East of East

East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte

A Project of the South El Monte Arts Posse

Lilian Rey

Oral History with Lilian Rey Oral History with Lilian Rey

Raised in La Puente California, Lilian Rey has lived in El Monte for several decades. She recounts the history of the city and raising her family here. For the past three decades Lilian Rey has headed El Monte and South El Monte Emergency Services. She recounts the organizations history and the ways it has responded to the Great Recession. She makes a strong moral case for the need for comprehensive services for the poor.


Interview Synopsis: 

0:27 Introduction. Born in Oxnard California in 1939, raised in La Puente, now in El Monte for 55 years. Parents, Adolfo and Margarita Rey are from El Paso Texas as is most of the family. Father milked cows, came to Oxnard to do that, then to La Puente, and then to Chino. Moved to La Puente in 1944. There were nine siblings. They moved to El Monte in 1958. 

2:53 Educational history- Central Ave, Hudson, La Puente High School. How did La Puente look? – it was a colonia, it has no sidewalks. The schools were all Hispanic, but she got to go to the white school Hudson. She didn’t know much about race growing up. She did not feel discriminated against. 

5:40 she moved to El Monte by herself when she was twenty. She married after high school, to Elalio Ortiz. However they separated and she was a single parent. Came to El Monte to start new light with her child, later had five more. The schools were good at the time. 

9:00 on Culture. Music in El Monte, Legion Stadium, rock. She went to socialize and to flirt with boys. 

11:00 Her siblings would all work in the fields during the week. On the fields and what was grown there. People would go north to pick crops, to Selinas. However, one sister stayed up there. The family was middle class, so picking in the field was to make extra spending money for the children. On working in the fields, picking peaches. 

15:00 on the schools her children went to in El Monte. On gangs and violence- a son was in Medina court joined the armed services- Army, and he was killed when he was 19, in Medina court in 1976. Another son was a police officer for 35 years, in Garden Grove. 

17:10 How did Rey become interested in El Monte/South El Monte Emergency Services? Was unemployed, saw that El Monte wanted a community aid, at the time it was El Monte Welfare Association. Received first grant for school uniform. 

20:30 history of the organization. Growth in its early years, finding ways to acquire food and help for families. They help 25 each day, larger operation than most emergency aid agencies in the area. Working with other agencies to get at various aspects of poverty and what people need. El Monte now creating a one-stop family center. Modern challenges, the effects of the Great Recession- has strained resources just as many more people need help. On the difficulties of helping those who have lost their homes. On limited funds, and the cut of funding from the city. 

34:00 on how she came to head this organization, she became executive director within six months. She has space now but only one employee, Jose. The article that features the Emergency Services organization. Struggles of the organization. On the devastation of the Great Recession, how families lost their work and homes and families. Funds from the Obama administration helped at the beginning of the recession. On the racial makeup of those who need help. 

48:00 On the difference the organization makes. On discrimination in the town, and where the town is going in the future. On Mexican vs middle class grocery stores. 

55:00 Finishing thoughts on the community and Emergency Services. 

Part 2: 

Short story on the needs of families and how Emergency Services tries to look at families holistically.

Lilian Rey