Martinez family interview with Ofelia Silva, by Daniel Morales (2 of 2)

Dublin Core


Martinez family interview with Ofelia Silva, by Daniel Morales (2 of 2)


Silva, Ofelia (1927)
Martinez Family
El Monte (Calif.)
El Monte Highschool
Bracero Program


Part 2 of the Martinez Family Interview with Ofelia Silva, the sister to Manuel Martinez. They've both spent most of their lives in El Monte. They lived in La Mission and have seen events in the LA area from the 1920’sto the present, their lives included World war II, segregation, the Bracero program. Ofelia shares her experience being among the first Mexicans to graduate high school in the city.

Information from the Martinez Interview Part 2 provided by Daniel Morales

0:36 Ofelia Silva, sister of Manuel Martinez introduces herself and joins us for the rest of the discussion. Parents married in November 1921. Father was living in 16thstreet LA, mother inFontana.
1:10 In 1925 then moved back to Mexico. About two years, Ofelia was born. He was going to make a store, had $2000 to create business. But the business failed because every other family member took loans or goods on credits. They were driven out of business. In Guanajuato,in Avasolo? They came back in 1927 to the US. The house in Mexico was a square.
3:10 she went to school in LA and started high school in El Monte, in El Monte Highschool. Shewas one of two Mexican girls in the high schools. All the families went to Fresno pick fruit during the summers, so at the beginning to school year there were no other Mexicans in the barrios. Father had local job in gravel quarry, so he didn’t leave. They never went north to pick fruits
4:20 they lived in Los Angeles when the 1933Berry Strike happened, before they got to ElMonte. The dad had job, and the Great Depression. They were one of the few families that were stable during the depression. Reference to repatriation/county charity program. Their uncles and relatives went to Mexico, the government was supposed to want them. But later their children returned to the US. One of their relatives, Margarita, stayed in the US.Those that came back didn't stay very long in Mexico.
7:00 during World War II, many families sent their boys to Mexico so they wouldn’t be drafted.Many were killed. Margarita’s husband was awol, he went to jail.
8:25 they moved to La Mission in 1939, but there was prejudice in the city. She was very miserable in high school. The teachers discriminated, and a rope separated the Mexicans and thewhite people. She hated the segregation of the town, even the Catholic churches (Guadalupe andEpiphany) were segregated. She still has nightmares about it. She remembers a lot of long walks in the mud because it was the only way to get to the bus to school. She was the last one to get a ride home. She didn’t have many friends, teachers didn’t like her, but she graduated high school.
10:30 On how she was the only girl in the Mexican community who went to high school, even against a lot of pressure to dro out from the community. She was hired at Sears. Family members worked in the fields, and food processing.
12:30 her husband served in the army. They were teenagers when World War II started, so didn't serve in it, but instead provide account of the homefront.
13:24 She bought war bonds, and she still has war bonds. She just recently turned in 1940’swarbonds, one $100 bond was cashed in for $1000, and other time she got $11,000 for bonds. Shestill has others.
15:00 NewDeal programs, job programs. They got loans and government programs. They were already poor so Depression didn’t change anything.
16:30 On the Japanese Community of El Monte. They were taken away to internment. They left,and didn’t come back. On anti-Japanese feeling in the community.
18:22 on hiding their Mexican food in high school, they were made fun of. And a lot ofdiscrimination.20:30 on anti-black segregation, and continuing segregation right after the war.
21:45 on Mexican social norms. Ofelia’s life was much more restricted, she was not allowed togo dancing or to the parties the boys went to. She knew her boyfriend only through letters, she didn't know him very well before they got married.
23:00 on the roles the family members played in the armed forces.
25:00 Manuel, in Korea, he played music for the honor guard. He went on pilgrimage to theVirgin de Guadalupe in Mexico City.
28:00 On the Bracero Program, starts during the war. Fr Cofield starts gatherings during the war,the braceros only know how to dance corridos, while the girls wanted to dance American music.The braceros had their own camps, their own cooks, medicals, etc. the gatherings were inMedina Court. The Baceros worked together with the Meixcans who were living in El Monte.The Martinez family worked in the fields with Braceros
32:00 on Braceros and Mexicans-the old Mexicans (settled ones)couldn’t stand the newBraceros, wetbacks, etc, called them names. The new migrants were younger, would take their girlfriends, wives, and even their jobs.
34:00 Blue Diamond sand and gravel, they have a place in Irwindale.
34:45 they lived right next to the red car trolly’s to los Angeles. In El Monte there was only onebus out to La Mission. They liked to go to main street in LA.36:00 Ofelia got a post-war job at sears. And on the original owners of the land.
37:00 Tamaso who owned all the land, no one wanted it. The father bought an acre property for a thousand.
38:00 the factories arrived during the war, a lot after the war. In 1958 South El Monte was created, the factory owners wanted to do this.
39:00 on the end of La Mission. No one owned land there. In 1946 the house was moved. They Were told that they had to get out. They no compensation for being kicked out of their neighborhood. The city later used eminent domain to take part of their lawn away to make a park. They all moved by 1947. Expansion of park, the new neighborhood was fairly rural.
42:45 the families went in different directions, abut about four families moved into the block they currently live on in South El Monte.
43:45 on Father Cofield of Guadalupe Church. He was very useful, he married them.
45:00 On their wedding they got a large space, no alcohol.
45:50 on Legion Stadium, and the music and events there. Art Leboe. Manuel’s band played at legion stadium. Talks about the band for a while. They were from Azusa.
47:00 Ofelia was not allowed to go dancing unless the parents were there, and they went home as soon as she wanted to dance. The mom was very pro-American, while the Dad was very strict and seen as “Mexican” and traditional. Yet he eventually became a citizen, so did mother.
51:00 travel to Fontana, on taking public transit across the entire LA basin.
54:00 on their small home and whole family living in a few small rooms.On belief thatMexicans held that they would go back to Mexico, so they didn’t invest in property.
56:00 on the construction of the highways, and the land the family bought.
57:00 on going to college. PCC rejected them because they said they would not take Mexicans,in the 1940’s. So Ofelia could not go to college.
59:00 Manuel worked in army and then got a job after high school. Worked for Ford MotorCompany. Hewas first Mexican clerk in post-office.
1:03:15 Story of how Manuel met his wife. The dances, that Fr Cofield organized. Lots ofMexicans from the whole area, from LA, form San Gabriel Valley, Azusa, etc all came to ElMonte for the dances. Married in 1947. Ofelia met her husband’s twin, so he was drafted, and so she switched to talking to his brother instead, and when he went to war, they wrote letters to each other.
1:05 On the world career lives of Manuel in the post Office and Ofelia at Sears. Both places there was a lot of pressure to Americanize. And then created a printing business that succeeded

1:12:00 Closing thought on growing up in La Mission and South El Monte.
1:16:00 Tample School and High school pictures and yearbook.Remembrances of school experience. And Gay’s Lion Farm.1:21:00 on local doctor in El Monte who treated Mexicans. And on La Historia society and other old timers. A little bit on Pachucos and the Zoot-Zuit riots. Manuel and Ofelia were not friends with them and sought to stay in school. On codes of conduct in the barrios. on Jamestown,another barrio that has not been mentioned before.
1:30:00 on leaving the Catholic Church and change from American to Mexican church
1:36:00 On buying a house by pretending they were Italian, they didn’t sell to Mexicans back then
1:42:00 On Why they call the area “Canta Ranas”1:49 On the senior band that they still have.Later on family history of working in Arizona, and coming by railroad to California


Daniel Morales


Oral History Interview, 2min1sec clip: East of East - Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte


Digital publisher: Claremont Graduate University


2015 - 01 - 15




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Martinez Family 2.mp3


Daniel Morales, “Martinez family interview with Ofelia Silva, by Daniel Morales (2 of 2),” East of East, accessed June 16, 2024,