Oral Histories

Interview of Gloria Arellanes (2011)

Minister of finance and correspondence of the Brown Beret organization's founding chapter. Administrator of El Barrio Free Clinic and member of the National Chicano Moratorium Committee.
"La Batalla Está Aquí": The Chicana/o Movement in Los Angeles
Social Movements
Latina and Latino History
Chicano Movement
Biographical Note:
Minister of finance and correspondence of the Brown Beret organization's founding chapter. Administrator of El Barrio Free Clinic and member of the National Chicano Moratorium Committee.
Espino, Virginia
Arellanes, Gloria
Persons Present:
Arellanes and Espino.
Place Conducted:
Arellanes's home in El Monte, 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 interview by researching the Gloria Arellanes Papers housed in the University Library at California State University, Los Angeles. The Historical Los Angeles Times database was consulted along with various secondary sources about Mexican Americans in the Southwest and Chicana/o 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. Arellanes was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
9 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
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.
In addition to this interview, the UCLA Center for Oral History Research has another interview with Arellanes that was done as part of its "American Indian Presence in Southern California" series.
Childhood memories; Involvement in Chicano groups in El Monte; Americanization in the schools; Ethnic breakdown of El Monte in the 1950s; Early family history; Memories of paternal grandmother; Description of paternal grandfather; Description of grandmother’s Boyle Heights home; Ideological conflict with maternal aunt; Collecting family history; Experiences at East Los Angeles College; Parents meet on Dozier Street in Boyle Heights; Mother’s family ridiculed in the neighborhood; Parents' gender roles; Growing up in a traditional family; Growing up with a stern father; Father’s alcoholism; Father’s moments of affection; Conflicting feelings about own formal education; Experience with ditching class and dissatisfaction with school; Forming a youth council during high school; A beloved counselor quells race riots in El Monte; Racist stereotypes during high school; Pre-Movement high school culture; Adult neighbor takes an interest in the El Monte Chicano youth; Experience at Camp Hess Kramer; Developing confidence to speak out in public; Concern with body image; Recounts one experience with the male members of the Brown Berets; Attraction to a "female look" in body building; Reflections on weight issues; Mother's traditional cooking; Reflections on relationship with mother; Tragic history of the Tongva and mother's denial of her indigenous background; Attempts to identify indigenous genealogy; Commentary on the Native burial grounds in downtown Los Angeles; Looking for ancestoral burial sites in the Los Angeles area.
Contemporary experience with an indigenous healing ceremony; Personal experience with the Bear Ceremony in Southern California; Experience with illness and spiritual healing; Recognizing indigenous traditions in family and habits; Discovering indigenous history, traditions, and culture; Reflections on registering with the government as Native; Experience on the Dine Reservation; The debate about casinos; Reflection on one experience in a casino; Comparing and contrasting traditional Native ceremonies with casinos; Knowledge and understanding of Tongva tribal history; Activism around the Bolsa Chica land development project; Reflections on the meaning, purpose, and value of a cemetery; Commentary on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Native American Heritage Commission; La Plaza burial site controversy; Reflections on the United States government's treatment of Native people; Developing an indigenous identity; U. S. Government and Native people relationship; Differing value system between Native and non-Native people; Explanation of how life changed with awakening to indigenous heritage.
Racial tensions at El Monte High School in the 1960s; Living with racism in El Monte; Learning about the Chicano Movement through the Young Citizens for Community Action; Early Chicano activism; Tension with the Brown Berets and the gang community; Attraction and critique of the Brown Beret ideology; Meeting Rona Fields, the Jewish psychologist who supported the Brown Berets; Infiltrators in the Brown Berets; Importance of remaining within the law and rising to the position of minister within the Brown Berets; Concern for women's safe treatment in the Brown Berets; David Sanchez orders attendance at free clinic formation meeting; Remembering the Barrio Free Clinic and its daily workings; Experience with male violence and aggression at the Free Clinic; Division of labor and sexual harassment in the Brown Berets; Escaping sexual harassment; Realizing personal role in Chicana feminism; Challenging David Sanchez's historical understanding of the Brown Berets; Attending the Poor People's campaign; Experience with Reyes Lopez Tijerina on the Poor People's Campaign; Learning about the poor white community in Appalachia; Difference between poverty activism in the late 1960s and poverty activism today; Issue with men's misuse of the clinic; Paramilitary ideology of the Brown Berets and a changing understanding of guns and violence over time; Belief in the power of direct services to the community; Relationship with the Los Angeles County Hospital; Motherhood and its influence on her views about violence.
Involvement in War on Poverty programs; Involvement with Teen Post; Involvement with Neighborhood Adult Participation Program (NAPP); Skills learned while working with NAPP; Community response to War on Poverty programs; Goals after high school; Position against marriage; Deciding to raise children independently; Relationship with children’s father; Working with heroin addicts while at the Barrio Free Clinic; Learning about addictive behavior; Brown Beret initial anti-drug position; Patients with injuries from violent encounters; Working with cases of abuse; First involvement with health education during work with the Barrio Free Clinic; Lack of sexual education at home and in the larger community; Birth control and the Barrio Free Clinic; Barrio Free Clinic community activities and fundraisers; Relationship with white doctors and nurses who worked at the Barrio Free Clinic; Anti-communist sentiment within the family and the mainstream community; Resistance to traditional gender roles in family and work; Deciding to leave clinic work; Rationale for refusing to apply for federal funds; Critique of Rona Fields' scholarly interpretation of the Brown Berets; Father’s critique of communism; Consciously working to gain the men's respect; Views of liberation that differed from the white women’s movement; Contemporary view of feminism; Relationships with other Brown Beret women; Stagnation in leadership of the Brown Berets; Losing patience with lack of respect from Brown Beret men; Widespread popularity of the Brown Beret; Work with other health activist organizations.
Anger and the Movement; Disciplining children as a single mom; Experience with the Tough Love Parenting Program; Dealing with children's school professionals; Description of son's personalities; Dealing with son's accident and his paralysis; Experience on welfare while raising children in the 1980s; Experience with Alicia Escalante and the Chicana welfare rights issue; Community perceptions of Alicia Escalante; Welfare as a hindrance to upward mobility; Brown Beret tension with other groups like LUCHA and La Junta; Masculine demeanor of men in the Brown Berets; Open communication with a diverse group of activists during the 1960s and 1970s; Common encounters with uniformed and plain clothes police; Role in organizing the Chicano Moratorium; Traveling through California politicizing people to attend the Chicano Moratorium; Recollections of Chicano Moratorium organizing meetings; Working with Chicano Moratorium organizers; Increasing frustrations with the Brown Beret leadership; Experiences taking a back seat to Brown Beret leadership; Consequences of the Vietnam War; Ideological position against the Vietnam War and it's colonialist implications; Personal paradox of pro and anti-violence position; Memories of August 29, 1970 and the violence that ensued; Leaving the Chicano Movement after the Chicano Moratorium; Rethinking position on guns and violence after the Chicano Moratorium; Conflict with children's teachers; Traumatic meeting with David Sanchez, Carlos Montes, and Ralph Ramirez, along with other Brown Beret members; Feeling physically threatened at meeting; Drug and alcohol use among Brown Beret members; Experience working with Rosalio Muñoz and Ramses Noriega.