From the Barrio to Washington
An Educator's Journey
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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I got to know Armando Rodriguez well in 1962. Among the candidates in the usual half-dozen political races in San Diego County that year, I was running for Congress; he, for the state legislature. ...
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They say life is a journey. If so, I haven’t reached the station yet, but for all I know, it’s just around the next corner. I don’t want to go away without giving the many members of my extended family, my friends across the country, and everyone else some idea of just who old Tio Mano (Uncle Mando) was. ...
1: The Early Years, 1921–34
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What would be the odds of a poor Mexican boy, thirteenth kid in a family of fourteen, making it big in the rich country to the north? ...
2: Junior and Senior High School, 1934–40
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Life’s journey is just one adventure after the other, each tinged with the nagging suspicion that the next will be overwhelming. I have had a lifetime of those challenges. Some I conquered; some I didn’t. But mostly I’m satisfied. I’m also certain the challenges will continue, and I’m relying on education and experience to cope with...
3: An Immigrant, an Emigrant, and a Soldier, 1940–43
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The word tween is a contraction of the old English word betwene. It dates back to the thirteenth century, and it may be nautical in origin. San Diego’s stellar tourist attraction is the aptly named barque Star of India. Also aptly named is the first deck down, the tween deck. ...
4: The Girl from Across the Street, 1944–45
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By late August of 1944, I was back in Barrio Logan. The war was raging in both hemispheres, but the result was no longer in doubt. We were going to win. My country and its allies had pulled off the world’s biggest and riskiest invasion on the beaches of Normandy. ...
5: A Civilian Again, 1945
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After I was discharged from the army, I wore a uniform home, but it was different from the one I’d worn earlier. This khaki uniform sported the World War II Honorable Service Lapel Pin, but that title was too long for the pin and too grandiose. Typical of the generation of soldiers who came up with SNAFU, Gremlins, hurry up and wait, and Kilroy...
6: A College Man, 1946–49
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My father always urged me to get an education. I’m grateful to him for that, but I also had other motivations to pursue an education: I lived in the barrio of southeast San Diego with nothing more than a high school diploma, and I had served in the army as a private. Few things could have been more convincing. ...
7: A Teacher, an Administrator, and Almost a Politician, 1949–62
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It’s almost a ritual. Every June in colleges across the country, one speaker after the other warns the young, soon-to-be grads that they will now enter the real world. That means their carefree college days are behind them, and they’ll finally have to earn a living. The speaker will imply that, thanks to the splendid education they have...
8: A Political Animal, 1962–66
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Being a political animal is fine, except it doesn’t pay well and often doesn’t pay at all unless one is an officeholder or is on the staff of an officeholder. So I kept my job as a vice-principal while doing this or that for one politician or another, all of whom “would be extremely adopted country, and I loved it! I had escaped the ghetto by becoming...
9: Help from the Anglos
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Terms like Mexican American, African American, and Nisei are often disparaged by those who say, “We’re all Americans.” That’s true—or would be if the word American didn’t apply to every citizen of this hemisphere. One of the great things about being an American is that we can hang on to our culture. ...
10: Working for Lyndon, 1968
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In government work, nothing is more certain than change, and sure enough, just about the time we got really settled in Sacramento, things changed again. Those feelers about a job in Washington were real. In April 1967, I got another offer from David North at the White House. It was apparent that the president of the United States didn’t hold a grudge,...
11: Travels with Randolph Hearst, 1969–70
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As I said before, people don’t get rich (or stay rich) by giving away their money. Yet, in May 1968 I was assigned the task of asking one of the richest men in the country to do just that. I would go to San Francisco and ask Randolph A. Hearst, the last surviving son of William Randolph Hearst and principal heir to his huge newspaper fortune, to...
12: Coping with Washington Society and Its Politics, 1971–73
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My stint in Washington encompassed more than the tour with Randolph Hearst. Among other responsibilities, there were the social obligations. ...
13: President of East Los Angeles College, 1973–78
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Temporary Washingtonians—including those of us who lived in Maryland or Virginia—always speak with disdain of living in the “zoo” (or whatever term they choose to denigrate our nation’s capital). ...
14: Back to the Seat of Power, 1978–83
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Running a community college was satisfying in so many different ways. It was certainly satisfying when the chancellor grudgingly admitted I’d done better than he had expected. But my relationship with the largely Latino community was probably even more satisfying. At one point there was a 50 percent increase in the number of local kids attending...
15: Retirement Doesn’t Mean Not Working, 1983–2001
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As October 1983 approached, I started to get nervous. One last good-bye party and then I’d walk out the door, retired and unemployed for the first time since before I had sold shards of ice from my wagon in Barrio Logan. ...
16: Capitalists in the Soviet Union, 1988–2001
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I had no idea what lay ahead when I rang the doorbell of Randolph Hearst back in 1968. When Randy asked me in, I entered a different world—one I’d seldom visited before. And in return, Randy got a good look at my world. As a pop psychologist later termed it, it was a win-win situation. ...
17: Christy and Roddy
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Bea and I figured we’d have a large family, practically a tradition in Catholic, Mexican American families. Our first child arrived almost simultaneously with my diploma from San Diego State. I missed my help of the hospital staff because it was a difficult delivery. The doctor said my wife couldn’t have any more kids. ...
18: My Final Retirement (So Far), 2006–7
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An old American proverb says that if you have something important to do, give the job to a busy boy. It would have been easy in 1983 to just walk away from my job and seek that well-earned rest, but my attempt at retirement was a failure. I ended up with more jobs than I’d had as a young man trying to finish college and start a family. ...
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Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 20 halftones
Publication Year: 2007