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Interview with Diana Villarreal

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Diana Villarreal was born in Texas in 1928 and moved to Minnesota in 1955. She is president of the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club, which was formed in 1971 by about four people and grew to a membership of about 25 within its first few years. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: The Spanish Speaking Cultural Club's philosophies, financing, meetings, goals, activities and plans for the future - her activities since coming into the community - and the ways in which the activities led to her involvement with the club. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Tape speed vacillated in sections, resulting in poor voice reproduction but not severely hampering comprehensibility.

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TRANSCRIPT OF AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH DIANA VILLARREAL INTERVIEWER: GRANT A. MOOSBRUGGER

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

As President of the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club in St. Paul at the time of the interview, Diana Villarreal outlines the philosophies, goals and activities of the Club. Her

own activities that led to her involvement with the Club are also discussed in the interview. 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 available in the Audio-

Visual Library'of the Minnesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH DIANA VILLARREAL August 6, 1976 Moosbrugger: This is Grant Moosbrugger, interviewing Mrs. Diana Villarreal, on August 6, 1976, at her home in Shoreview, Minnesota. of the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club. Mrs. Villarreal is President

This interview is being conducted

for the Minnesota Historical Society's Mexican American History Project. Do I have your permission to interview you for this project? Villarreal: Moosbrugger: Villarreal: Yes. Can you tell us who you are, and where you were born? My name is Diana Villarreal. I was born in Laredo, Texas. I have been in

Minnesota for ten and one half years. Public Schools for ten years. in elementary education.

I have been working for the St. Paul My background in

I work on the West Side.

At the present time, I am working on my Master's

Degree, in Special Learning and Behaviorial Problems. Moosbrugger: What are some of the activities you have been active in which have led you to the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club? Villarreal: It goes back about four years. Anytime that there was a parent, who's kid

was going to Roosevelt Elementary and Junior High; and they needed someone to interpret for them, I was called upon to do it. meet Mrs. Nena Medina. She went to school one day. Consequently, I got to After I had talked

to her two or three times, the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club was going to have a meeting and she wanted me to go to it. At first, she was very

hesitant to talk to me, this is what she said to me, "When I first saw you, I thought that you were White. Little by little, after I started

talking to you, and getting to know you a little bit better, I realized that you were different, and that you took an interest in me." That

afternoon, when I came home and told my husband about it, my husband and I decided to go and see what it was all about. a lot of people in the community. Prior to this, I had met

I guess it really goes back to 1967, There were twenty-eight Their grade-level was

when a group of students came from Mexico.

students, who couldn't speak a word of English.

-2Villarreal: from kindergarten through ninth grade, or five years old to sixteen/seventeen years old. At the time, I was the only person they could communicate with. I did

They took me out of my SLPB assignment, and put me in a classroom. that for a year and one half. They started coming to school. who the teacher was.

The parents couldn't speak very good English. They wanted to know what was going on, and There

I ,.became very involved with these parents.

were about five different parents, mostly the mothers.

Little by little,

they started asking me to their homes, and talking more about the work I was doing for their children. one half that I have had. lenging. That was, to me, one of the best year and It was very, very chalThey

It was a lot of work.

The older students were sixteen to seventeen years old.

were very inquisitive.

Anytime that I explained something to them, they I became very, very Most of them

wanted me to explain everything in Spanish, too.

close to those students, and they became very close to me. I had about one year and one half.

After that, the school administration

felt they also needed the classroom experience, so they could interact and mingle with the rest of the students. This is what happened. The last

half of t:.e year I had them, it was on a half-day basis. me a half-day, and a half-day in a regular classroom. them did very well.

They were with

After that, most of But I still Anytime

They didn't need anymore help from me.

kept in contact, not only with them, but also with the teachers.

they felt they needed an explanation, they felt comfortable coming to me. I am very pleased, because quite a few of them have continued their education. Some of them are very, very active and creative. One of them,

who I just talked to last week, is going to the Minneapolis School of Art. Another one is going to college. He wanted to go to Humboldt, which is After that year and one

a Senior High on the West Side, to teach Spanish. half, I went back to my SLBP position. I had one of her children in my class.

This is where I met Mrs. Medina.

My husband and I went to that

-3Villarreal: meeting. There were only three or four people there. Those four people,

were the ones that started the club.

The club was started in July of 1971. The

It was in March of 1972, when my husband and I became involved in it.

reason we hadn't gotten involved before, was because, our plans were to go back where our families are, in South Texas. couldn't find a job down there. Minnesota, and stay here. At the time, my husband

We decided to build a home, here in

I am glad we did, because we really like it here. We wanted to

At that time, we decided we really wanted to get involved. help as many Mexicans as we could, if they wanted our help. Moosbrugger: Villarreal: Can you remember, by name, any of those people? Yes. Felipe Ramirez was the President.

Nicha Coates, was one of the

people that started the Club.

There was Jose Estrada, and Mrs. Nena Medina. They were meeting at the Neighborhood

That's the time we got involved. House.

The purpose of the Club is to meet the cultural, social and eduJust because we call

cational needs of the Spanish speaking communities.

it the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club, doesn't mean that only Mexicans can join
~he

club.

We have people from El Salvador and Brazil.

We also have

Anglos who are inte_oested in maintaining the Spanish language, and who are very sensitive to the needs of the Spanish speacking people, who have joined the Club. The Club has become very involved in issues that affect the I am sure you have heard of the Mexican We have that center, not because the

education of Mexican Americans.

American Cultural Resource Center.

school district felt that a center such as that one was needed, but because of community concerns. A group of people from the community went Conse-

before the school board and talked about a need for such a center. quently, the center was finally opened in October of 1974. teacher in charge of the center. the Resource Center.

I was the first

This September, I will be in charge of

I feel that another person can come" in and take over. It was a lot of work. It took a lot of

Everything is already set up.

-4Villarreal: effort, not only from me, but from other people. The West Side community

was very involved in planning and offering some of the cultural and educational values. When I first heard I was going to be in charge of the The district.·had

Resource Center, I met with different community people.

nothing to do with the setting up of the Resource Center', or with any of the ideas. It was the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club. He was really the one. It was Felipe I am sure that

Ramirez, President of the Club.

Mr. Saucedo had something to do with this, too.

Felipe went before the

school board, and asked a member of the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club. Since then, we have gotten involved in other issues that affect the education of the Mexican American. High, who was teaching Spanish. There was a teacher at Humboldt Senior She had taught there for quite a few years, Some of the Club members got They applied

and didn't even know the Spanish alphabet.

together with other parents and went to the superintendent. pressure on this teacher to quit. Moosbrugger: She retired.

What are some of the Latin activities you participate in to retain cultural values and heritage?

Villarreal:

We usually participate in the 16th of feptember, artd in the parade.

The

Club has big posters and we usually have one or two trucks decorated for the parade. We have quite a few community people. Some of them dressed in

costumes from Mexico.

On the 12th of October, we celebrate "El Dia de La That is the beginning of the mingling We have a big program that day. We

Raza", which is Columbus Day here. of the Spanish and Indian Cultures.

usually have somebody explaining the significance of "El Dia de La Raza." We have dances and poetry-reading. can. We try to involve as many people as we The first two years, we

We have done that for the past four years.

had it at the Neighborhood House.

Then we outgrew that place, so we went Last year, we had about 250 people In

to Our Lady of Guadalupe's Church hall. present at our celebration.

We hope to continue that, from day to day.

-5-

Villarreal:

December, we have a big luncheon for the Spanish Speaking Senior Citizens. We have been working quite a bit with the Senior Citizens. We feel that

a lot of programs are geared towards youth, but very few towards Senior Citizens, especially to Spanish Speaking Seniors. work with them. In December, we have a big fiesta. We have done a lot of We provide a big Sometimes we have Just to see them, We also

luncheon, transportation, and bingo games for them. about fifty Senior Citizens, from allover the city.

and see how happy they are, really makes my work worthwhile. celebrate the 5th of May.

We get involved in the different activities

that are planned by the schools of the West Side, or in other areas of the city where they need people with expertise in that area. If some
~f

us

can't give that help, then we get other people to go to the different schools, and talk about the significance of the 5th of May. I think right We

now, the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club is sponsoring two programs. have Gary Gorman, Director of the Bilingual Services for the Spanish Speaking Seniors. Then we have Nicha Coates, working in the field of

Social services for the Spanish speaking.

There is a meeting every first

Wednesday of the month and we get a report of the meeting from Nicha ,and Gary. At the present time, the Club is also sponsoring a "Needs Assessment Very often we are turned down by different agencies, because they We really don't know just how many

Survey".

feel that we are duplicating services. of these services are needed. Moosbrugger: Villarreal:

Nicha is still doing the survey now.

Through the West Side community? Yes. This is not only for the West Side community, this is for the city We are going to try to interview quite a few Latinos from If the people can't speak English, then the interview We are also coming "out with a bi~erican

of St. Paul.

the city of St. Paul.

will be done in Spanish, or vice-versa. lingual directory.

Anytime you want to find out what Mexican

teachers there are, you can look it up in the directory.

It will have

-6-

Villarreal:

names, the type of work they do, the name of the agency, or the company they work for.

Moosbrugger: Villarreal:

A type of resource book for people? Right. have" We do get a lot of phone calls like: "How many lawyers" etc. "How many engineers do you

This directory will take care of that.

We are hoping that it will be out in November. Moosbrugger: Villarreal: How big of a roster do you have for club membership? We have about twenty paid members. In July we had an open meeting. We We

invited other people so we could inform them about us and what we do. had about fifty different people show up for it. meeting this pas-t Wenesday. new members join us. We had our monthly

The weather was pretty bad.

We only had two

I am hoping that for the September meeting, all the

people who went to the open meeting, will be called to take part in the organization. I hope that we do get more people, because we do need help.

I forgot to mention before that for the past three years, we have been taking part in the Festival of Nations. Mexican food. most popular. again. The Club became involved in selling

Of all the nationalities that participated, ours was the We took in the most money. This past May we got involved

The reason we do that, is not only to expose our food, but also the We had nineteen couples partiMaria Moran

dancing, which is a part of our cultural. cipating in dancing.

Most of them were from the West Side.

is our dance instructor, she has decided to keep the group going, so we practice every Sunday afternoon. December. We have bookings for September and

We are doing it just to have an adult group who can expose that The club

aspect of our culture, again, we were the most popular booth. took care of the kitchen. Moosbrugger: Villarreal: This was the last festival? Right. It is to the point where the club needs us.

They rely a lot on

the money that we take in.

They keep telling us that we always take in

-7Villarreal: Moosbrugger: Villarreal: the most money. Is that at the International Institute? Yes. From the money that we take in, after the expenses have been deducted, When

80% goes to the International Institute, and 20% goes to the Club.

we had this July open meeting, I explained this to the people who were present. They were not aware of that before. They thought that all the

money we made went to the club, and that we didn't need anymore money. We made about 550 dozen tacos and we also sold tostadas and bunue10s. only made $282.00, for all that work. a week, to make tacos. We

We met two months in advance, once We have very hard working They want to do more for We want better

It is a lot of work.

people, who are very interested and dedicated. the Mexicans.

Really, that is what i t is all about.

things for the Mexicans.

We are tying to meet the social needs of the Rebecca Rojas

Latinos on the West. Side, and around the city of St. Paul.

is the Vice-President of the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club and Rebecca Garay is the Secretary. Aurelio Rojas is the Treasurer. The reporters

are; Angie and Francisco Rivera.

We have three charter members, they are; The membership committee

,) Jose Estrada, Nicha Coates and Margarita Corral.

is made of Becky Garay; Angie and Francisco Rivera; Gary Gorman; Nicha Coates; Rebecca Roj as; Roberto and Diana Villarreal. Right now, our main concern The

is continuing the bilingual services for the Spanish speaking people. program is federally funded.

The project has been in operation for a year.

Gary projected that seventy-five Spanish speaking senior citizens will be involved by the end of the first year. of June. Well, the year just ended the 26th We

He serviced Seventy-six Spanish Speaking Senior Citizens.

have been criticized because we are not meeting the needs of the Spanish Speaking Senior Citizens in Minneapolis. But to meet thoes needs, we need This year

more people, more staff and more money to continue that program.

the Spanish Speaking Cultural Club has $1,664.00 to continue the project.

-8-

Villarreal:

That was the reason we got very involved in the Festival of Nations.

This

coming Sunday, August 8th, we are having a taco luncheon to raise money. Every four months we have to give Gary $417.00. my power to continue the program. I will do everything in

We have been going to different agencies, We would like to hire one of the

and sent in a proposal to get funding.

Senior citizens to be a driver to pick up some of the other seniors. That is where most of the time was going, picking up some of the seniors at their homes. I would like to see the program expand, if possible. If

we can get the money. of the budget.

Next year, the club will have to come up with 50%

Right now, the budget is twelve or thirteen thousand, and All our efforts are We sent our

out of that we are committed to almost $1,700.00.

being geared to raise that money to continue the project.

proposal to NSP, to see if they could give us $900.00 for this coming year. I received a letter from NSP about three weeks ago. sorry they couldn't help us. It said they were

They felt there were other governmental They also thought that we were

agencies we could tap for money or funds.

duplicating services, that there were other agencies that were providing services for Spanish Speaking Seniors.) This is a very unique situation, where you have seniors that can't speak English. I
don"t~know

of any other

program that is addressing itself to the needs of the Spanish speaking seniors. We did go before them and expressed our opinions, our views, and I guess they got a better understanding of the

some of the things we do. project.

They are going to reconsider; he said he would get something, but However, I think every little bit helps.

we are not going to get $900.00.

If we could get $400.00 or $500.00, that would really helps us for next year. Moosbrugger: Who had he thought was providing those services for the Spanish speaking seniors? Villarreal: He couldn't tell us. He just felt that there are a lot of programs for

-9-

Villarreal:

seniors, right now. mono-lingual.

He didn't understand the fact that a lot of them were We have seniors who Gary and Any

We have a lot of problems.

Nicha have to take to the doctor or to interpret for, and to lawyers.

type of service that they need, somebody has to go with them to interpret. A lot of people do not have bilingual personnel. don't either. A lot of the agencies

I think the jub Gary is doing, is fantastic; with the help There is a They do a lot

of Nicha and Margaret Corral plus some other volunteers. Mr. Medina who helps Gary quite a bit with transportation. of social activities, and recreational tupe ·activities. some of the activities when I can get there. doing something for them. them to the State Fair. at the State Fair.

I have been to

I feel so good that we are

In August, on Senior Citizen's Day, we take The club provides their transportation and lunch

For future activities, we do plan on continuing our We are going to keep on seeking We would like to We would like to get

involvement in the Festival of Nations.

funding for the continuation of the present programs. continue with Nicha. She is under the CEDA program.

involved with other educational needs or activities that deal with the Mexican Americans. The more members we have, the more
invo1'~ftd

we can get.

Right now it is to the point where the same ones are doing almost everything. We would like more members. We are trying to get as many members

as possible, so that we can have other fund-raising activities for whatever we need. Moosbrugger: Your meetings are the first Wednesday of every month, plus committee meetings as needed, to carry out your projects and goals? You are serving

the community through education, and by giving attention and service to the senior citizens? Villarreal: No. Are those the two main branches?

We also try to meet the cultural and social needs of the Spanish We applied for a grant in the first part of the year We received $4,000. Two

speaking community.

from the Minnesota Bicentennial Commission.

-10Villarreal: months later, we had to come up with two-thirds matching money. to get a commitment from somebody by the 15th of April. happen, then we would lose our grant. We lost our $4,000. committee now. We had

If that didn't

This is eventually what happened. We have an advisory We

But we have not given up hope.

They haven't met yet, because it is a new committee. This is through Nicha's efforts, on be-

are doing what we want to do. half of the Cultural Club.

We want to do a documentary film on the We have

contributions of the Mexican American in the State of Minnesota. sent a proposal to a lot of agencies. that seem very interested.

There are two or three, right now,

In order for us to do a good film, it will We want everything in film, slides, Nothing has been recorded, I feel that human

cost us $60,000 to 65,000 thousand. or tapes.

A lot of our older people are dying.

outside of the project which you are doing right now.

relations workshops, or people who need human relations, would benefit from the film. benefit from it. The libraries, schools, and even our own people would We have a lot of positive self-image, which is good.

We are working very hard, especially in getting that money, so we can do that documentary film. We have people who have expertise in di:ferent Eventually, I hope we can get it But,

areas, and are willing to work with us. done.

We wanted to have it done this year, during the Bicentennial. Money is hard to come by, especially

we haven't had that much luck. through agencies.

Very little has been done for the Mexicans.

Now all of

a sudden, there are quite a few groups that are coming up with proposals. They need money for one activity or another. right time for that film. I just feel that now is the

Hopefully, we will get the money that is needed.

There is no way the Club could come up with $65,000. Moosbrugger: Villarreal: Moosbrugger: So that is one of the big projects, or hopes, for the future? Right. If we can get funding from other sources.

The Federal funds that you are receiving to serve the seniors will have to

-11Moosbrugger: Villarreal: go on fifty percent (50%) next year? The Club has to come up with fifty percent (50%). When we went before to

the Metro Council for the aged, we asked for Twelve to Thirteen Thousand Dollars the first year. for such a small amount?" They were asking us, "How come you are asking us Well, we didn It want to ask for too much beThis year, we went

cause this was our first experience with the project. for a little bit more. total grant.

They only gave us Eighty Percent (80%) of the We need more money. We are

Next year, it will be 50/50.

planning a masquerade party, for October 30th. licity, hopefully.

We will get a lot of pub-

The executive board has been directed by the general

membership to go ahead and plan this dance, and to get different committees set up, so that perhaps we can make a little money. the Festival of Nations, we cleared almost $1,000. Sunday, we hadn I t had a fund-raiser. $1,000. Three years ago, at Up until this coming

For' three. years we worked with the

We gave a small contribution to a migrant worker to go to

Washington to learn more about the federal government and how the government was run, to talk to the two senators from Minnesota and meet with congressmen. Sometimes people need help, and they come to us. There was

a Chicano conference two years ago. fifty dollars to it, we did. Moosbrugger:

They asked us if we could donate

The Club will be into fund-raising activities, in the future, to keep up their good work?

Villarreal: Moosbrugger:

Right. Well, we certainly wish you the very best of luck. organization. It sounds like a fine

Thank you very much for the interview.

Villarreal:

Thank you!