East of East

East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte

A Project of the South El Monte Arts Posse

Oral History of the Ramos Family

Dublin Core


Oral History of the Ramos Family


Interview with Ramos Family


The Ramos family arrived in El Monte’s Medina Court in the early 20th century. The family patriarch, Nicolas Cervantes built a successful walnut business and became the richest person in El Monte and was greatly respected in the community and out. His children worked in the fields and in the walnut factory in a large but close catholic family. The grandchildren grew up in 1950’s and 1960’s El Monte, with descriptions of war, love, legion stadium, festivals, education, and family life.


Daniel Morales

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Daniel Morales


Ramos Family


Ramos Family Home

Time Summary

0:00 Daniel Morales explains process, on consent to interview. List of participants in interview: Mannie, Linda Luhan, Fred Flores, Martha Placencia, Richard Gonzalez, Juan Gonzalez, Katie Ramos, Robert Ramos, Raul.
2:50 When did family first come to United States? Nicolas Cervantes- Grandfather paid three cents for paperwork to migrate legally. They came almost immediately to El Monte. They have paperwork, and so can trace family history fairly accurately.
4:30 They picked going from field to field and living in medina Court. Then started Walnut business in medina court. Built factory for walnuts. They would buy walnuts from across Southern California. He was known for paying well for the walnuts. Family was from Guadalajara. Both grandparents were orphans. Nine children in family.
7:50 On coming to the U.S with nothing and their positive view of the US vs Mexico. Grandfather was important in area, he would loan everyone in El Monte money, was at one time the richest person in the city. First one to have a car, a tv, a car every year, a Lincoln. He didn’t speak good English, but he was highly respected in the banks. He also build many of the machines in the factory himself.
13:00 On the father’s relationship with his children. All of them helped, many of the girls left school after fourth grade. One of them did the math for the business. All of the girl’s marriages were arranged, while the boys got cars for their birthday. They were not allowed to speak English at home. – story of when Cervantes was being discriminated against at bank, and the manager disciplined the white tellers for not respecting him.
18:30 On the factory, and Medina court. Description of the neighborhood, how everyone worked in the walnut business growing up. Eventually the factory and business was left to the men, and the women got nothing. The factory closed in 1959. On how the business worked, and there are still some walnut businesses in the area even though no one grows walnuts in the area anymore.
25:00 on Memories of their grandfather. On lessons of generosity and helping those in need. On how the children’s adult lives went- arranged marriages did not always work out. There were chaperons on dates, he paid a dowry. Men were allowed to pic who they married, but not the men. The youngest daughter, Flores, ran away. (five daughters, four arranged marriage). Most of the arranged marriages, did not work out, with a lot of problems for the families. Women had to survive abuse in many of these cases.
37:00 on how everyone lived in the Medina Court neighborhood. Description of what South El Monte used to be before independence. Some of the children moved to surrounding communities. On their education, some memory of segregated schools. On the segregated public facilities in El Monte. Their parents were frequently discriminated against, their grandfather had no clout outside the neighborhood despite his wealth. Mother was often called names and discriminated against. Various stories on discrimination.
40:00 On the factory, how it worked. How children would play in it, stories from the factory. On the people who worked there, and their conditions. The workers were treated well.
49:00 On the Japanese community of El Monte. Various family members fought in World War II, and the Korean War and Vietnam. Uncle Lalo was a POW, he never once spoke about it. No one remembers the berry strike.
54:50 On Legion Stadium and youth culture in the 1950’s. On roller derbies, famous wrestlers, Art Labor, dances, and events there. The children would sneak out to go to the events. On their own parents bring more open than their granparents.
59:00 Physical description of El Monte and Medina Court. On Mr. Hays who used to own all the land on the area. The gangs of El Monte- the Flores, Hays and Hicks as the main barrios/gangs in the area. On Braceros and Rodgers seed company. The gangs were associated with each barrio; it was important when your name. On Pachucos, and the Zoot-suit riots during World War II. On Mr. Hays.
1:06: On Guadalupe catholic church, festivities, Fr. Cofield. At some point Fr. Cofield wanted the parishioners to take over ownership of the church, against the archdiocese. Currently building was built in the late 1960’s.
1:16 On how her mother was never proactive in her education, and how she is very proactive in her children’s education. Half the students went to Arroyo, half to El Monte high school, and one went to Bishop Amont.
1:19 On how the children would go up to Fresno to work in the fields. On how you could see atomic bombs forming flashes over the high sierras in the 1950’s. On how they were all exposed to pesticides and chemicals, and the older children picked cotton in the fields. Julia managed to pick cotton while pregnant, and won competition to pick the most. They picked in hundred-degree weather. They worked from sunrise to sunset. On working conditions, on ranches, and how to fill boxes. Many other families would go up every year. The Venegas also from Medina Court, others from all over. It looked like a barracks. Mr. Brisco owned the land, they also picked at neighboring farms. Most of the children remembered the summers in the field as fond memories, despite the harsh conditions and exploitation.
1:28 On Braceros, who also worked in the fields alongside the family. They were treated the same as everyone else. On how family would make its food, butcher pigs, and sell to the people around there.
1:31 On the UFW grape strikes. The children remember, but the parent’s generation by that time was divided, not talking to each other after the failure of the walnut factory. After high school most of the cousins married people and moved away. Everyone married someone from the neighborhood except for one who married a blond white girl, and that was difficult.
1:36 On race, mixed ethnicity and discrimination based on race. On learning the difference between “white” and “Mexican” today vs back in the 1950’s. On experiencing discrimination for the first time. Usually it was married clear that they should ‘marry one of your own’.
1:44 a few of them served in the Vietnam war. On returning from the war, and support for the troops. On how Mexicans and Blacks made up the infantry. On memory of war, and going to see the Vietnam memorial in DC. On the Medina Court veterans club.
1:55 On trying to save the original school house. On moving away from Medina Court, some left after the walnut business failed, others did not leave till very recently. One family member still lives in the neighborhood.
1:58 On Robert’s family and how they came to South El Monte. Born in 1947. Went to Nativity and Bishop Amont, didn’t learn English growing up very well. Hiw father was LAPD, and he joined the police himself. He was the only Mexicans in the pick-pocket division. He never felt any prejudice, but his father was often discriminated against, in the 1950’s. His wife thought there was prejudice in the way they were treated, but he thinks he did not, rather it was an advantage. He was often the only bilingual detective on homicide.
2:07 Stories of growing up. They generally didn’t like go into Hick Camp, some were scared of it. It was all unpaved, a shantytown. On how outsiders were afraid of Hays/Medina court. On a time when a bullet came into the house, but they didn’t think the area was bad of why outsiders were scared of the neighborhood. On how few were in gangs, but one of them joined. On the different reactions to family abuse. They don’t see the city back then as dangerous, but outsiders are afraid of it.

Ramos Family Part 2
0:00 continued of story of how dangerous El Monte is vs perception.
2:36 Swimming in the river, marano beach on the river. Most were teenagers before they saw the breach by the ocean.
3:45 The area was Majority white, and the teachers did not expect anything from Mexicans. Most Mexicans left school, they were not expected to graduate high school. Certainly not expected to graduate college. On the change from a majority white city to a majority Mexican city.
8:00 on how today they are pushing for their children to go to college. The change in expectations for education.
9:30 Walkthrough of family photos.




Daniel Morales, “Oral History of the Ramos Family,” East of East, accessed July 30, 2021, https://semapeastofeast.com/items/show/39.