paul. Minneapolis. Rafael Rangel and Jose live in

My sister Jesusita, the oldest, me, Maria and Esther all Aurora, lives in California.

live in Minneapolis.

-2Barela: Mr. Urvina: Barela:
Mr. Urvina:

How many children do you have? We have five. Susana Soledad, Leonor, Cynthia, Anita, and Victoria.

How many are married? Three are married and two are still at home. What are the last names of the married ones? Leonor Aguirre, Susana Reyes, Anita Saline. Do they have children? Only Anita. We have one grandchild. How long did you live in Piedad, your home

Moosbrugger: Mr. Urvina: Moosbrugger:
Mr. Urvina:

Barela:

So you were born in Mexico. town?

Mr. Urvina:

Until I was 18 years old. "bracero."

Then I came under government contract as a

Here I met my wife and I fixed my papers to stay here.

Barela:
Mr. Urvina:

Did you come with the "braceros" to work? I came to work with the Chicago Burlington. St. Paul. From there I came to

We worked in So. St. Paul, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Winona, all

over that area. Barela: Mr. Urvina: Barela: Mr. Urvina: Barela:
Mr •. Urvina:

What kind of work did you do? I worked for the railroad. Did you then come directly to Minnesota? Yes, we came through Laredo, and then directly to Minnesota. So you came to work? Yes, I came to work in the railroad under contract. How much did you earn? I don't remember if it was 38 or 40 cents an hour at the railroad. But

Barela: Mr. Urvina:

after I fixed my papers I left the railroad and started to work for the Transit Company in Minneapolis. I worked there for twelve years.
Booth.~--·--·

Later

I worked at the junk yard and now I'm with Mason Barela: Mrs. Urvina, you were born in Texas.

How did you come to Minnesota?

-3-

Mrs. Urvina:

Yes, I was born in Texas.

My mother was a widow.

My oldest brother and

my sister Jesusita, stayed in Texas while we came to work in the beet

fields. Mankato.

I was twelve years old when we came under contract to work in At that time there were companies that brought the people from My

Texas to other parts of the country to work in the beet fields.

mother thought we could make more money hy having the whole family work. At that time they brought us in the train. When we got here they put us

in houses and then they would separate us into different groups to go to different farms. We were assigned to go to a farm in St. Clair, Minnesota. I was the oldest at twelve years old. I worked the beets until I

My mother and five of us children.

The farmer gave us twenty-five acrea to work. was 16 years old, and then I got married. things would be better, but it was worse. and my son Alfonso.

I thought that if I got married I had my oldest
daughte~

,?Pat:ty,

When I married Carlos, he raised my children.

My

boy was seven years old and my little girl was ten years old. 1943. Barela: Mrs.Urvina: Barela: Mrs. Urvina: Barela: Mrs. Urvina: So, how old were you when you first got married? I was 16. That was in 1934.

This was in

What was your first husband's name? Pedro Alvarez. He was from Veracruz.

Does he live in the United States? No, he died of a heart attack about a year and a half after we were married. So I was a widow at a very early age. After being a widow for

about two years, I married Alfonso Orosco, but he got into trouble and landed in Stillwater and I was left carrying a baby which I had later •



Alfonso was told that he would be freed if he would go to Mexico or else he would be on probation. back to Mexico. But since he was from Mexico, he decided to go

I did not want to go back to Mexico because I had my

------------------ ------ -------------------""-~--"

-4Mrs. Urvina: children so I stayed with my mother. I lived alone for seven years. Then

I met my husband, Carlos, in Minneapolis. Moosbrugger:" At that time did your mother lived in Minneapolis, too? Mrs. Urvina: Yes, my mother lived here. came to St. Clair. We all did except for the first year that we

We did not want to work or live in the farm, so, we But they did not want us here because they said

came to the Twin Cities.

we were not residents, and that they could not help us with anything; that we would have to go back to where we came from. We did not what to do.

We went to the relief office because we did not have anything, and we needed help. They did not want to help us. They came at night and put And

all of our things into a truck and took us back and left us there. then we came back. very energetic. not afraid. understood. My mother said that they had no right.

My mother was
She was

When she wanted to do something, she did it.

She did not speak English, but she could still make herself We came to St. Paul at night and she insisted that we stay She

here so her children could go to school to learn to read and write. did not want them to be like her. and no one would throw us out. Street near the capital.

She decided that we would stay here

We came to St. Paul and we lived on Grove We liked And this

My mother took the children to school.

St. Paul, but we moved to Minneapolis to see if it was better. is where we stayed. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: She died eight years ago.

Did you go to school here in Minnesota? No, I only went to 5th grade in Dallas, Texas. work in the beet fields. much older. grade. And then I started to

Later I was ashamed to go back because I was so

And also because I knew they would put me back to 3rd pr.-4.th My brothers '>lent to school here. They

I should have gone back.

went to Blaine School, Grant School, and then to Franklin and North High.

-5Mrs. Urvina:

My brother Juan and Jose graduated from North High.

But since my sisters They had to work.

were older, they did not get a chance to go to school. Barela: Mr. Urvina: Mr. Urvina, were you educated in Mexico? No, I did not have any schooling. So, I did not learn anything. Barela: Mr. Urvina:

I went for two or three months only.

How did you come to be interested in working as a ''bracero "? My will to work. We did not have much need but never the less I came. Others are still coming

Also because the dollar was worth much more. because of the value bf the dollar. Barela ; Mr. Urvina: Barela: Mrs. (,Urvina: Barela: Mr. Urvina: Barela: Mr. Urvina: Were you thinking of going back to Mexico?

Yes, but after I met my wife I decided to stay. Have you lived in Minneapolis since then? Yes, we have lived here all this time. Did you buy a home right away? No, we rented for a while and then we bought a house in 1958, on Morgan. Since you came to Minnesota you have worked here, then? The whole time, thirty years. In the thirty years that I have been here, Thirty years.

there were only two months that I was OOlt of work •. When the street cars stopped running and they took out all the rails and replaced the street c·ars with buses. In the whole thirty years only two months out of work.

We have had a good life. Barela: When you settled in Minneapolis, was there a Mexican community that you could rely on? Mr. Urvina: No, there wasn't anything like that. There is supposed to be a program Unless, maybe,

now to help the Mexicans, but I don't think there is one. we have not investigated it.

Some are on welfare, but I don't think there

is a special program like that for the Mexican people.

-6Mrs. Urvina: The first program that I heard'.!. of was at the University for students because we were interested in having our daughter Anita go to college. We have a community council and through Metty Clark, who works at the University, I belong to a program where I can go and display whatever we have. About a month ago we had an open house and I took all my Mexican I also tell the

things and put them on display for people to admire. people about them.

We don't have too many Mexicans and the ones that we We don't know. Maybe because we are not

have are scattered allover. informed. Mr. Urvina:

But regardless of whether there is help or not, I'd much rather work for my money, instead of having the government help me. good health. As long as I am in

If one is sick it is different, but as long as I am healthy

I want to S"leat and earn my money. Barela: When you first came to the United States did you have any trouble coming into the country? Mr. Urvina: No, not really because we were coming to work for the railroad, laying tracks, so we did not have any problems. After I married I left the

railroad and worked twelve years for the streetcar company, laying rails, but it wasn't any problem learning the work. Barela: Mr. Urvina: What was your greatest personal problem when you came to the United States? It was not because we did not have enough ,to eat in Mexico, but sometimes you wonder what it is like in other places. earn a lot of money here, but it wasn't true. They would say that you could The only problem was that You can

you spend the money that you earned before going back to Mexico. always earn money where ever you work.

Like I said before, because of the

difference in money we would think that 100 dollars would be about 500 pesos and in those days you could buy a ranch with 500 pesos. And this was the

-7Mr. Urvina: problem, becauce we would go back to Mexico and spend the money, and then come back to earn some more money. transportation to and fromHMexioo. Barela: Mr. Urvina: So the riches were not like people thought? No, it is difficult for a poor person to become rich, unless he gets help from someone. Barela: Mr. Urvina: How did your family react when you went back with money from the States? The same as when I left, because we did not take much. much to take. We did not have A lot of money was spent paying for

We would take 200 or 300 dollars and the little that I

would send them, fifteen to twenty dollars a month, because we earned about twenty-five to thirty dollars per week. cheaper, we did not have much to spare. Even when things were

Those that would accumulate $2,000. Those who had a wife in

or $3,000. dollars probably did not eat or drink.

Mexico, once they got there they had to buy clothes for-the, children, so they would end up with nothing. now. It is still pretty much the same thing

Don't think that they take a lot of money, for whatever they take,

they already owe to the people that helps them, and after paying, they are broke again. It is better for the man who stays in Mexico to work the Those people who come in illegally are the

land and stay with his family.

only ones that save any money, and that is because they are afraid to go out where they can spend their money. But when they go home the money goes

fast, because they may owe a lot of money, if a child gets sick, paying debts here and there. Of course, some come because they don't have a job,

and others leave-their jobs just to come here because of the value of the dollar. This is the problem of the dollar. If the money was worth the

same, they would not have that problem.

There are only very few people

that can go back to Mexico and make something of themselves with the money

-8-

Mr. Urvina: Mrs. Urvina:

they earn here, which is not much. The ones that are coming now are the young men. A lot of the boys that

were little when we knew them have now grown up and they come up here to work and then go back. Some of them stay here and get married. Once they

have lived here, they get accustomed to things and they don't want to go back because they don't like it. Mexico,
thin~s

Even my husband Carlos, when we go to

three weeks is too long for him because he is so anxious He doesn't like it anymore. But no matter where The farms of Mexico,

to get back to work. Mr. Urvina:

That is because you get use to working all the time. you go, you can live comfortably if you have a job. are pretty much the same thing as here. here.

The work is temporary like it is

Barela: Mrs. Urvina:

When you came from Texas, to work in the beets, was it hard work? Yes" beet work'iis. very hard, especially for the children. works at the same thing. the others. The whole family

The children are not given different jobs from

The first time we came they gave us good housing, but after At first we even had a stable for the howses and cattle. My mother would cook I don't know

that it got worse.

There was a division and we lived on the other side. for the whole family. what it is like now.

At that time it was very hard work.

We worked in the onions in Northfield, Minnesota.

In between the beets we would go and pick radishes, green beans, potatoes and onions. We went from farm to farm. I used to dress myself as a boy, I would work with them

and worked with a group called The One Hundred Men. without their knowing that I was a girl. and they assumed I was a boy.

I would put my hair under my hat

One day they found out I was a girl and my

mother would not let me go to work with them anymore, because they were all men. We had to work, and the rows were so long, and sometimes we would

-9Mrs. Urvina: come across s'ornc itchy dirt. "pit dirt", and we would itch so badly from the dirt and tthc sweat. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: It was very hard work.

What year did you come to Minnesota? We came to Mimnesota in 1930. We went back to Texas after finishing the Like my husband said, we just worked. Because you had to buy

work here, butt we came back in 1931.

We did not have anything to take back with us.

your own hoe, your clothes, shoes, hat and food until you could start work. By the time we got our checks to return, we would owe so much for the food and clothing.
As I recall we did not take much money back.

We always

came back the next year. the cotton fields. Barela: Mrs. Urvina:

When we got back to Texas we started working in

And that is where we would stay.

Did you get credit from the farmer? Yes, the farmer would go and open a credit account for us. out anything we wanted to. We would take

At one of the stores, like a company store.

Mr. Urvina:

By the time you recieved your check for your work, you would owe so much money, especially for the days when it rained and we did not work. They

would have to pay for their food, so whatever you were left with was probably about twO(' or .three hundred dollars at the most. would not be enough money to get back with. Mrs. Urvina: But we were contracted, so that even if it rained, it was work that had to be done by a certain date. Because under contract we would have to comSometimes this

plete certain work whether it rained or shined, and if you did not finish they would bring six or seven men to finish the work and that money came out of your earnings. Moosb'rugger: Would you work with a group of families or friends who would seek out work for you, or would the farmer do this contracting with you as individuals? Mrs. Urvina: There was a Nexican man from Texas who would do the contracting for us and

-10-

Mrs. Urvina: Moosbrugger: Mrs. Urvina:

I suppose

th~y

would pay him to contract the people.

Would he bri~ a large group of people? Oh, yes, froml Dallas, Texas, I used to know a lot of people who would come to the sugar llieets.

Moosbrugger:

Would he sigfr them up individually or by groups of families and relationships?

Mrs. Urvina:

Individually, we had our own. family. corn. We
~uld

Each farmer had their own family, one

go together to Montgomery, Minnesota and we would pick And believe me it is hot when you

I picked corn in the fields too.

have to walk behind a truck, corn-husking and throwing it in the truck and trying to keaw up with it. our living was hard.
an~

But my sister and I did it.

We had to earn It

money to help our mom and daddy, so we had to do it.

Then we worked in a factory from 3: p.m. to 1: a.m.

They would

let the Mexican people work only that shift. LeSuer.

Green Giant Company, in They had a big

We separated the good corn from the bad corn.

binder going. wash the corn. knees.

You would get all wet because you would have to stand and We wore big rubber boots and stood in water was up to our
2~or

My sister and I would get out at

3: o"clvck in the morning

because we would have to work overtime. were off.

The other shift came in after we

We also picked peppers, the type they use to add to the corn, we used to cut that. If you were not careful, your hands If you did not have rubber

"Mexi-~reen",

would get all hot, so we used rubber gloves. gloves, well, that was too bad. know how it is now. Mr. Urvina:

That was hard work at that time, I don't

I worked harder tham my husband did.

It is not possible now, because there have been a lot of changes and they pay a lot more money because everything is so high, of course. some areas I don't think they pay them well. But in

-11-

Mrs. Urvina:

And this is why my mother said that there had to be something better for our family than doing that kind of work, and she was not going any place because no one was going to tell her she had to move out of Minneapolis or St. Paul. She was angry.

Barela: Mrs. Urvina: Barela: Mrs. Urvina: Barela: Mrs. Urvina: Barela: Mrs. Urvina:
'I

So they kicked you out at night and you came back on a bus or what? No, she paid a man who owned a truck to bring us back. Where did you live then? We lived on 5th Street. From 5th Street they took you to Mankato? Yes. Who took you? I don't know who it was. All I know is that it was an "Anglo" in a truck

I

and he said that we had to move and that he would pick us up and take us. We did not know what to do. English. I was very young and my mother could not speak

They put us on a truck and took us back to the county we belonged

to because this county could not help us. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: So you did not know who the person was and who he worked for? No, he said he was sent. My mother was angry and she said that we would

be going back because we were born here and she felt she did not want this kind of life for us. road workers. She had worked in Texas preparing food for the railShe thought

She also worked in the field, picked cotton.

that if we came here it would be a different life, but the beets were much harder. We could not go back to Texas. She paid a man to bring us in a

truck to St. Paul.

And after they threw us out, my mother wanted us to

stay here and go to school, because in the farms we would miss a lot of school. After they threw us out she would not give up and insisted that

we come back, but this time she would not ask them to help us, instead she

-12Mrs. Urvina: went to work herself. She worked at a pie factory. She worked in the

laundry and every place she could find work. Barela: So with your family it was only work. any of the holidays? Mr. Urvina: Mrs. Urvina: Barela: Mrs. Urvina: We did celebrate, but work was always first. We did not celebrate. Did you go to church? We went to church. We couldn't.

And my brothers went to school.

You did not have time to celebrate

The first church ~t we went to was in St. Paul. I don't know

The

priest spoke a little Spanish and he did help the people.

the name of the church or the priest, but he had a little room where he had tables full of clothing that people donated to him. gave us ,clothing for my mother and us.
,

We went and he

We would walk across the bridge to

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the West Side. Moosbrugger: Mrs. Urvina: Moosbrugger: Mrs. Urvina: When did you move from St. Paul to Minneapolis? 1935. What was the reason for your moving? No, I don't know. Was it because of your work or what?

Maybe it was because my stepfather started working for

the railroad here in Minneapolis and maybe it was because of the transportation. We did not have a car. So we lived on 5th Street by where the It was a Mexican "barrio" (neighborhood)

Wholesome Bread Company is now. then. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: We were all together.

About how many people lived there? There must have been about 15 or 20 families there. It was a red brick building. We all lived there. It was very

We lived in those apartments.

hard at that time to find housing for the Mexican people, especially if you had young children. There are still some red brick apartments there,

and every time that I would look at them I would envy the people that lived

-13Mrs. Urvina: there, because they looked so nice. Now it is nothing. There were also some smaller homes. There was a Jewish man

But at that time I envied them.

who owned a store, his name is David Steinberg, and he would help out the Mexican people. When we first got here, he didn't even know us and we went He said, "Sure", but when you get work, be sure

to him to ask for credit. to pay me. Barela: Mr. Urvina:

The first job my father got he went and paid him right away.

Was there some one that helped you, Mr. Urvina, when you first came? No, not really. Like I told you I left the railroad and went to work for

the street car company the next day. Barela: Mr. Urvina: When did you leave the railraod? After I got married. Before this I lived in St. Paul, but after we were This is when I started to work here, 1937.

married we came to Minneapolis. Mrs. Urvina: Mr. Urvina:

He left his job after the street cars stopped running. I only worked a year and six months for the railroad. Since they paid more

money in the street car, I left the railroad because they were paying 2¢ more at the street car comapny plus they also gave you free transportation. Barela:
Mr. Urvina:

What did you do in the railroad? Laying rails for the railroads. And in the street car company? The same except that it was on cobblestone and sometimes cement. little different but nevertheless similar work. lay track on cobblestone. It was a

Barela: Mr. Urvina:

You just had to learn to

Barela: Mr. Urvina: Mrs. Urvina:

Were you in the same railroad camp when you met your wife? No, I was the one that was in the railroad camp. We met at a New Year's dance. We went over to the West Side. around some candy. A lady invited my mother and all of us went. First we said the rosary and then they passed My husband was

They were havin;g:'some religious services.

-14Mrs. Urvina: there with his cousins. I was dancing and he asked me to dance with him. I did not even

We were talking and he told me I was going to marry him.

know his name but he said that we would get to know each other and up to now I am still getting to know him. He did not as.k me if I wanted to be

his girlfriend or anything like that, but right away he said I was going to marry him. Barela: Mr. Urvina: But he did ask me my name. He told me his name was Felipe.

Did you go by that name at that time? Yes, because that was the name that was on my "bracero" card. When they

were contracting there was a Mexican law that they could not bring people from Michoacan, only from other states. At this time they were contracting We lived close to the

people in Uruapan, Michoacan, but only for Indians. state of Ja1isco and Guanajuato.

They did not allow any of those people This is whay they had the

to sign up because many would leave their lands. law.

But I still wanted to join, so I took out a card in Queretaro and This is why I had a dif-

they signed me up in the state of San Luis Potosi. ferent name. Mrs. Urvina: Barela: Mr. Urvina: Felipe Rodriguez. You even used a different last name? Yes, different last name, too. immigration about it. Barela: Mr. Urvina: Then did you have to take out a passport in Mexico?

But when I got my papers I had to tell the

The immigration helped me, Mr. Chaplain (the inspector here in St. Paul), was the one that helped me get my papers. I told him how I had taken out

the card in Mexico and all we had to pay was 18 dollars. Barela: Mr. Urvina: How much did you pay to come here? We only paid for transportation in Mexico. The government paid for our

transportation here by train because we were under contract.

-15Barela: Mr. Urvina: Mrs. Urvina: Now that I see your home, I see that you uphold the Mexican traditions? Very much so. For my part I would have gone back to Mexico, but my husband does not want to go back. Mr. Urvina: The reason for that is that even though Mexico is much better off than it was when I was a child, there were so many poor people. Our family at

least had some animals and I don't remember having to go to bed hungry, but there were many poor people. in the United States. Now you still see some of it, it is not like

The reason is not that I am ashamed to work the land

because that is where I was brought up, but the things you miss are the modern conveniences. Like running water, hot water, et cetera. But the

way I see Mexico it has changed.

Now the farmers have running water and

those that are a little intelligent can buy and install water heaters. Now the people have a better life, even if things are very expensive. ever they harvest, they have a higher standard of living. their dress. What-

You can tell by

But there are still some that are poor and I am sure there But them, you find this in every nation. But in

are those that do not want to work.

Here you don't see it as much because the government helps them. Mexico the government does not help them. God sees to it that they make it. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: What are some of the Mexican traditions that you still maintain? We still eat Mexican food, like tortillas, chile and beans. my husband, I have to have those things in the house. have to do the things he was used to. eating Mexican foods and like
eati~g

Nevertheless the people survive.

Since I have

I love him, so I

My daughters too, they are used to Mexican foods. When we go to Mexico

they eat everything and they don't get sick. Mr. Urvina:
My family has been very lucky because we are very healthy with the exception

-16Mr. Urvina:

of a few cuts and bruises.

For several years we have gone to Mexico, even We go to see my father who is

though it has cost us a lot of money to go. still alive. my father.

My mother already died, that is why I go every year, to see I have a little home and my wife wants us to go to Mexico, but Even though things are very ex-

if we did things would be very different. pensive here we are making a living. weekly check coming in.

In Mexico we would not have that

Of course we would look for work, but it could The moving from one place to an-

never be the same as the Uni;tedl5 States.

other is not always the best, and since I have been here for over 30 years, it would be hard to try to find a job. Mrs. Urvina: Things have changed so much.

I would like to go back to Mexico so the girls could learn to speak Spanish and also to go to school there because the educational system in Mexico is very good. My husband opposes the idea because he thinks the girls should It

learn English first and when they are older they could learn Spanish.

is my fault that they did not learn to speak Spanish, because my husband did not know how to speak English and I wanted him to learn so I would speak to him in English all the time. spoke English. Mexican food. So when the girls were born we only

They understand Spanish and they also know how to cook I saw to that because that is one of the things you can teach So when they get married their husbands will If they get married to "Anglos" this My oldest

your family how to survive.

not think they are good for nothing.

training will come in handy because they also like Mexican food.

daughter got married to a Mexican fellow, Luis Reyes, she met him in Mexico. He came here and they were married in St. Joseph's Church. married a Mexican fellow, Roberto Aguirre. Leonor also

He was also "from the farm and If

they get along very nicely because she knows how to cook Mexican foods. they hadn't learned, it would have been difficult to learn how now.

Anita

-17Mrs. Urvina: married an Anglo boy from school, but he has always been around Mexicans. It seems as though they will be happy. They just got married in April. We I

still have Cynthia and Victoria)only God know who they'll marry.

thought them our customs and took them to Mexico every year and we hope they remember all those things and never forget them. When they have

children they can also teach their children and continue on. Mr. Urvina: It is beautiful to show people the different customs of the Mexican people. There are a lot of changes going on. the older folks do not want to change. ways. The young people are changing but They want to hang on to the old

They want to do the same things as they did 20 years ago, like work The younger generation is being educated and they no longer They want to" change it and I am sure they

in the fields.

want to do that kind of work. will change it. Mrs. Urvina:

The respect that sons showed their mother regardless of their ages.

In my

husband's family, the mother directs her sons to do something and whether they want to do it or not, they do it. instructed to go outside to play. When company comes the children are My mother used

In Texas the same thing.

to have us go outside when people came to visit and if we walked in front of someone, we excused ourselves. Barela: Mr. Urvina: Is this the same kind of thing you teach your children? Yes. This is very good. Many times I thought of having my wife go to live

in Mexico and I would stay here to work for three or rnour months until they could settle down. Spanish. When you are younger it is much easier for you to learn

I remember in Mexico when we used to go, and the children were

younger, they would play with other children and they would speak Spanish right away, too, even though they did not know how. I don't know if they

knew what they were saying but they were talking to them and it was very

- - - - - - ---------------------------- ----------------------

-18Mr. Urvina: easy for then to learn words. I often think that when you are young, reWhen you

gard1ess of what language you speak, you understand each other. get older, it is much harder. never wanted to go. Mrs. Urvina:

My wife wanted me to go to school but I

She gets very upset, even now.

I still get angry with him because I want him to learn, because he is a very intelligent person he knows a lot. They say that the person who does
lea~rns.

not read has a blank mind, but he listens and looks and very clear, he knows what to say.

v'

He is

People that study still have a hard time Like they say, he tells it like it

expressing themselves and he doesn't. is. Mr. Urvina:

One has to know what he is going to say.

You don't talk just to talk. If you see something that

There are things that are not worth mentioning. you don't agree with, you have to speak up. do not say anything, you are useless.

If you have a stand, and you
o~cassions
\.:...-

There have been certain

when we don't agree with Anglos and right away they think we don't know anything. But I tell them that just because I don't read, it doesn't mean Even if you do not have an education,

I am a savage, like they think we are.

but if you know what you want to say, and understand what is going on, they have to listen to you. Not only the Mexicans, but anyone else. Where I

work there are many Anglos from Minnesota that sign an "X", where as I sign my name. There are some things that I can write and understand. Like you

say, I learned English within a year, but regardless of how many years you live in the United States, if you come from another country, you mix in your Spanish worQs. Sometimes I have to repeat some words two or three At work I have been a I have

times so people can understand what I am saying.

shop steward for 18 years even though I don't know how to read. told them that many times, but they still want me.

Every time the new

-19Mr. Urvina: contract comes up I hard work.
someti~es

don't want the position, because it is a lot

Whenever anything happens with the company or the foreman,

people come running to me and they want me to do things for them because they figure they pay their dues. When the foreman or the boss goes to talk

to them, they are afraid to talk to them, and you are the one that looks bad. But now, like the Anglo says, you have to be wise. complaint, I take them to the person directly. Whenever anyone has a

Sometimes I have trouble

pronouncing some of the words, but since people know me they don't pay too much attention to that anymore. bring their lawyers. Sometimes during the negotiations they

I know what I am saying and I understand, but in The One

English there are a lot of words that you have to hold your tongue. people in Mexico say that the people in Michoacan speak very fast.

time, about eight years ago in Mexico City, I went to get a haircut, and as soon as the barber saw me he said, "Come on in 'paisano', what part of Michoacan are you from?" They spot us right away because they say that we I never had any problems. Like I

speak fast, but we don't think we do.

told you, in the 30 some years that I have been here, I've only been unemployed for two months, at the most. sometimes it works. I bluff my way to higher wages, and Now I am

If not, I can always find another job.

getting older and I think it is best to stay where I am.

But even now I am

not afraid to go and work for the railroad or wherever they offer me a job. Especially now, or at least a couple of years ago, they would train you for a specific job like bench press. Now they don't do that anymore because I went to

there are plenty of people that already know how to do the work. Vocational here and they taught me welding.

I got two diplomas from there.

I took up the torch, because in welding I would burn myself often, all the gas. I thought the torch would be easier.

-20Barela: If you could give the younger generation some advice, what would you tell them? Mrs. Urvina: I have five girls and the only thing I tell them is that I don't want them to lead the same kind of life I did because I did not have an education. So in order for them to better themselves they have to learn to read and to learn a skill. won't suffer. So that if they ever have to support themselves they If

Right now there are no excuses for them not to learn.

they don't do it it is because they don't want to, not because they say they don't let me. I know I am trying. I am 57 years old and I am still

going to school and I am learning, it might not be good, but I like it. Barela: Mrs. Urvina: You work at the school? Yes, and I love it because I am learning all the things I should have learned before. My husband often asks me why I need so many books. I like to learn.

I never had an opportunity to learn.

If I could have had the opportunity I would have been a

that the young people have now, I would have learned. nurse or something good. Barela: ) Mrs. Urvina: What school do you work at? At the Harrison School, Harrison Elementary School. for nine years at a nursing home.

I was a nurse's aid.&.-

But I decided to change to see what The children

would be more difficult: the older people, or the children.

are more challenging because the older people are already set in their ways, whereas the children are not. Mr. Urvina: You have to work hard to make them learn. Right now there are a

I would give them the same advice that my wife did.

lot of possibilities,· there is no reason why.. -the young people cannot learn to read, like there was in other years. There were some possibilities for

the Mexican but the parents or the mother could not afford to send them because they barely had enough to live on, working in the farms. They didn't

-21Mr. Urvina: have the possibilities that we have now. Now regardless of where you work,

my advice for a young Mexican boy would be to go to school, because now if the father does not have enough to live on, the government can help him so that his son can go to school. A long time ago there wasn't that possiBecause as

bi1ity, and if there was, we certainly did not know about it.

I understand it, it hasn't been until Kennedy or from the Rockerf.e11er Foundation, I don't know for sure, but I have asked, and this is what people have told me. If they don't take advantage of the opportunity, it Or say that they discriminate against you, My

won't be the government's fault.

if they don't take advantage of ' it, it is because they don't want to. advice would be to get an education and also to learn a trade.
ii

Not just one

\ Mrs. Urvina: Mr. Urvina: Mrs. Urvina:

trade but as many as

possib1e~

What are we parents for if we are not going to push our children? When they are young, we push them. But if you teach them to obey you as children when they grow up they will obey you. But if you leave them alone, they won't listen to you. We have to have everything

Mr. Urvina:

Not everyone teaches their children the same. in this life.

Not everyone is going to train their kids to show the same Many times those that say they don't know how to

respect to the family.

read and those that have studied, they don't respect anyone either. Mrs. Urvina: My husband is very good with his daughters. in a while he scolds them. them with his belt. He has never hit them. Once

Sometimes when I get angry I tell him to hit

I tell him we are parents and we have to guide them.

God did not give them to us only so we could watch them come and go and sometimes we don't even know where they are. The duty of the parents is

to see that their children go to school to learn, even if they don't want to listen to you. There are some children who listen to advice and some

-22Mrs. Urvina: that only understand a stick. My mother gave advice to me, and I say what

is good for me is good for my girls. Mr. Urvina: If you have a child and he does not like learning you can send him to school and he will not learn. Mrs. Urvina: But then he can't say, "My mother didn1t want me to get an education, or my father could not help me." "At least they tried". help me. My mother
1.f;~d ~

When he gets to a certain age, he will say,

There are some kids that say, "My mother did not to help me but she couldn't because we had to I

work at that time.

We did not have the opportunity to go to school."

was twelve years old and I was still in the third grade. to the beets.

Coming and going

My girl Vicki, did not want to go to North High because of fights and I
told her to mind her own business and go and learn to read and write. I

talked to the counselor and I told him to guide her and if she was absent, I wanted to know about it. I always went to the counselor. If she is not

at school, I want the counselor to call me and tell me why she is absent. She left home and told me she was going to school and I think that is the duty of the mother. Moosbrugger: With this kind of support the children can't help but to succeed in school, but this is a rare thing. Mrs. Urvina: Among the Mexicans, the children know they have to go to school to read and write. The teachers have often told me at school how the little Mexican I tell them they are supposed to, They go to school to learn to

kids are so good, and they like to study.

because that is the way they are brought up.

read not to answer back because if they don't do that at home, why should they do it in school? They teach you to respect the other people. Not to

laugh at the older people because they are going to look like that someday.

-23Mrs. Urvina: My mother taught me like that. boy and that was hard.
It is hard.

I raised six girls and one

But I am glad I did it because some day when they My

get older, if they are going to suffer it is their fault and not mine. conscience is clear because it is up to them now.

Like my mother used to

say, "When you have a small tree you can put a stick next to it to straighten it out but when it gets older you can't straighten it out unless you break it." I know this is true. I don't say that my girls are angels because So if

they have their problems, but I am there to see what is happening. they do something wrong it is their fault. Mr. Urvina: In this world there has to be a little bit of everything.

As I notice the

students from the University there are many from other nations but we don't have many Mexicans. We don't have anyone, like the Anglos say that want There are very

to be a lawyer or a dentist or any other kind of good job. few.

That is because things here look very different than they do in Mexico.

In Mexico 90 percent of the students want to learn something to better themselves. Here maybe it is because of their parents and also because they They know how

grew up doing beets and that is the way they want to live. to reaJ but, I donit know. Mrs. Urvina:

In Texas a lot of people can read and write in Spanish and they also know English. These are the older Mexican people. The only thing is, that there You don't show off by I am a Mexican and I

you don't speak English unless it is an emergency. speaking English. I know because I came from there.

don't have to speak English. had to speak English. cause I spoke English. we were brought up. Mr. Urvina:

When I came to Minnesota and got married I

When my cousins came up to visit they teased me beThey asked me if I was not a Mexican. This is how

At home we never spoke English. It is good to know both languages, but you do not

I don't agree with her.
) ..

-24Mr. Urvina: live in Mexico. for everything. You are in the United States and you need to speak English When you are conversing with another Mexican that speaks But for the people that live here, it is better for And they can always learn Spanish rut home. It is

the language, fine.

them to speak English.

also a good thing to have your children go to school and learn in English and in Spanish. languages. It is a beautiful thing to be able to speak four or five

But since you live in the United States it is better to educate

them in English because this is where they make their livelihood, not in Mexico. It is a thing of pride to say that you are Mexican but if you were The Mexican

born in the United States, then they are American Citizens.

government does not recognize you as a citizen, only as a person of Mexican heritage. It is good to have them know both languages but it is best to Both are needed. The education for them

have them know English the best.

is better here because this is where you have better opportunities for jobs. This is where you can get a good job and make more money. Mexico, if you know both languages you can get a good job. The same in But there are

very few who know both languages well enough to read them and write them.
J

The Spanish language is a beautiful language and it is good to speak it when you are among Mexicans. Mrs. Urvina: But I am telling you that in Texas they did not let us speak Spanish in school. At home we did. I was born speaking Spanish at home.' It wasn't

until I went to school that I learned how to speak English and it was very hard. Barela: This is how I was brought up speaking only Spanish.

Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Urvina for this interview.