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Chicano community raising a flagScroll down to access oral history interviews with local and prominent Chicanos and Chicanas in San Diego, or click the name of the individual.


Image credit: Brown Berets raise a flag in Chicano Park, 1970. Arturo Casares Papers, Special Collections & University Archives.




Alurista was born Alberto Baltazar Urista Heredia in Mexico City on August 8, 1947. He moved to San Diego in his early teens, and in the 1960s emerged as a Chicano poet and writer. He earned a bachelor's in psychology from San Diego State, and a master's and doctorate in Spanish literature from UC San Diego.

Alurista is well-known for his support of the Chicano liberation movement through his poetry and literature, with such contributions as "El Plan Espirtual de Aztlán," first read in 1969 at the First National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, CO, and recognized as the manifesto of the Chicano movement. He has published many works of literature and non-fiction on Chicano culture and history, and was one of the first Chicano poets in the U.S. to publish in both English and Spanish.

As a community activist, Alurista cofounded various organizations at San Diego State University such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) and the Department of Chicano Studies. He has taught at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the University of Texas at Austin, and Escuela Tlatelolco in Denver.

In this talk totalling 57 minutes, Alurista discusses starting MAYA/MEChA in 1969 with five other Chicano students, and how they advocated the recruitment of Chicano students on the San Diego State campus. At the time of this talk, he was celebrating the publication of his first novel, As our barrio turns: who the yoke b on?, which came out in 2000. Alurista reads from three of his poetry books (Return, Z Eros, and Et Tu... Raza?), as well as the last chapter from his historical novel about the takeover of Chicano Park and the establishment of the Chicano Free Clinic. The conclusion of the talk includes a question and answer session. (Original format: audio cassette. In Spanish and English.)

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Sonia Lopez:

Sonia Lopez was raised in Calexico, CA, and graduated high school there in 1966. She studied at Imperial Valley College and San Diego State before earning her bachelors degree from CSU Sacramento. In 1972, she joined the faculty at San Diego State and taught several courses in Mexican-American Studies.

In this interview totalling approximately 64 minutes, Lopez discusses a wide range of topics including: the political environment of Calexico and the Imperial Valley; gender rights and expectations within Mexican-American families and communities; the Catholic Church's stands on abortion and the role of women; her family's economic background, and difference in culture within the U.S. compared to Mexico; the relation of the women's liberation movement to the Chicano liberation movement; Mexican machismo versus Anglo male chauvinism; and the debate over terminology, "Mexican-American" versus "Chicano."

Interviewed by José Pérez on reel-to-reel audio tape, 1973.

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Luis Alvarez:

Luis Alvarez was born in Los Angeles on January 5, 1918. His father immigrated from Mexico to San Diego in 1928. In this interview totalling 19 minutes, Alvarez discusses his parents' background, as well as his own education and experiences growing up in Logan Heights. He recalls the racial segregation in schools as a child, as well as living through periods of historical interest such as Prohibition and the Great Depression. Alvarez also discusses World War II, recruitment of Mexican laborers during that time, and comparing the crime rate of the 1970s versus that of the 1930s and 1940s.

Download the PDF transcript.

Interviewed by Jesse F. Soriano on audio cassette on April 25, 1978.

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Armando Rodriguez:Armando Rodriguez

Armando Rodriguez was born in Gomez, Durango, Mexico on September 30, 1921.  His parents moved the family to San Diego, California in 1927. Rodriguez was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. In 1945, he attended San Diego State College, and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education.

Upon graduation, Rodriguez worked at Memorial Junior High School, where he encouraged neighborhood youth to stay in school. During this time, he also completed a master's degree in education from San Diego State College. In 1957, Rodriguez became the first Mexican American Vice-Principal at Gompers Junior High School. In 1965, he was appointed Principal of Wright Brothers High School.

During the 1960s Rodriguez began his long and distinguished career in both politics and national education. In 1962, he was the first Mexican American to run and win the 77th State District Assemblyman election in San Diego. Later, he was Chief of the Bureau of Intergroup Relations for the California State Department of Education, and by 1970, he had been appointed Director of the Mexican-American Affairs Office of the United States by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1973, Rodriguez returned to California to serve as President of East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Five years later, President Jimmy Carter appointed Rodriguez Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). His responsibilities were to administer Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed major forms of discrimination including unequal voter registration requirements as well as racial segregation in schools, the workplace, and facilities that served the general public. He also enforced the Equal Pay Act as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. After his retirement from the EEOC, Rodriguez opened a consulting firm, Rodriguez Associates Ltd., which worked with the Hearst Foundation, Bakersfield City District School, New York City Schools, and San Francisco City Schools to develop a computer-aided educational program for children from economically disadvantaged homes.

In 2008, Rodriguez published From the Barrio to Washington a memoir of his personal struggles and professional career. Rodriguez and his wife currently reside in San Diego.

The Armando M. Rodriguez Papers are available for research.

In this 2011-12 interview, Armando Miguel Rodriguez recalls his childhood, education, and his professional career advocating for higher education for minorities. The oral history is divided into three parts. In Part 1, Rodriguez discusses migrating with his family to San Diego from Mexico in 1927. He illustrates the difficulties that he confronted learning English. Rodriguez also mentions his childhood friends and his community involvement as a volunteer at Neighborhood House as well as other organizations while a student in high school. Rodriguez further discusses his time in the army during WWII as a cryptographer, becoming a U.S. Citizen, and traveling to Brazil. Finally, Rodriguez shares some words of wisdom for future generations. During the interview, Rodriguez’s daughter Christina is present periodically reminding him of dates or events.

Read full PDF transcript of Part 1.

In Part 2, Rodriguez focuses on his professional career and life accomplishments. He reminisces about the first time he met his wife Beatriz Serrano and recalls his years at San Diego State College as a student and wrestling coach. He discusses his various professional positions, from a teaching position in Special Education, to being President of East Los Angeles College, to his position as Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He then details the creation of his own consulting firm, Rodriguez Associates Ltd.

Read full PDF transcript of Part 2.

In Part 3, Rodriguez reflects on his friendship with Randolph A. Hearst and their first encounter that led to many years of collaboration creating bilingual programs nationwide. For a brief moment, Rodriguez mentions meeting Hearst in regards to his daughter Patricia Hearst’s kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in 1974. Hearst believed that his daughter had been taken to Mexico and asked Rodriguez for help. Rodriguez also recalls his biggest supporters, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, his involvement with the Southwest Council of La Raza and the formation of other Latino and Hispanic organizations, and further discusses why he created his consulting firm Rodriguez Associates Ltd. Rodriguez again shares some words of wisdom for the near future and remarks on the nature and progress of the Chicano movement. To conclude, his daughter Christina brings up the subject of union organizing of cannery workers in San Diego that led to accusations and charges that Rodriguez was a communist.

Read full PDF transcript of Part 3.

Interview recorded in 2011-12 by Richard Griswold Del Castillo.

Video Interviews of Armando Rodriguez

The video below contains an interview in which Armando Rodriguez offers an overview of his life history, from early childhood to his present day activities, focusing especially on his work on Mexican-American community relations. Interview conducted on May 3, 2012 by Richard Martinez and Gretchen Laue.

The "Heart of San Diego" video below contains an interview in which Armando Rodriguez offers an overview of his life, primarily within the context of education, both as a student and as an educator/politician. Topics include bilingual education, the present and future state of education, and his efforts to improve community relations through education. "The Heart of San Diego" was a weekly TV program on the air from 1995 to 2007. The show featured interviews conducted by host Fred Lewis with notable San Diegans. These interviews provided insight into local history and the future of San Diego. 

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