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We were called communists.: Becoming Minnesotan

Striking workers and families arriving in Mexico City.
Striking workers and families on 50 day hunger march leaving Nueva Rosita.

Economics, Latino, Oppression

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Essential Question

Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

Politics & Government: How are other systems of government different than the U.S. government?

Words to look for

unrest
retaliation
insurrection

Background Information

Social iniquity has been the norm through most of Latin America over the last centuries. In the mid-twentieth century anger at corrupt or dictatorial governments and wealthy ruling classes spilled over throughout the region, including in Mexico.

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  • Chapter 1

Download José Trejo 1
3:2 Minutes | 2.92Mb

Transcription

Narrator: José Trejo (JT)

Interviewer: Lorena Duarte (LD)

JT: I was born in Northern Mexico in the city called Rosita, in the state Coahuila. My dad, at the time, found work as a farmhand. My dad had been a steel worker in Mexico. He had worked in the steel mills and in mines for twenty years before coming to the United States. My mother was a school principal, elementary school principal and she had been a principal for quite a few years.

At that time, there was a lot of unrest in Mexico. My father had been involved in a major strike against the coal company that owned the steel mills. This precipitated retaliation from the government. The town people who went on strike decided to go on a caravan to Mexico City. I remember vividly, the caravan marchers started walking out at nine o’clock in the morning. In the middle of the afternoon, the Mexican army moved in and took over the town. They declared martial law, and they accused us of being in a state of insurrection.
We were called communists. Of course, I didn’t know what a communist was at the time.

LD: How old were you?

JT: In 1952 I was ten years old. They called us communists and I didn’t know what a communist was, so I asked Hermenia, “What’s a communist?” and she says, “I don’t know. It must be some kind of Protestant.”

And nobody really knew what it was. We were pretty much under martial law for about almost two years. All our civil rights were taken away. We couldn’t go to church. You couldn’t gather in crowds, no more than three people at a time. Things were closed. And then, in addition to that - this was very interesting – here is a town that’s been declared in insurrection. Almost four thousand of its men are marching on to Mexico City. So behind was left the women and children and the elderly. And the town not only had to support itself, but it had to support the marchers. So it was quite a task for a town who was supposedly in a state of insurrection, since the army controlled everything, to be able to feed itself and, at the same time, be able to feed the people on the march.

LD: Right.

JT: Some towns in Mexico where the marchers went through refused them to enter the city because of fear of being labeled as sympathizers to communism. Some towns did open their doors, but for the most part were pretty much on our own for two years.


Related Glossary Terms

caravan

Noun: A convoy or procession of travelers, their vehicles and cargo, and any pack animals.

communism

Noun: The basic belief that property and goods should be owned in common.

communist

Noun: A member of a Communist political party or movement, or a supporter of the political philosophy of communism; they usually advocate for a classless society with communal ownership of property, and often set up one-party totalitaran type governments.

insurrection

Noun: An organized opposition to an authority; a mutiny; a rebellion.

martial law

Noun: Rule by the military in place of the regular government, usually during time of war or other crisis.

precipitate

Verb: To make something happen suddenly and quickly; hasten. (precipitates, precipitating, precipitated)

retaliation

Noun: Violent response to an act of harm or perceived injustice.

strike

Noun: A work stoppage as a form of protest.

sympathizer

Noun: Someone who supports something or wishes it well.

unrest

Noun: A state of trouble, confusion and turbulence, especially in a political context; a time of riots, demonstrations and protests.

Citation

Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
nid: 2168