East of East

East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte

A Project of the South El Monte Arts Posse

Richard Hernandez

Interview with Richard Hernandez

Grandfather came during Mexican Revolution, settled on Montecito Drive in Medina Court, had 13 children, of whom Richard’s mother was one. Parents started out as agricultural workers, became factory workers in SEM and EM (Richard would help his father apply for jobs as a child since his English was strong enough to complete applications). Parents traveled around California for agricultural work, worked for a Japanese-American family in Northern California that was later interned, leading Richard’s parents to take care of their farm to prevent it from being repossessed by the bank. Richard’s mother spoke some Japanese, and kept in touch with the family, to whom they returned the farm after the war.

Richard grew up working-class in El Monte, attending local schools and El Monte HS. While in HS, he worked for the Mountain View School District in their textbook library and studied nights at the Rosemead Library because El Monte’s didn’t stay open past 6pm. Loved attending lucha libre, roller derby, and Mexican weddings at Legion Stadium, was sad when it was torn down and said he felt it happened “because Mexicans were having too much fun there.” Had fun playing piano and singing in HS, and mostly avoided gang activity, though he remembered run-ins with gang members and saw others affected. Encountered racism/discrimination in schooling from teachers who expected very little of him and talked down about students, even deploying ethnic/racial slurs, but nonetheless graduated with a scholarship to Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. Lost his scholarship after Proposition 13 passed in California, came home, worked in factories alongside his parents, hated it, and was recruited into the Navy, traveling around the world for several years and learning nuclear power, in which he still works. Never lived in EM/SEM afterward, but still visits family frequently and can recommend additional narrators. Noted that in travels around US, people often had heard of El Monte.

Richard Hernandez