Oral Histories

Interview of Jesse Marquez

Founder of Coalition for a Safe Environment, which fought port pollution in Wilmington, California. Participant in THE (Trade, Health, Environment) Impact Project, an organization focused on the community health impact of the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports.
Environmental Activism in Los Angeles
Social Movements
Latina and Latino History
Environmental Movement
Biographical Note:
Founder of Coalition for a Safe Environment, which fought port pollution in Wilmington, California. Participant in THE (Trade, Health, Environment) Impact Project, an organization focused on the community health impact of the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports.
Collings, Jane
Marquez, Jesse
Persons Present:
Marquez and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Marquez's home in Wilmington, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and senior editor, Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA.Collings prepared for the interview by reviewing material and talking to informed experts persons about the significant amount of environmentally focused community activism in the Wilmington and Long Beach area.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Marquez was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
8.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The series documents environmental activism in the Los Angeles area from the 1970s through to the present day. The majority of interviews are with either founders or knowledgeable participants in major regional environmental organizations. Represented groups embody a wide range of issues, including conservation, restoration, environmental justice and toxic waste disposal.Additional partially processed interviews are available through Library Special Collections.
Family background—Early education—Religious background—A family trip to Mexico—A Christmas in Mexico—Neighborhood in Wilmington as a child—Development in Wilmington—The founding of the Port of Los Angeles—Marquez’s Chicano Studies approach to the history of Wilmington—An early interest in science—Childhood games—An interest in reading—Early education—Makes a volcano as a science project—A homemade rocket project—Joins Boy Scouts—A Boy Scout project working on a sailboat—Involvement in a government-sponsored youth program—Enrolls in a summer youth leadership program at UCLA for ethnic minority students—Political orientation of the curriculum at the leadership program—A conflict with a high school English teacher over political orientation—Fails his draft physical—Institutional racism against Latinos at Los Angeles schools—Marquez learns Spanish—Marquez’s participation in the struggle for bilingual and multicultural education—Participates in the Mexican-American Education Commission at the LAUSD—Supports the work of health clinics for under-served communities—Participates in a move to provide birth control education to men—Participates in track while at high school—Isolation as a Wilmington-based activist—Mentored by the Mexican-American Education Association—Produces a newspaper while at the Teen Post—Enters a military electronics apprentice program at the Long Beach ship yard—Continues an interest in Aztec history—Identifies self as Native American—Marquez’s transmission of political and cultural awareness to sons—Travels widely to attend anti-war labor and environmental rallies and protests—Moctesuma Esparza—Attends an archaeology program at UCLA Library Pursues creative writing—Performs research on the location of the ancient city of Aztlan—The genesis of Marquez’s involvement in organizing against the local environmental impact of the expansion of the Port of Los Angeles—Forms an environmental committee with a group of neighbors—Utilizes input from experienced environmental activists in forming the group—Learns to use the internet—Conducts online research on port pollution—Forms Communities for a Safe Environment(CFASE)—Learns that the community in the Wilmington area had high levels of illness due to port pollution—Political orientation of Wilmington residents—Growing awareness in community that area health problems are caused by port pollution—Lack of widespread information about the health impacts of port pollution—Outreach to community to provide information about health impacts of the port—Changes name to Coalition for a Safe Environment in order to include geographically broad membership—A port project in Punta Colonet, Baja California—CFASE funding—Marquez’s career in electronics—Attends an IMP meeting in London to push for stricter standards on port pollution—A successful shipping industry lobby effort against stricter port pollution controls.
The proximity of the Port of Los Angeles to the community of Wilmington—CFASE successfully stays a Port expansion project—A community redevelopment project on land reclaimed from the Port—An initiative to mitigate Port pollution and enhance regional health services—Port-related industries—The global social inequities represented by the goods brought through the ports—Backlash from family members over Marquez’s political orientation—Lack of information in the community regarding the health impacts of the Port—More on backlash from family—Family’s belief that Marquez’s life could be in danger as a result of his political activity—The challenge of transmitting information to the community about the damaging health effects of the Port—More on forming the CFASE—Marquez’s outreach efforts to community forums—An example of the health impacts from the Port—Begins a leukemia public health survey in the Wilmington area—Jane Williams and Joe Lu—Receives funding from the Hewlett Foundation to grow the organization—The makeup of the board of directors for CFASE—Board fundraising efforts—Effective utilization of new communications technologies—Efforts to buy American-made products—Computer equipment owned by the organization—Soliciting small grants for operations—More on computer equipment—Cooperation among diverse groups dealing with goods movement impacts—CFASE’s effective utilization of the media—A protest at Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s home—A demonstration at the United Nations IMP building—Coalition building among goods movement EJ groups—A no-growth policy—Clean technologies at the Port—The attraction of a new port in Baja for the shipping industries—Outreach to the Punta Colonet community on the health impacts of the Port project—A film project on Marquez and CFASE—A conflagration at an oil field in Marquez’s Wilmington neighborhood—More on outreach to the Punta Colonet community—Negotiations with Union Pacific on clean technologies at the Punta Colonet project—Struggle with the Port over the new intermodal facility at the Port—More on Marquez’s interest in Aztec and Mayan history and culture—Creative writing projects—More on Marquez’s interest in Aztec and Mayan history and culture—Participation in an archaeological expedition—Finds previously undiscovered cave art in Arizona.