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Interview with Antonio and Petra T. Zepeda




Antonio Zepeda Cardona was born in San Juan de Allende, Coahuila, Mexico, in 1902. He came to the United States with his family in 1907 and was raised in Rio Hondo, Texas. He was married to Petra Trevino Zepeda in Mexico at age sixteen, and in 1923 they came to the United States. He worked for the railroad for three months then came to Minnesota to work in the beet fields. He died in 1977. Petra Trevino Zepeda was born in Cuatro Cienigas, Coahuila, Mexico in 1906. She helped her father harvest his crops and take them to sell in the marketplace in Piedras Negras. She married Antonio Zepeda at age thirteen. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Their childhood and immediate family in Mexico - courtship in Mexico - the Mexican Revolution - crossing the border - job history - their twelve children - people and festivals on St. Paul's West Side - and advice for younger people. Mr. Zepeda also explains techniques for harvesting sugar beets. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: In Spanish, transcribed into English.





World Region




This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Antonio Zepeda Cardona was born in San Juan de Allende, Coahuila, Mexico in 1902. He came to the U.S. in 1907 with his family and was raised in He married at the age of 16 in Mexico and returned to He worked for the railroad for three

Rio Hondo, Texas.

the U.S. three years later in 1923.

months and then came to Minnesota to w<1>'rk in the beet fields.
I Petra Trevino Zepeda was born in Cuatrocienigas, Coahuila, Mexico in 1906.

She helped her father harvest his crops and take them to the marketplace to sell in Piedras Negras. She married at age 13. Mr. Zepeda

Mr. and Mrs. Zepeda each discuss their family and early life: spent his in Texas; Mrs. Zepeda grew up in Mexico. bit about the revolution. courtship in Mexico.

The latter talks a little

She also mentions some of the aspects of their

In addition they talk about-their own children, some

of the people they first knew in St. Paul, their job histories and festivals held on St. Paul's West Side. future generations. 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

Mr. Zepeda concludes with some advice for, the

avai1abe in the Audio-visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.



This is Victor Barela interviewing Mr. & Mrs. Antonio Zepeda, at 214 East Robie, St. Paul, Minnesota 55107, on July 31, 1975, for the Mexican American

History Project, which is under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Yes. What is your full name Mr. Zepeda? Antonio Zepeda Cardona. And you Mrs. Zepeda, can you give me your full name? Petra Trevino Zepeda. Mr. Zepeda, where were you born? San Juan de Allende, Coahuila. When were you born? December 2, 1902. Where were you born, Mrs. Zepeda? Cuatrocienigas, Coahuila. When were you born? January 31, 1906. What were your parents names, Mr. Zepeda? Jose Zepeda and Manuela Cardona. Where were they born? They were born in Mexico. Do you know where in Mexico? No, I don't remember. Do you remember your parents? What they were like? Do I have permission to record your whole history, Mr. & Mrs. Zepeda?


Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela:

Yes. What did your father do for a living? He did all kinds of jobs. Did he have his own farm?' No. Did he rent from someone else? Yes. What did he plant? Cotton, maguey, and corn. Did you have any brothers and sisters? Yes. How many? Four brothers and five sisters. Do you remember their names? The oldest was called Candelario, I am the second, then Nasario, and the youngest was Francisco.

He trimmed trees.

He also planted for some time.

Mr. Zepeda:

Mr. Zepeda:

Mr. Zepeda:

Mr. Zepeda:

Mr. Zepeda:


What about the girls? The oldest was Emilia, then Mati1de, Fe1ipa, Maria, and Teodora. Are they still alive? Four of the sisters are still alive. are alive. My mother-in-law is dead. Only two brothers aside from }rr. Zepeda I never met my father-in-law.

Mr. Zepeda:

Mr. Zepeda:

Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela:

Do they live in Mexic.o? No, in San Antonio, Texas. Do you remember your childhood? No. Did you go to school in M~xico?

Mr. Zepeda:

I attended school for a while in the United States.

How old were you when you came to the United States? About five. Where were you raised? In Rio Hondo, Texas. What were your parents names, Mrs. Zepeda?

Mr. Zepeda:

Mr. Zepeda:


Mrs. Zepeda:

My father's name was Severo Trevi'no Gard_~ and my mother's was Juanita Cir10s Hernandez.

Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela! Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

Where were your parents born?

My father was born in Cuatrocienigas, Coahuila.
Did they,,;marry very young? My father was thirty-six, my mother twenty-two. Did you have any brothers and sisters? Just one sister. What was her name?
,; / ---Maria de Jesus Trevino.

My mother in San Buenaventura.

She was older than I.

Is she still alive? No, she died many years ago. What did your parents do for a living? My mother never worked. My father was a laborer. In those times they also

took wood in wagons to Piedras Negras, Coahuila, where they would sell it. With the money that he)'earned from this, he supported his home. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Did he use donkeys? No, they used mules. Life was pretty harsh for him, wasn't it? Yes, He was the only one that worked. When my sister was alive, she would

help him harvest corn, squash, tomatoes, watermelon, cante10pe, and chiles. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mr s. Zepeda: Would he go to the market to sell his crops? Yes, he would sell them at the market place in Piedras Negras. Did you ever help your father at the market? No, I never worked. Are your parents still alive? No, they've been dead for many years. Do you remember when they died? My father died in 1933 in Mexico, my mother died a year and three months later in San Antonio, Texas.

-4Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Then your parents never came to the United States? My father didn't. After my father's death we brought my mother to live with

us in San Antonio, Texas. Barela: Mr. Zepeda, your family came to Rio Hondo, Texas. there? Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: He worked for the railroad. Did you help your father at the railroad? No, I was still very young and going to school. Do you remember your life as a youngester? Was it comfortable, happy? When we What did your father do

Really, it was neither, because life in Mexico is very different.

became sweethearts, we didn't see each other much because it just wasn't permitted. A romance was considered a

delicate thing and it was treated

in the same way.

I had a lot of respect for my father so I never did anything One day my father caught me talking to He told Antonio that he had no business What my father did say to him

that would be against his beliefs.

Antonio and he didn't like it one bit. being with me.

He forbade him from seeing me.

was that if he had anything to discuss withilime, it could be taken care of in my home. With that, Antonio would come see me at my house, but my parents We were

were always sitting with us, we really couldn't talk about much.

sweethearts for a year and three months and then I told him that if he wanted to marry me, he would have to speak to my father. went to ask for my hand in marriage. on married life. father consented. My mother-in-law's brother

My father would give me a lot of advice

When it was time for an answer, I never said no, so my A friend of my father's would tell him that even though I Finally we got

was very young, I would eventually grow to be a mature woman.

married, but then my relatives would say that Antonio would bring me to the United States and would soon run off without me. been married for fifty-six years. Barela: So you were thirteen years old and your husband was sixteen when you were married? Well, look at us now, we've

-5Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Yes. Then you came to the United States immediately? No, we remained in Mexico for three years. there but died at the age of five months. States. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: My first child was born over In 1923, we came to the United

My oldest son, Jesus, was born over here.


In what city were you married? In Santo Domingo, it's not too far from Piedras Negras, Coahuila. Then your first child died in Mexico? Yes, he was born in 1920 and died that same year. And after that? Three years later we came to the United States, and our oldest son was born in Wisconsin. The rest of our children were born in St. Paul.

Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

What did you say was the name of the town in Wisconsin? Prescott. What is the name of your son that was born there? Jesus Zepeda. Mrs. Zepeda, you say that you don't remember anything about the Revolution? I only remember one thing and that was that men in troops would come along and take girls with them. were coming. The girls would hide in the woods when the men

This happened in a ranch called San Vicente, where I grew up.

After the troops would leave the mothers would run to the woods, creeks or whatever calling their daughters to return because there was notheing to fear anymore. I also recall that these same men would also come into the homes They were looking for firearms, or whatever they

and turn them inside out.

considered valuable, and they would take them. Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Zepeda: And your father, did he have any problems? No, beacuse my father was working in Crystal City, Texas. So ., then, he wasn't in Mexico? No, it was just my mother, my sister, and myself. But you'll have to remember

that all the homes were very close together and everyone would help out his


Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:


The ranch was just like a small town.

Did your family suffer during the Revolution, Mr. Zepeda? No, we were already in Texas. Can you tell me about your children? Like I said before, my first child was born and died in Mexico. was born in Prescott, Wisconsin.


Then Jesus


Maria, Dora, Matilde, Rebecca, Herminia Then we went to San Antonio,

and Eduardo, they're twins, were born in St. Paul. Texas and remained there for eleven years. Antonio, and Emma were born. Stewart. Barela:

During that period, Elvira, Petra,

We returned to Minnesota and Lydia was born in

You both were very young when you came to the United States. cross the border?

How did you

Mrs. Zepeda: Barela:

We came by train. Both of you, then, wanted to come to the United States right after you were married?

Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

Well, we stayed in Mexico for just three years. You never worked, did you? No, I didn't. My husband worked in the beet fields, at Armour's, the railroad,

the streetcars, boats, and for twenty years as a garbage collector. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Did you have any problems crossing the border? No, all we needed was a passport, a picture, and money (eight pesor or forty cents per person). Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Did you travel by train to the border? No, we went by wagon to Piedras Negras, crossed the bridge by foot and then we were in Eagle Pass, Texas. tination. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Did you have a rough time with jobs and money? No, we never did. We made out well with what we had. Then we took the train to travel to our des-

Mr. Zepeda, in "Las Minas", did you work as a miner? No, I worked with the railroad.

-7Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Did you put up ties? Yes, and it was hard work, but I only did it for three months. moved to San Antonio and then to Wells, Minnesota. and thatls how we got around in Minnesota. Barela: Do you remember the times when you worked at the beet fields? a tent? Mrs. Zepeda: We lived in a house which was very long. It kind of looked like a train but Did you live in From there we

In Wells, we bought a car

that was because there were six families living there. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Did you have running water inside the house? We had running water outside. Did you have showers inside? No, we had to use tubs outside and put blankets around them. Did you make your own soap? We always bought our soap. Were there any doctors in case anyone got sick? No one ever got sick except me, and I had two doctors taking care of me. Was the salary good when you worked at the beet fields? We received $23.00 an acre. What does one need to harvest beets? We used a very small hoe and had to bend down all day long. Who plants the beets? The farmer does. How do you harvest the beets? You have to take it out with the roots and leave one plant so that it will grow big. Barela: Mr. Zepeda: Barela: What do you do with the roots? They throw them away, since sugar is made from the beet itself. When you came to St. Paul, you worked for Armour's? Yes. When you arrived, were there a lot of Mexican families? We had a stove, beds, blankets, and dishes.

Mr. Zepeda:


Mr. Zepeda:

No, there were very few.

People used to stare at us as though we were someThe stores didn't carry any Mexican

thing strange that they had never seen. goods as they do now. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

Did you have any problems finding a house? No, we didn't have any problems. How did you know where to go to inquire about homes? We used to walk through the streets and since my husband knew how to speak Englis, we were able to find a home. He doesn't speak it much now. He had

to be hospitalized for a long while because of an illness and also because he was hit by a car. injuries to his body. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Then, you say, you didn't have any problems finding a home here? No, we didn't. My husband, my brother-in-law, and myself came here. My son Though he is still of age to work, he can't because of

was not born yet. Concha Huerta.

While we were in Prescott, we met Mr. Pastor Lucio, and Then

She offered us a place to stay for that first night.

Mr. Lucio took us to the farm where my son was born.
had there was cutting wood and later with tobacco. I had seen tobacco leaves.

The first job my husband That was the first time My brother-in-law came

Then we came to St. Paul.

first, found a job, and then came for us. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: What was your brother-in-law's name? Nasario Zepeda. He still lives here.

Did you meet any of the Mexican people that were already living here? Yes, we met Mr. Martin Vasquez, who is now deceased, Bernardino Ortega, Vicente and Jose Cardenas and some of the store owners who were Anglos.

Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

Did you have money when you came to St. Paul? Yes, we did. My husband had received his pay for his work in Prescott.

Where did you rent your first home? On State Street. born there. We lived there for many years. Four of my children were


Where did you move to from there?


Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

We moved to 158 Indiana.

Where we lived for many years.

What is your grandchild's name? Reina. Well, we lived at that other home for several years and then sold it We lived there for nine or ten years and then

and bought one on Winifred. bought this one. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

We've lived here for almost three years.

Did you like Minnesota when you first got here? Well, we did. I was seventeen when we arrived so I've spent all my life here

Since then we've travelled to other places like Mexico and San Antonio, Texas, but just to visit. to Minnesota. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: What year did

We couldn't put up with the heat so we always came back

say you arrived in St. Paul?

Were there families like the Rangel's already living here? We met the Rangel's here but I can't remember which one of us got here first. I think it was us.

Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

What about Mr. Alfonso De Leon? We've known him for a long time. There are a lot of people whom we have known

for a long time, but I can't remember their names. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: When you arrived, did the Mexican people here get together for festivals? Oh, sure. One of the first organizations that my husband became a member of There were more Mexican people by then, so we used to We used to celebrate the 24th of December and have One of my daughters was a shepherd once. This would

was the "Azteca Club". have dances and parties. festivals at the church.

take place in the old church and then in Guadalupe Church. hall where these Mexican festivities took place.

It was like a big

The owner of the pool hall I believe he was Italia

was called Nicolas, but he was not of Mexican origin. The Anahuac Society would rent the pool hall. Clubs would get together and have dances. might know his son George Barela:

Both the Anahuac and Azteca

. Galvan.

The president was Juan Galvan.


Did you like to go to the dances?


Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

We sure did.

We used to have a lot of fun.

Would you take your children with you? Yes. At that time I had only two children. I remember we used to eat at a

big table on the corner and if any of the children went to sleep, we would lay them on the table. We did this for many years until finally the custom It is not done anymore.

of taking children to festivities changed. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Would you make food for this occasion?

No, at that time food wasn't sold at festival like it is now. Do you remember the occasions for which dances were held? Sometimes they were held to celebrate the 5th of May and the 16th of September We'd also celebrate the feast of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve, ,-

Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mr s. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

Did that take place at the old church too? Yes. At first it was a dance hall, and then it became the church.

Did you have a Midnight Mass? Yes. So then you added new members to your family in Minnesota? Yes. Were there doctors in St. Paul in case anyone became ill? Oh, yes. Once my son got the measles real bad and was very feverish. We

took him to a physician in South St. Paul because we thought he was the closes one around. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: He gave him medication and told me to take good care of him.

Did all the Mexican people take their children to this doctor? Well, no, because some went to one doctor and the rest to others. Do you remember your doctor's name? No, it's been so many years. Did the Mexican people get together for ties or church activities?

other than patriotic fest iv-

Mrs. Zepeda:

I really didn't know of anything else. dances.

The only things I remember are the


Both of you were very active in church functions, weren't you?


Mr s. Zepeda:

Not really. activities.

It wasn't until recently that I started helping out in church I became a member of the "Guadalupanas" and helped out with

donations of food. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Who was the priest at the church when you came? The priest that we met was Father Dicks. There was another one whom we never

met, but they say that there was a rock in his honor at a park close by. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Were the festivals of those times in accordance with Mexican traditions? The weddings and dances were. Are Mexican weddings different than those in the United States? I would say that they are very similar in the type of dress as well as the profession of

Catholic religion.

In those times there was a group of

Mexican muscians, of which Salvador Martinez was a member, but when it was impossible to get these musicians, we would contract a group of Blacks from Minneapolis. Barela: t-lere there others who helped Salvador Martinez or was that the name of the group? Mrs. Zepeda: Salvador Martinez was the oldest in the group and he was attended by his son Jesus Martinez and his son-in-law Tomas.


I believe that Salvador is not We were Jesus sponsors at

deceased but his son still lives in Minneapolis. his wedding. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Would you get together for baptisms? Yes we would. They were just beautiful.


There would be a big festivity and

a dance, food and chocolate. Barela: Was there a special ceremony for the sponsors since the "Compadrazco" is a profound and distinct affair? Mrs. Zepeda: The only thing was the "abrazo", with the "compadres" (sponsors), and then the child was returned to the parents. Barela: Is there something special that exists between the families when they are "compadres?" Mrs. Zepeda: Does trust between one another exist more deeply? One can respect a "compadre" and trust him like he

Well, it's like I say.

-12Mrs. Zepeda: would his father. does not exist. Nowadays I have seen that respect between "compadres" I say that it should be respected because when one chooses

another person to be his "compadre", he possess love, respect, and good will toward the other. I tell my children that a "compadre" is a person whom they

should respect as they would their father. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: That is a Mexican belief, isn't it? Yes, but I have seen it differently here. Did you as a family have any responsibilities ,for festivals? anything? Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: No. Did sports exist "at the time? In those times there weren't any. Did all your children go to school here in the United States? All of them did go here in St. Paul. Which schools did they attend? They started at Lafayette but also went to the Neighborhood when we lived at the other house. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Only Herminia finished high school. Would you sell

Where did she graduate? From Humboldt. Eduardo, Herminia's twin, finished school in the army.

When did he join the army? I believe it was in 1962. He was on duty for three years. When he finished

school, he sent us a picture of himself and the rest who graduated with him. They were all dressed in their army uniforms. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Did you inspire your children to continue their education? Yes, but in those times, everyone went to find jobs and took their children with them. That is why many of my children didn't receive much of an educatiol

It wasn't like it is today where parents are forced to send their children to school. All my children can speak both English and Spanish and there are some

who can even write Spanish without having gone to a school where Spanish was taught.

-13Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: You have a lot of decorations in your home. Some of my daughters have been to Mexico with their husbands.

They have gone

as far as Acapulco, and they are the ones who have brought me all the things you see. Those of my children which have been to Mexico are Lydia, who is

married to an Anglo, Elvira, Emma, and Dora, whose husband is originally from Piedras Negras but who is nO\V' a, United States citizen. My son Eduardo He

took us to "Cuatrocienigas" so that we could visit with our relatives. did this as seon as he returned from the army. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: It seems as though they like going to Mexico. Yes; they enjoy going to spend their vacations there. Does your family like Mexican food? Yes. Do you prepare Mexican food?

I don't know how to prepare special Mexican platters since I never really learned how to make them. at home. My mother was the one who took care of the cooking

I learned how to make tamales and tacos here.

Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

Do you as a family still celebrate Mexican feasts? Because of our ages, my husband and I don't participate too much. we did though. Last year

I enjoy going, but my husband has problems walking since he Even at my age, I love music.

broke his leg and so I get discouraged. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela: Mrs. Zepeda:

So then all your children live here in Minnesota? Yes, all are married and live here. Are all of them still alive? Yes, all of them. Some of my children's spouses are from here, others are

... from Texas, and two are from Mexico.
Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Do your sons and daughters work? One of my daughters has worked all her life, until recently when the doctor told her that she needed to rest. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: What type of work did she do? When she was still at home, she helped her father out in the fields. Then she

Mrs. Zepeda: got married and worked at a place where they made army supplies. that job for about five years and then worked at a bakery. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: What is her name? Emma. She worked there for many years and later went to work with peanuts Petra works in a hospital. She has a She left

until recently when she became ill. very large family.

When her husband gets off of work, she begins her shift. Lydia has always worked. She has

Elvira got married and never worked.

worked as a secretary, in stores, in restaurants. and always worked in the fields. so she doesn't work anymore. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: And your sons?

Matilde had a large family

Now all her children are married except one

My son Eduardo, has worked driving tlrucks ever since he got out of the army. Antonio works in construction, and Jesus has always worked at Armour's.


What has influenced you the most in your way of living and thinking? been someone who has influenced you the most?

Has there

Mrs. Zepeda:

Well, all our lives, we've lived on my husband's income alone. helped us out when they were still at home.

Our children

After my husband was hit by that Now

car, he could not work any more, so he started to receive his pension.

both of us are also receiving Social Security Benefits and that is how we are making out. We bought this home with the money that we received when we sold We also bought another house close to Riverview Hospital.

the other one.

There was a lawyer who helped us get all the papers in order to get the house sold. He took care of everything for us. This home we live in now is all

paid for. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: Barela:

The only things we have to pay are taxes and insurance.

What advice would you give the younger generation in living life to its fullest? One can give advice on, things which we have experienced in the past. If I came up to you and told you that I had very little experience in dealing with life, what advice would you give me so that I could lead a good life?

Mrs. Zepeda: Barela:

It would depend on the problem that you'd have to deal with. If I were your son and wasn't married yet, but I wanted to go out and live

-15Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: by myself and experience life, what advice would you give me? I would say to him, "Look for a good job and have a good attitude toward people and make the best of it. Barela: Mrs. Zepeda: What advice would you give to a recently married couple? I would say that the best thing for them would be to solve any problems they have themselves. selves. Barela: No one else should be involved except for the couple them-

Mr. and Mrs. Zepeda, I appreciate your kindness for this interview.

Thank you.