Interview with Albert Rodriguez by Romeo Guzmán and Daniel Morales

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Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Albert Rodriguez by Romeo Guzmán and Daniel Morales

Subject

Hicks Camp
El Monte
Tijuana
Zacatecas
Labor
Environmental Justice

Description

Albert, Romeo's uncle, passed away in the spring of 2023. Instead of a short abstract describing the scope and themes of an oral history, we've decided to share a few words that Romeo wrote about this uncle.

Albert Rodriguez spend much of his live in El Monte, but Albert was born in Tijuana on August 13, 1958 and spend his first few years in the neighborhood of Liberdad. Albert’s grandfather moved his family from San Marcos, Zacatecas and it was in Tijuana that Albert’s dad, Albert Senior, met his wife. For many years, Albert Senior worked a number of different jobs in Tijuana and in the United States: as a mechanic, as a driver, and, in El Monte, at a foundry. It was this last job that would proof instrumental: the owner wanted Albert Senior to work on weekends, but Albert Senior reserved the weekends for being in Tijuana with his family. To resolve this, the owner provided Albert Senior with letters that would enable his family to cross the border.

Albert remembers that his family crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in a 1954 Chevy six cylinder, four door car. They moved into an apartment on Sastre Ave, before buying a house in El Monte. Growing up, Albert watched Lucha Libra matches at Legion Stadium, the trains pass through El Monte; hung out along the river; walked through Hicks Camp to get to school; and drove with his family in the 1954 Chevy to drive-in theaters in Norwalk to watch Spanish movies. And of course, he worked on cars: he began by constructing car models, then he moved up to building go-karts. Eventually, he learned how to fix and work on the family’s 1954 Chevy.

I like to imagine Albert in El Monte during the 1970s. He’s just graduated from Mountain View High School and works at a car battery plant in the City of Industry. I imagine him on a Saturday; he is in his front yard holding a hose, there is a bucket with soap next to him and he is slowly and carefully washing his 1958 Chevy. The sun is up but not fully awake and Albert is playing some oldies but goodies.

After washing his 1958 Chevy, Albert might have showered and jumped back into his car. He likely shuffled a few a-track tapes in his large hands and maybe found “Oldies, but Goodies Volume 1.” Perhaps Penguin’s song Earth Angel emanates from the speakers as he drove down South El Monte’s Legg Lake parking lot to join his car club, “the imperials.” From there, they’ll head to Whittier, or maybe a wedding or quinceñera. A photo of Albert and his 1958 Chevy at Legg Lake would make its way into an England-based magazine.

Albert’s car didn’t have to take him very far or go very fast. In 1976, Albert drove down Rush street in South El Monte to pick up his mom, who worked as a seamstress. That particularly day, his mom's coworker, Mini Guzmán, needed a ride. Her family had also arrived to South El Monte from Mexico. Like Albert’s family, her family had roots in along the U.S-Mexico border, in Mexicali, as well as Zacatecas. Six years later they got married and in 1984 they had their first and only child: Irma Janet. Janet grew up in Pomona, attended Ganesha High and graduated from the University of La Verne. She fondly remembers road trips with her dad: the radio playing in the background while Albert narrated family history: the Mexican Revolution, local histories of Tijuana, and growing up in El Monte.

Albert spend a few weeks and months in the hospital this past spring. It what he knew was his last day on earth, Albert remained at ease; smiling, listening and nodded calmly. This, in the end, was his core. He died exactly how he lived his life: slow and easy.

Citation

“Interview with Albert Rodriguez by Romeo Guzmán and Daniel Morales,” East of East, accessed June 19, 2024, https://semapeastofeast.com/items/show/468.