Oral Histories

Interview of Geraldine Zapata

Activist on educational issues and member of the Mexican American Education Committee. Member of One Stop Immigration, which provides legal services to immigrants.
Mexican American Civil Rights Pioneers: Historical Roots of an Activist Generation
Latina and Latino History
Biographical Note:
Activist on educational issues and member of the Mexican American Education Committee. Member of One Stop Immigration, which provides legal services to immigrants.
Espino, Virginia
Zapata, Geraldine
Persons Present:
Zapata and Espino.
Place Conducted:
Zapata's home in Alhambra, 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 Program Coordinator for Latina and Latino History, UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research B.A., psychology, UC Santa Cruz; Ph.D., history, Arizona State University.Espino prepared for the interview by researching the microfilm collection of the Eastside Sun housed at the East Los Angeles Public Library. The Historical Los Angeles Times database was consulted along with various secondary sources about Mexican Americans in the Southwest and 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. Zapata was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
11 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The purpose of this series is to document the social justice activism of the Mexican American generation and to explore family and community life in war-time Los Angeles. Individuals selected for this series resided in Los Angeles during the 1930s and 1940s and began their civic participation prior to 1960. Represented groups include a wide range of activists, including labor, political, and educational activists. Their combined experience underscores war-time community life and outlines the historical precursors to the Chicano Movement.
Father's family history; Mother's family history; Parent's marriage and siblings; Parent's separation and the family's return to the South Dakota reservation; Mother's illness and separation from siblings; Mother's death and a return to father's custody; Early memories with mother; Father's personality; Sister's positive influence; Mother's personality and her "Indian way" of mothering; Father's second wife and a life transformation; Differing parenting styles between mother and stepmother; Use of physical punishment as a disciplinary strategy; Choosing a Catholic education; Indian boarding schools; Quality education in the Catholic school versus the public school system; Indian boarding schools; American Indian history; Role of the boarding school for Indian women; Learning about mother's qualities long after her death; Mother's relationship to the Mexican culture; Bond with American Indian culture; Father's New Mexican heritage; Mother's identity; Ethnic make-up of childhood community; Class and race hierarchies in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Experiences during junior high school in California; Low expectations from teachers; Learning about high IQ; Experiences with a co-op nursery school; Conflict with husband about desire for self-improvement; Husband's family history; Role as mother and wife; Domestic chores learned from the German step-mother; Parents lack of educational stimulation; Brother retreats to alcohol; Brother's death; [Heights] Co-op Nursery School; Sons creativity nurtured at co-op nursery school; Realizing intellectual power but living with self-doubt; Importance of supportive, intelligent men; Husband's gender expectations; Influence of Ethel Young from the Heights Co-op Nursery School; Developing leadership skills; Lessons from first marriage; Regrets from first marriage; Changes in marriage relationship with second husband; Pride in grandson's achievements; Círculo de Mujeres woman’s group; Steps taken to move life and family forward; Learning to be proud of difference; Searching for American Indian groups in East Los Angeles; Lack of knowledge about American Indians; Importance of community centers in early personal and political development; Anti-Communism during the McCarthy Era; Feelings toward Communism; Female centered beliefs among Heights Nursery School mothers; Husband does not encourage participation in groups outside the home; Experiences working on Saturday; Introduction to feminism and feminist organizations; Choosing organizations that focused on issues; Negative experience with women centered organizations; Reflections on Comisión Femenil; Current work with the Chicano Moratorium Commemoration Committee; Current position against the war.
Involvement with the Youth Opportunities Board (Economic Youth Opportunities Agency); Meeting Tony Rios and Opal Jones; Working for the Neighborhood Adult Participation Project (NAPP) Maravilla Center; Reflections on Tony Rios; Providing family planning to the Latino community; Unfavorable work reference from Tony Rios; Working for the Neighborhood Youth Corps (NYC) under Bill Acosta; Racial make-up and dynamics of the NYC; Specific work with the Maravilla NAPP; 1960s Education activists; Creating community councils; Organizing to get street paved; Reflections on the War on Poverty and its shortcomings; Professional support and encouragement from men; Common perceptions of gang youth; Experience with youth while working for NYC; Reflections on the school walkouts; Experience challenging a principal from Belvedere High School; Mexican American Education Committee; First encounter with Sal Castro; First time learning that the students were walking out of Roosevelt High School; Community of social activists; Priority educational issues; Problems with education for Mexican Americans.
Involvement in the Mexican American Education Committee; Dissatisfaction with public school system; Meeting with the Mexican American Education Committee; Key educational issues in the 1960s; Need for Mexican American teachers; Manifest Destiny as a troubling concept; First encounter with Sal Castro and his retelling of the Niños Heroes de Chapultepec; Acculturation and assimilation issues during the 1960s; Identity; California and the dominant Mexican identity; Biggest success of the Mexican American Education Committee; Meeting with Ernesto Galarza and Julian Nava; Gender and educational activism; Lack of interest in women-centered organizations; Divorce; Role as mother; Division of labor in the home; Disconnect with spouse; Differing ideas of gender roles; Issues with abandonment; Conflict with spouse over marriage expectations; Separation from siblings at an early age; Moments of regret for divorce; Reflections on personality and personal growth since divorce.
First activism for improved education in East Los Angeles; Experience as parent volunteer in daughter, Rita Ledesma's, school; Education Commission; Sons attend Heights Cooperative Nursery School; Meeting Lillian Aceves; Positive recollections of the Heights Co-op School; Leaving the Mexican American Education Committee; Climate of change during the Civil Rights era; Heights Co-op promoted cultural awareness; Community uproar when the Chicano Movement is accused of riding on the coattails of the African American Movement; Formation of the Mexican American Education Committee; Role of the Mexican American Education Committee: Goals of the Mexican American Education Committee; Sal Castro; Mexican American Education Committee goal of bilingualism and biculturalism; Camp Hess Kramer leadership conferences; The Blowouts; Student experiences in East Los Angeles public schools; Mexican American Education Committee meets with high school principals; Meeting with the Board of Education; Children take over education activism; Parent viewpoint of the Blowouts; Infiltrators in the organizations; Anti-Communist sentiment of the time; Communists in organizations; Reflections on Julian Nava; Julian Nava's response to the community's requests while a member of the Board of Education; Speaking to Julian Nava regarding student walkouts; Meeting with parents from South Central; The role of Julian Nava's and the larger community in developing educational demands; Leaving the Mexican American Education Committee; Reflections on higher education; Custody battle with husband; Involvement in activist organizations viewed by ex-husband as child neglect; Role as president of the Mexican American Education Committee; Campaign to challenge a 1960s bond issue; Controversy around the bond issue; Mexican American Education Committee vote on the bond issue; Joe Carmona and his work with gangs; Reprimand by Connie Muñoz for losing the bond issue vote; Disappointment with Julian Nava and Connie Muñoz; Personal opinion of bond issue.
Focus on children's education and the desire to teach them to have a political consciousness; Reflections on identity; Mother's Oglala identity; Brother-in-law’s identity; Passing down indigenous identity to children; Reflection on the term Chicano; Reflections on Connie Uri and the Indian Health Center; American Indian relocation and alcoholism; Alcoholism as a health problem versus a criminal problem; Brother's alcoholism; Family history of separation; American Indian Boarding School; Life after mother's death; Difficulty working with the American Indian community; Cecilia Fire Thunder; Working for One Stop Immigration; Dynamics of the International Institute; One Stop Immigration; Working for One Stop Immigration.
Identity and self-identification; Use of the term Chicana; Discusses movie with Latina actress America Ferraro; East L.A. roots; Reflections on the contribution of the Chicano Movement; Changing community in East Los Angeles; Political ideology of East Los Angeles; Regrets for not obtaining a college degree; Belief that education changes you; Belief that she is not valued because she does not have a degree.
Working for One Stop Immigration; Immigration counselors at One Stop Immigration; Working in child abuse prevention; Child abuse in the Latino family; Educating people about child abuse and the Latino family; Poverty related child abuse; Training teachers in child abuse in Santa Barbara; Dr. Hershel Swinger's training program; Art Camargo; Regrets about taking job at Plaza Community Center; Staff and Board conflict at Plaza Community Center; Contributions to Plaza Community Center; Winning a mental health grant for El Centro; Finding Plaza Community Center in the red; Unionizing effort at El Centro; Plaza Community Center Board asks for voluntary retirement; Trauma of losing job; Plaza Community Center accomplishments.