Oral Histories

Interview of Vahac Mardirosian

Advocate of Mexican-American educational reforms in Los Angeles and San Diego school districts. Member of the Educational Issues Coordinating Committee promoting parent's rights. Founder of the Parent Institute for Quality Education.
Series:
"La Batalla Está Aquí": The Chicana/o Movement in Los Angeles
Topic:
Latina and Latino History
Social Movements
Chicano Movement
Interviewer:
Espino, Virginia
Interviewee:
Mardirosian, Vahac
Persons Present:
Mardirosian and Espino.
Place Conducted:
Mardirosian's home in Carlsbad, 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 Virginia Espino, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; B.A., UC, Santa Cruz (Psychology); Ph.D., Arizona State University (History). Espino prepared for the interviews by researching the Eastside Sun housed at the East Los Angeles Public Library. The Historical Los Angeles Times database was consulted, along with various secondary sources on Los Angeles Chicano history, politics, and civic life.
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. Mardirosian 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.
Length:
7 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Series Statement:
The interviews in this series document the ideological transformation of the Chicana and Chicano generation in Los Angeles. Dissatisfied with their position in U.S. society, Chicana and Chicano activists built a civil rights movement from the ground up. Interviewees were selected based on their experience as members or leaders of Chicana and Chicano Movement organizations from 1962 to 1978. Collectively the oral histories document a variety of social justice struggles that include, but are not limited to, educational improvement, union advocacy, voting and political rights, gender equality, and anti-war activism.
Early family history; Family escapes from Turkey (1915-1918); Great uncles' migration to US in the 1800s; Landing in Veracruz (1925); Mother's death and becoming an orphan; Skipping school in third grade; Influence of Manuel Cuevas; Neighborhood and living conditions; Living in a US/Mexican border town; Developing a Mexican identity; Embracing the ideals of equality and social justice of the Mexican Revolution; Introduction to the Baptist religion (1939); Sister's death; Forced to drop out of school to work full-time; Deciding to join the Spanish American Baptist Seminary in Los Angeles; History of the Spanish American Baptist Seminary; Women students at the seminary; Difficulty learning English; Definition of "Spanish American"; Ethnic make-up of students at the Spanish American Baptist Seminary; Loyalty to Mexico and Mexicans; Teachings of the Baptist Church; Building church in Los Angeles; Building the Baptist Spanish- speaking community; Americanization and the Baptist Church; Topeka, Kansas community and the Spanish-speaking population; Celebrating education among the youth parishioners; Move to Chicago, Illinois; Return to Los Angeles in 1952; Support of Eunice Mardirosian; Eunice returns to work full-time.
Moving to Los Angeles from Chicago; Building the Baptist Church membership in Los Angeles; Role as the director of Spanish-speaking churches in California; Attracting and keeping members to the Baptist Church; Instructing pastors on the best methods to grow their churches; California State University, Los Angeles in 1952; Influential ministers; The relationship of social justice to the Bible; Involvement in the East Los Angeles student protests; Trying to intervene between Garfield High School students and the administration: Forming the Educational Issues Coordinating Commission; Trying to secure the release of arrested students; Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board meeting to reinstate Sal Castro; Developing an ideology about the education of Mexican American students; Creating the Hispanic Urban Center; Developing a consciousness about educational discrimination and Mexican American students; Impact of the student walkouts on professional and personal life choices; Meetings around the issue of the Walkout; Question of acquiring arms arises among the Educational Issues Committee; Julian Nava's position about the Walkout; Program to train teachers' aides to become teachers.
Student demands during the Walkouts; Educational inequality within the Los Angeles Unified School District; Reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King; Current state of education for Latinos and Latinas; Philosophy to improve education for Mexican Americans; Developing the Hispanic Urban Center; Deciding to run for the Los Angeles Board of Education; Campaign to beat Richard Ferraro; Busing; Relationship between Mexican mothers, the school administration, and teachers; Personal goal for Latina mothers; Facing the reality that the system was not going to change; Working in San Diego to develop a parent-training center; Initial concerns of Latino parents in San Diego; Building a cadre of parent recruiters for the Parent Institute; Qualifications required of staff at the Parent Institute for Quality Education; A preacher's unique talents for organizing a community; Growing the Parent Institute for Quality Education; Hiring David Valladolid as successor.
Run for Board of Education and the hostility in the campaign; Red baiting during the campaign; Widespread support from the mainstream media; The pain of defeat; Success with Parent Institute for Quality Education; Education philosophy; Critique of current public education system; 10 steps to successful leadership; Meaning of "service"; Lessons for parents to help children be successful in school; Role of women in the Parent Institute; Impact of Parent Institute on the husband/wife relationship; Goal of the Parent Institute; Thoughts from an "ethical will".