Oral Histories

Interview of Ralph Arriola

Executive Director of the Latin American Civic Association and member of the United Automobile Workers union. Director of community and government relations at Options for Youth, an independent study charter school program.
Mexican American Civil Rights Pioneers: Historical Roots of an Activist Generation
Latina and Latino History
Biographical Note:
Executive Director of the Latin American Civic Association and member of the United Automobile Workers union. Director of community and government relations at Options for Youth, an independent study charter school program.
Espino, Virginia
Arriola, Ralph
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.
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. The interviewee was 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.
14 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.
Place of birth – Parents met and moved to California – Growing up in Camarillo, CA – First job – Attending Castelar Street School – Father dies – Family splits up and he moves to Van Nuys – Family reunites – Attending Stevenson Junior High School – Has appendix removed– Staying away from gangs – Use of stamps during the war – Discrimination in his high school – Attends Valley College and then LA Trade Tech – Got involved in politics with brother – Memories of his father – Parents – The Dominguez family - Friends in the Native American community – Growing up with difficulties – Going to jail – Interactions with Chinese – A prohibition on the use of Spanish language at school – Gang members – Family’s religion – Experience at Garfield High School – Incident with pellet gun – Playing football in high school – The difficulties inherent in being on welfare- Purchases a house for his mother – Getting involved in first political campaign – Started the Chicano Caucus – Position about the war – Discovers that his son has enlisted in the Marines- Developing shingles – Patriotism in the family.
Racism while growing up – Impressions of the pachuco culture – Lives within a diverse community – Sister’s role in his education – Getting involved with San Fernando Mission – Marriage of sister Rachel – Defining the term "all-American" – Value of learning two languages – Bi-cultural values in the home – Moving to the Valley – Taking over a youth club in San Fernando – Joins the Woodcraft Rangers and the skills learned – Getting involved with unions – Involvement with Democratic Clubs – Becoming unit chairman of a union – Importance of knowing parliamentary rules – Working for Poly Industries at a missile plant – Working in other plants – Organizing events for his workers – Dealing with sexual harassment – Infighting during political campaigns – Working for the Edmund Gerald "Pat" Brown Sr. gubernatorial campaigns.
Attending Garfield High School – Fighting to be in included in the drafting class – Favorite elective class – Being a football player – Education of his children – Public school system – His education decisions – Union organizations such as the Valley Labor Political Action Committee (VALPAC) – The Teamsters – The increasing number of professional people involved in unions – Taking over the running of a Head Start program– Working with UAW – Going to Washington – Organizations that were starting to become effective politically in the sixties – Running campaign headquarters – Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) – Campaign for John Tunney and Pat Brown – Appointed by Jim Keysor as one of his key field deputies.
Latino civic participation – Working with Bert Corona – Finds a mentor Marvin Braude – Learning about leftist ideology – Wishes to donate his collection of images – the liberal point of view – High school kids getting involved in politics – The Club Movement – Working within the electoral process – Important job positions – Working for Poly Industries – Pros and cons of the union contracts – Structure of the union – Daily activities at his job – Gets married – TELACU and the Manpower program.
The Chicano Caucus – Ways that communities of people participate in politics– The steps involved in forming the Chicano Caucus – The impact of the death of Walter Reuther – Leaving the UAW – Importance of getting Latinos into significant roles – Achievements of the Caucus – Speaking to Walter Reuther – Involvement with TELACU – Running a Manpower training program – Temptations that come up in the course of one's role as an elected official – Difficulties that were part of the Manpower program – Developing a curriculum for Manpower – A low-income housing project – Leaving his mark at Mission College – Opposition to the Vietnam War – Brother’s experience in the war.
Role in the Chicano Moratorium – Fundraising – Speaks to a special unit of LAPD – Organizers of the march – The John Tunney campaign – The Brown Berets – Tense moments at the Moratorium march – Taking photographs of what happened at the march – Why people were opposed to the war – Mistakes made by the people responsible for the march – Evolution of TELACU – Leaves the UAW in 1970 due to a layoff – Starts to work for Jim Keysor – Treatment from the Anglo community as a representative and activist – Raza Unida Party – Taking over Head Start program and dealing with gangs – Two special women that worked for him – Helping women finish school and helping those in need more generally.
Working for Poly Industries – Achievements in the union – Representing the plant union members – Involvement in historical struggles - Leaders that were at the founding of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) – Importance of Plaza de la Raza – Working with Jim Keysor – Political machines that emerged – Facing racism in the Valley – Simultaneous involvement with the Latin American Civic Association (LACA) and Head Start.
Union participation– Organizing skills – Benefits of working with the UAW – Responsibilities with the International Union– Social services – UAW and the Chicano Caucus – Differences with Henry Lacayo – Tlatelolco 1968 – Political organizing work – The Delano UAW Convention – A first marriage and separation – Mexican Americans building a middle class – Widow Club – The Head Start program – Working with a variety of different people – Fighting for Latino rights.
Joins the Valley Labor Political Action Committee – Getting rid of a local slaughterhouse – Political endorsements – Issues with Assemblyman Walter Karabian – Dealing with people that did not share same ideas – La Raza Unida Party – the women’s movement and the issue of abortion – Work and support the Fair Housing Act – The impact made by Cesar Chavez and the Chicano Movement – Living in the San Fernando Valley – Memories of his father – Childhood education and working with young adults – His children's education and careers – Importance of Spanish language in his family – Leaving the Head Start program – Developing the Kitchen Program – Not happy with his early education – Meeting with UAW – Donating his collection of archival documents – The impact of the Chicano movement on his life