This interview was conducted by Robert Mendoza on May 22, 2003 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Maymester 2003 class.
Richard Orosco Mendoza Jr. was born on January 10, 1946. His mother is Concepcion Orosco Mendoza Vidales and his father is Ricardo Gonzales Mendoza. He is the oldest of four children. He has two younger brothers, Robert Mendoza and Ruben Mendoza along with a younger sister, Deby Mendoza. Richard is the father of four children: Cassie, Valerie, Deandra, and Celeste. Richard was raised in San Antonio, TX. Before moving to San Antonio, his family lived in Gladstone, where he spent much of his childhood. The Mendoza family also lived in Lachapelle until Richard was five years old. While attending Burbank High School he married his first wife and dropped out, however he received a GED later in life.
Before going to Vietnam, Richard owned and operated a welding shop with his two brothers and also worked as a carpenter. Upon returning from Vietnam he moved to Corpus Christi to pursue a new life. He now works in maintenance while taking construction courses in college. Richard is a practicing Catholic and an active Democrat. His hobbies are playing tennis, camping, and fishing. This interview is based on his memories and experiences around the civil rights period. His major connections are his mother’s experiences in union activities and his own understanding of the civil rights movement. Richard Orosco Mendoza is my uncle and I am glad to interview him and understand what it was like during this trying time.
What were your experiences during the civil rights movement?
In 1953-1955, I can remember when we would travel to from San Antonio to Houston, at most of the stop they would not allow Mexicans or Blacks to use the restrooms.
Was your school segregated?
No, school was for everyone.
Were you discriminated against in school?
When I first went to Burbank it was three quarters white, and we were always getting into it with the white dudes.
Did teachers discriminate against Mexicans in school?
Yes, school teachers wouldn’t help the Mexican students at Burbank (High School). The majority of white teachers wouldn’t want to teach us, unless you were in sports.
So, do you feel you received a fair education?
Not really, because we played sports until I dropped out in the tenth grade to get married.
Do you feel the police discriminated against Mexicans?
The police really didn’t mess with us. The majority of them were Mexicans on this side of town.
Did you experience or witness any hate crimes?
No, not here in Texas. When I was stationed in Virginia and Georgia I would witness these crimes.Burning crosses were in the front yards of people’s houses at night. We would see this almost every night on the way back to the base. It was mostly toward the blacks, they didn’t really mess with us.
Did you participate in any demonstrations or know someone who did?
No, I didn’t participate in any demonstrations or didn’t know anyone who did. I remember the Chicano Movement, but we never got involved.
What role did your parents play in the civil rights movement?
None really, but my mom was the president of a union but they never got involved into the politics of it.
Were your parents able to vote? If so, did they vote?
Yes, they were able to vote. Dad didn’t vote but Mom used to vote.
Was it hard for Mexicans to obtain jobs during this period?
No, we got any jobs we wanted around here because it was mostly Mexicans on this side of town.
What was the difference in living during the 1950’s and 60’s compared to 2000?
The kids are getting better education, so better jobs. Also, more Hispanics are going to college.
As a child what effects did this have on your upbringing?
We just keep to ourselves, Mexicans stayed with Mexicans and we didn’t hang out with people outside of our race like kids do nowadays.
Did this period have any effect on who you are today?
No not really, because my mom would educate us here, we would hang out here more than anything else.
Do you remember Dr. Hector P. Garcia? If so, what do you remember about him?
No, my mother probably does.
Do you remember Cesar Chavez? If so, what do you remember about him?
Yes, I was in California when they were having the farmers’ movement. Everyone in California would talk about him but since we weren’t farmers we were not involved. Also, down here they had offices who shut down farms to make sure the workers of the farms would get equal pay.
Did these people influence you or your family in any way?
Not really we were city kids.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
No, that is all.
Through this interview I learned a great deal about the experiences my uncle had during the civil rights movement. I learned that back then it was hard for Mexicans to receive a fair education.
I believe this is the reason why most of our parents today struggle to support our families and why they have to work extra hard for each dollar they make. Also, I learned that my uncle and the rest of his family did not have a lot to do with the civil rights movement in San Antonio, because they lived in the Southside, which is a predominately Mexican area to this day. However, I believed my family had many struggles through this time period, but on the contrary they had little struggle because they keep together. The benefits of learning about the past through my uncle is that I was able to see what life was like in the 1950’s and 60’s through his eyes and experiences. But the drawbacks can be that he could never remember the whole truth, he may only remember the things he wants to remember. I believe this is an effective way of learning about the past because these stories will never be told in a history book or lecture and these experiences are actual events that shaped the lives of our ancestors.
Womens Clubs. Texas State Library & Archives Commission. Women’s clubs had begun to grow in the cities and towns of Texas in the 1890s as an outlet for educated women to meet and share knowledge, culture, and camaraderie. The women’s club movement was part of a national trend for continuing education that included home-study associations and the lyceum and chautauqua movements.