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Tales from El Monte: Joaquin Murrieta, Paisas vs White Boys, and Ricardo Flores Magón

August 27, 2011

          The viejitos here, like everywhere, like to tell stories. The ones I like blur fact and fiction, without seizing to tell some underlying truth. Over the last two months these stories have transformed the way I see and experience the El Monte geography. The soccer fields around the park where young and not so old play and the bike paths on the riverbank where youth hide for a beer or two, once protected our beloved Joaquin Murrieta, the so-called “Mexican Robin Hood.” On Tyler Street in the 1970s, segun mi tio, the more paisa Mexicans from El Monte High, (the space where they congregated was referred to as TJ) lined up all along Tyler street to face the white racist kids, forming caos worthy of a western movie. In the shadows, Los Cholos watched and waited in case los paisas needed help. In 1917, when the Mexicans of El Monte were segregated into nine barrios, Ricardo Flores Magón, the famous Mexican anarchist, spoke to a group of Mexicans. Late last night, after a long day of school work, I headed over to Rio Vista Park, it marks the space where Hicks camp used to be. Aloud, to the frogs, river, trees, and winos, I read (In English) an excerpt from his speech:

            …the well-being of everyone depends on the well-being of the rest—well being than can only be possible through a measure of liberty and justice, because if tyranny rules, if inequality is the norm, the only ones who can enjoy well-being are the oppressors, those who are above the rest, those whose privileges are found in inequality.

            Therefore, the duty of all is to concern themselves with the general interest of humanity though pursuing creation of an environment favorable to the well-being of all. Only in this manner will the individual enjoy true well-being.

           If you don’t know any viejitos, its ok, the ones at La Historia Historical Society are super nice, smart, and always up for talking. La Histora Historical Society Museum was founded in 1998 to preserve the history of barrios, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday La Historia opens its door to those willing to learn more about the space they occupy. I’ll miss our neighbors, but we’ll be back soon, I’m sure..

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