East of East

East of East: Mapping Community Narratives

A Project of the South El Monte Arts Posse

Vincent Rojas

Interview with Vincent Rojas Interview with Vincent Rojas Interview with Vincent Rojas

Vincent Rojas grew up in Hicks Camp. His family was from Sonora and Guanajuato Mexico, agriculture migrants. Descriptions of life in Hicks Camp and El Monte from the post-war period. Was one of few Mexican students to graduate high school, went to college before joining US Army. After Army worked in civil government. His wife is from New York, and had a successful career in the Los Angeles Water Department.

 

Interview Synopsis: 

0:30- Vincent Rojas was born in 1937, in LA County General Hospital. Family from Sonora Mexico, came in 1920’s. Settled in Hick Camp, they came to join uncle who was already here. Mother, Concha Jimenez, came from Guanajuato, came through Arizona, her father worked in Railroad and she was born in (silverbell) Glendale Arizona in 1917. Went to East LA before Hicks Camp. Possible connection to Mexican revolution. 


3:45 Father was an orphan, agriculture worker. Mother was housekeeper, later worked in poultry in Temple City. Has one sister, born in 1941. Family has immigration records, border crossing cards, frequent border crossings from Aguascalientes to USA. Grandfather (father of mother) and father both worked in copper mines and railroad. 

6:40 Schools attended- schools in Temple City, and El Monte. Sister today is secretary of school. People in Hicks camp were laborers, Father- post-war industries: construction, the silversotone, the greg foundry, small industry. End of agriculture labor. The family did pick walnuts in the City of Walnut, the extended family- they lived in a cabin during the harvest. Sister did office work at walnut. Worked in toytown during high school. 

10:45 description of Hicks camp: rail, rustic, and houses were self-made, used wood, gravel roads, gas station, a few stores, a catholic church. There was electricity, and plumbing though. Catholic church with Fr Cofield, and Pentecostal church. 

13:45 Highschool- Rosemead. Family moved out of Hick Camp, Rio Vista school built. Meetings and protest about compensation about losing their homes, but with no legal basis they didn’t get much. Landowners- Hicks, Wiggins- became mayor and later republican congressman. 

17:30 Industrialization of El Monte, South El Monte, many small factories. Father worked for tailor company after World War II, many people got experience in wartime industries. School mostly white, few Mexicans. Many Italians, some Japanese. Sometime later demographics changed. No memories of discrimination however. Family spoke English and Spanish. 

21:00 Cal State LA, meeting his wife. PCC, to avoid Vietnam War. Then Drafted, 1970, Army. 1970-1972 in Alaska. Already college graduate, so was classified as clerk and worked in Alaska. Medical clerk, and ambulance driver. History major, not supporter of war, but did not protest against war. Aware of Chicano movement, but not participant. 

24:30 Arlette Menard from Hudson River Valley, upstate New York. Came to California with grandmother, she was history minor, social science major – teacher. Married after he came back from the Army. 

27:05 worked for State of California, DMV. Investigator, fraud investigator, now retired. Arlette became teacher, but left for Department of Water and became senior system analysist. After retirement, Teacher and now Librarian for City of Los Angeles. Two children. Reymond, and Mark. 

31:00 today and changes in El Monte. City much more Hispanic, changes in the economic base of the city. 

33:00 Hicks Camp has reputation as dangerous, but it was not. It was safe. Patrolled by LA County Sheriff, not El Monte Police. Once police killed a poor unarmed man. Filming of movie in Hicks Camp. 

38:30 Family used to go to northern California, to Cocoran and Delano. Relatives went north to pick crops and stayed there. They picked cotton and other crops. Family here during the flood of 1938. 

41:45 Story of Molly, killed in motorcycle accident. 

42:00 Pictures of El Monte.

Vincent Rojas