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Interview with Luz and Virginia Campa




Luz Campa was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 1909. He came to Bridgeport, Texas, in 1914 and to Minnesota in 1929. In 1967 he opened a restaurant. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Life in Mexico, Bridgeport and Brownton - and how he got started in Minnesota.





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This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Luz, was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in 1909. to work in the coal mines. In 1914 he came to Bridgeport, Texas

It was 1929 when he brought his wife to Minnesota with him, The Campa family owns and operates a successful restau-

where he held a variety of jobs.

rant, the "Red Pepper", in Brownton, Minnesota. In this oral interview Mr. and Mrs. Campa discuss their personal life history as well as the development of their business •. This is a transcript of a tape-recording interview edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. The original tape recording is available in the Audio-

Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH LUZ AND VIRGINIA CAMPA July 2, 1976 Interviewers: MOOSBRUGGER: Grant Moosbrugger and Ramedo Saucedo

This is Grant Moosbrugger,along with Ramedo Saucedo, interviewing Mr. Luz Campa in Brownton, Minnesota. Today is July 2, 1976. We're conDo

ducting this interview for the Minnesota State Historical Society.

we have your permission to interview you for the Minnesota Historical Society, Mr. Campa? MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: Yes. Could you start off by telling us when and where you were born, and any interesting background data':about your family in Mexico? MR. CAMPA: Well, I was born in San Luis Potosi in 1909. to the United States in 1914. coal mining town. wife. MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: How old were you when you came to Bridgeport? Five years old. What year was that? 1914. Yes, I was born in 1909 and in 1914 I came. Then I came with my mother That's a

We came to Bridgeport, Texas.

That's where I was raised.

That's where I met my

How long did you work in Bridgeport? Well, I worked until I got married. I was twenty years old at the time.

We got married and we found that oil well that they have for the trains ••• MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: What's your wife's name? Virginia. What was her maiden name? Vallejo. Was she living in Bridgeport, too, at the time? Yes, at the time. What made you decide to move out of Bridgeport? Because the mines closed?

-2MR. CAMPA: Well, we had no work in there. In 1932-1934 they had the Depression.

Then we decided to come and work the sugar beets in 1928. MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: How did you hear about the sugar beets here? The company from here came looking for laborers. I decided to come and work sugar beets. MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: SAUCEDO: MR. CAMPA: How many brothers did you have working with you? Four brothers, three arid: ,me •. Are they all living here in Minnesota? Well, no. Two live in Iowa and one died. We buried him in the winter So my brothers and



in Minnesota.

Then we came to work sugar beets and when we went back, So we got married. In 1929 we came and

we decided to get married. worked sugar beets. SAUCEDO: MR. CAMPA: SAUCEDO: MR. CAMPA:

What area did you come to work?

What town?

The first year I came to work sugar beets, it was in Chaska, Minnesota. Then did you go back to Texas? Yes. When we came back, we went up to Lake Lillian, Minnesota. I was married already. Then in

1934 we were in Lafayette.

That's when my second

kid was born and my wife just stayed there, because she was expecting. So we came alone: my brothers and I and my mother. Finally, back in

1936, we came back here and worked and decided to stay here.
MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: So after 1936 you decided to stay in Minnesota? Yes. How many children have you had? Thirteen. Are most of them living in Minnesota? Yes, most of them. One is overseas, working for the government. He's How big is your family?


retired from the Air Force. What year did you come to Brownton?
\lind-~sattled her~?

How is it that you came to Brownton

-3MR. CAMPA: Well, I had a friend from St. Paul. ant in Brownton. help him. He was running that hotel-restaurHe asked me to come I helped that Sunday The I said

I came to help him one Sunday.

My wife and I liked the restaurant.

night and the other week we came back. owner told me he pulled out.

It was not there anymore.

He didn't want the place anymore.

to him, "How much do you want to rent the place for?" give you a chance." That's how we started.

He said, "Yes, I'll

We started here and I said,

"I don't know if we':j.l make it here because we cook oldy Mexican food." Well, we did pretty good. By the way, we built up the business. Nicky

came one time and his brothers and they looked at the place full of people. MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: This was where? In the Brownton Hotel. They said, "Father, you're doing pretty good here." The people like me here and ••• so I thought

I said, "Yes, we're doing good. well, I want to stay here." SAUCEDO: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER:

That's how I started in 1967. On the same location?

And you've been in business ever since? Yes. In Brownton.

Right before you started the restaurant business in 1967, what kind of work did you do?


I was working for Tony Tony Dowan's Food?


Food Company.

Yes, over there in Medalia.

I was a meat cutting foreman.

I said to theThey offered

guys, "I've got my business and I can work day and night." me more money. MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: I said, "No, I quit."

So you've been doing restaurant work.ever since? Thanks to God, they'll have me too. What schools have your children gone to? Some of them graduated from Gibbon and some graduated from Winthrop. of them graduated here. Most

-4MRS. CAMPA: Have you seen our picture in the paper at some time? of twins. MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MRS. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER: MRS. CAMPA: SAUCEDO: MRS. CAMPA: They were in the Minneapolis Tribune. We had three sets

Three sets of twins? Yes. When did you have the twins? 1951, 1953, 1956. So you had three sets of twins? Yes, boys and girls. What are their names? Dolly and David in 1951; Christine and Christopher in 1953; then Monica and Michael were born in 1956.


Where did you get started in business in Brownton? place?

In what year?

In what


They used to call it the Brownton Inn, but now it's called the Brownton Hotel.


How long were you at the Brownton Hotel? We stayed there until 1972. Five years. \

What kind of food did you sell there? Mexican food. How big of a town is Brownton? A little over 1200. Did you also sell American food? Yes. American food and Mexican food both.

Why did you leave the Brownton Inn? Because it was a pretty old place and the landlady wanted to fix it. said it didn't pay to fix it anymore. village bought it. They were going to sell it. They The

So we moved up here and found this place.

They were We

going to sell it for pretty cheap and so I decided to tackle it. fixed it up ourselves. We put all the carpeting in.


So what year did you move up here?

1Q72, in November.
What do you call the restaurant? "The Red Pepper." What hours are you generally open? We used to open early, but now my daughter opens from 11:00-1:00. Who, besides your daughter, helps you? Just the family. We never hire anybody. My daughters and boys come and That's when we need




help us on the weekends when we get the groceries. a lot of help. SAUCEDO:

They say they're going to help us, so they come over. Y9u've had in running the restaurant?
. i

What are some of the problems We didn't have any problems.

They've treated us pretty nice here.



Are you pretty well accepted in the town? Yes. Do you know most of the people who live here? Yes, most of the people live on the farms. Winthrop and Gibbon. here. We get a lot of people from They come in


I know a lot of people around here.

They like the Mexican food.

They say, "If we want American food,

we can stay in town." SAUCEDO:

They want Mexican food, so we make Mexican food.

Do you have any other property besides this restaurant? Yes, I've got "Cozy Corner". Right here in town? Yes, right here in town. I've bought another house here, too. That's great! It's a beer joint.



You're quite a businessman.

Are there any other restaurants in this part of the state that serve Mexican food?


Not around here.

There are two in Mankato.


Are they franchised places or home operated places? One is a franchise and one's a family. They call it "Zapata".

-6MRS. CAMPA: SAUCEDO: The other one they call "Los Seis", because there are six in the family. What about Mexican families in this area of Brownton or other areas? Are there a lot of families living around here? MR. CAMPA: Well, no, not too many.. The only one who lives here is Sylvester Guerrero. There are

He's the only one close by, but there are some in Mankato. some in Litchfield. SAUCEDO: MR. CAMPA: MRS. CAMPA: But you have Mexican families coming to your restaurant? Once in a while.

We used to have quite a lot when they came from working in the cornfield in Glencoe. They'd call here to tell him to come to pick them up. Then

he would go get them.

Then I'd go pick them up and bring them back. for them too. in trouble.

Sometimes I'd go interpret

The company would call me to interpret when they'd get


Trouble communicating? Yes. Sometimes I'd get them out of jail too!


Does it seem to you that there are more migtant workers of Mexican descent coming up from Texas each year? Or less? Or about ·:he same?


About the same. around here.

The only thing is that they used to raise a lot of beets They

Since they closed up the American Crystal in Chaska.

moved northwest from here. It started last year. MOOSBRUGGER: MR. CAMPA: MOOSBRUGGER:

They have another new factory built up there.

So now they're quite a few Mexicans up there.

Do most of your sons and daughters live in Minneapolis? Yes. How do they feel? Do they have a tendency to want to stay in Minnesota Or do they think of moving back out?

or stay in the Twin Cities? MR. CAMPA: No, I don't think so. now. MRS. CAMPA: We have one in Mankato.

They like it pretty well where they're staying


Mr. Campa: Mrs. Campa: Moosbrugger: Mrs. Campa: Moosbrugger: Mrs. Campa: Mr. Campa: Moosbrugger:

Yes, and he works in the fire department as a fireman. We have four in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul and one working in Arabia. Is your oldest son expecting to come back to the United States? Yes, he'll be coming back after two years. Do you know which branch of the government he is working with? He is in the Air Force. He is teaching electronics there. What are you plans or hopes? the rest of your lives? Would you like to stay here in Brownton for

Or are you thinking of moving to·,'t,he Twin Cities?

Both: Moosbrugger: Mr. Campa:

No I No I (laugh). You like it here? Well, we are pretty well acquainted with the people here and I get along pretty well. The kids get along pretty well, too.

Moosbrugger: Mr. Campa: Mrs. Campa:

Do they get back and visit you? Oh, yes. They come and help me here. end everyone comes and helps. That's why we started in Brownton. Every week-

Moosbrugger: Mrs. Campa:

How many grandchildren do you have? Twenty-nine. And three great-grandchildren, tool What are some of their family names that are different than Campa? daughters are married, what are some of their names? Your

Mr. Campa:

Mrs. Campa:

Two are Bowmans.

My oldest daughter got married, then Darnel and Christian,

my youngest daughter. Saucedo: Mr. Campa, could you tell us the places where you have worked and the years you worked for them and the kind of work you did? Mr. Campa: Well, I worked for the Bixton Company in Arlington, I was planting. worked part-time like they say that's how you worked for them. people. I

We boarded In the

When we finished our gardens we would harvest our crops.

-6Mr. Campa: winter I would get my land ready for the next summer. do. That's what I would

When I didn't have anything I asked the farmers if they had any work. Later I got tired of working at I

Worked at making ditches for six months. that.

I went to work in Medalia at the Twenty Down Street Company.

worked there for five years. Saucedo: Are there any other families here in Brownton of Mexican ancestry? you give us their names and the year they arrived here in Minnesota? Mr. Campa: The Sylvester Guerrero family came here in 1940. in Stuart, Minnesota. They worked for a farmer Could

They left there and went to work in a creamery in

Glencoe and he got a good job there.


Do they have children? Yes, they have six or seven children. Do they live here? Yes, they live here.
Mr. Campa, we are very

Mr. Campa: Moosbrugger:
Mr. Campa:


to you for the information you have given

us. luck.
Mr. Campa:

We hope you continue having success in your business and we wish you

Thank you for coming, and it's nice meeting you.

We hope you come again!