Paula and Nicolaz Casillas raised three daughters in the post World War II boom. The previous article “Matriarch Paula Casillas and Her Daughters” details Paula’s life journey from the Pala Indian Reservation to Chula Vista where she and Nick raised their family. [Read more…]
Part I: From Douglas Arizona, to the Pala Indian Reservation to Chula Vista
I interviewed Paula Casillas in November 2017. The first thing you notice is how well dressed she is. Her hat matches her clothes and she certainly does not look like a woman who was born in 1923. Gloria Casillas and Mary Salas, two of her three daughters, are with us.
The Casillas family has deep roots in Chula Vista, California. Before moving to Chula Vista, Paula grew up on the Pala Indian Reservation. Her father, Jose Rafael Silva, was born in San Pedro, Sonora, and moved to Douglas, Arizona around 1914. Jose served in World War I and has his draft card to prove it. Paula’s mother, Rosa Limon Silva, was born in Hermosillo, Sonora. There were seven children in the family, three brothers and four sisters, and they survived as poor land farmers.
Paula’s father also worked at the Copper Queen Smelting Company in Douglas, which produced 25 percent of all the world’s copper at that time. Mexicans worked in the worst conditions and held the most dangerous jobs in the mine. There had been a strike at the mines and the Mexican workers were basically used as strike breakers, but became so valuable for the dangerous jobs that they were kept as laborers. [Read more…]
Editor Note: This is the final article in the four-part series Brother Martin: From Logan Heights to a Trappist Abbey
Brother Martin devoted his Wednesday morning to giving my companion José Goytia and me a tour of the grounds of the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Oregon. This time he was dressed in his monk robes. He showed us the dining room with its beautiful wooden tables. [Read more…]
While he was readjusting to living in Logan Heights, Brother Martin was having a war inside himself about what he wanted to do with his life. He spoke with priests and nuns about his confusion. He taught catechism and led a Boy Scout troop for boys from Saint Augustine. He seemed to have one foot in the religious world and the other in regular everyday life. He was unsure if he wanted to follow a religious life or continue on the path he was on. [Read more…]
Brother Martin remembers that Australia of 1943 looked like America of the 1920s. He was assigned to the 1st Calvary Division in a camp located near a suburb called Strapfine. He was an assistant to the “BAR Man.” (BAR stands for Browning Automatic Rifle, which was a big gun which fired 20-round clips with 30-caliber ammunition.) The BAR Man, Dick Chase, was an Episcopalian from Minnesota. He says they had some interesting discussions about their two faiths.
He celebrated his nineteenth birthday on an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) going from Australia to Oro Bay, New Guinea, on the way to a planned invasion of the Admiralty Islands. [Read more…]
While I was collecting material for the book “La Neighbor: A Settlement House in Logan Heights”, my friend Emma Lopez recommended that I get in touch with a monk named Brother Martin, who grew up in Logan Heights. I wasn’t sure how much he would have to share, or, for that matter, how much he would remember, since he had been at an abbey for over 60 years. But I followed Emma’s advice and contacted Brother Martin via regular mail.
On one particular day, he asked when I was coming up to visit him. I promised I would go “next summer.” As “next summer” came to an end, I began preparations to meet Brother Martin. [Read more…]
On Sunday August 20, a memorable event took place at the Women’s Museum of California. It was publicized as a book signing of the recently released Chicana Tributes: Activist Women of the Civil Rights Movement, but in reality, it was an ebullient celebration. The book documents the work of sixty-one women who were fearless and committed trailblazers in the Chicano civil rights movement in the late twentieth century and beyond. A number of those women were and still are deeply connected to San Diego’s own history of that movement. [Read more…]
Enrique Morones’ fight for justice and human dignity
There are many reasons for reading Border Angels The Power of One by Enrique Morones with Richard Griswold del Castillo. It includes powerful border stories and photographs that give a face to the many hurdles confronting those who come to El Norte.
Some of the stories come from mothers or other family members who have not heard from or seen their grown children for months or years. Immigration is the hot issue today. Do those who speak against undocumented workers know the hardship and pain the families face? [Read more…]
There is a new and exciting book titled “San Diego Lowriders: A History of Cars and Cruising”. Authors Alberto López Pulido and Rigoberto “Rigo” Reyes capture a history and culture that is not always thought of when the history of San Diego is related.
This book begins with the roots of lowriding and introduces us to organized car clubs. The authors emphasize the pride and respect Lowriders had for their community, for their cars, and for each other. Car clubs became a focal point and have remained a common ground for community drivers to the present day.
The general public is not aware that Lowriders are actually part of the history of San Diego as early as 1950. [Read more…]
San Diego Unified had what was then called a leadership list for future administrators. Thinking she would be able to have more influence if she became an administrator, Rosalia applied. While being interviewed by an assistant superintendent, she was told she didn’t qualify for the leadership list because she did not have experience north of Interstate 8. Rosalia took the moment to explain that she had no desire to be in an assignment north of 8 and that she thought those teachers north of 8 should have south of 8 teaching experience.
The assistant superintendent also explained that the second reason she could not be considered for the leadership list was that she had participated in a one-day teacher strike. She then informed him that she had no intention of applying for the leadership list. [Read more…]
Part I: From Laredo Texas to San Diego
Rosalia describes herself as lucky. She grew up in Laredo, Texas, the daughter of hardworking parents. She says her father Octavio was the hardest working man she has ever met. Her mother Alicia, who loved music and sincerely enjoyed meeting people, had an anything is possible attitude. Ocatvio was born in Mexico and Alicia was born in Michigan to a mother who had also been born in the United States.
Rosalia’s mother faced tremendous economic challenges. Her maternal grandfather Celestino left Texas before 1920 and moved to Detroit Michigan in search of a better livelihood. Celestino was born in Saltillo, and while living in Texas, worked as a shoe repair man. When the word spread all over the country that the Ford Motor company was hiring, Celestino, like many other Mexicanos, moved north in search of a better life. [Read more…]
Jess Haro is well known in San Diego’s Latino community. The Chicano activist has been a City Councilman, Chairman of the Board of the Chicano Federation and has served on various boards in our community. How did the boy born in Stockton, California end up in San Diego?
Jess’s father immigrated to the United States in 1918. Jess’s mother became a widow from her first husband in Durango, Mexico and followed her daughter to the United States in 1923. It was a very long journey and took eight days by mule to reach Nogales where she then caught a train to El Monte, California. She went to work at the Hick’s Ranch and lived in the huge farm worker camp located in El Monte. [Read more…]