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'Fronterizos' Captures South Bay History Through Family Stories

January 30, 2018 1:16 p.m.

'Fronterizos' Captures South Bay History Through Family Stories


Barbara Zaragoza, curator, “Fronterizos: A History of the Spanish-Speaking People of the South Bay”

Related Story: 'Fronterizos' Captures South Bay History Through Family Stories


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>> Historians have placed some South Bay residents back eight generations all living in San Diego. Bus most San Diego history is sparse when it comes to South Bay and its Hispanic families. A new exhibit at the Chula Vista public library focuses on 50 of those families. Is called a history of the Spanish-speaking people of the South Bay. Are producer -- the producer spoke with the curator.
>> I think the most important part is this history is never been told and the reason is it is an underserved community. The first thing that people take away from them is their art.
>> How far back can you trace some of the families you spoke with?
>> I did not know that a lot of the families that I ended up interviewing go back and trace her ancestors all the way back to the 1700s. There were expeditions that came from by California.
>> You can trace the family history back to the 1700s?
>> That's correct. We had a block oh family, the great grandfather was Claudio Gonzales, he was the descendents of Francisco Aguilar who came from Baja right here to San Diego in 1769. He was a soldier who came.
>> Part of this exhibit has recordings of South Bay residents and one person you spoke with was Alondra via also. Here he is talking.
>> My aunt used to say that most -- the most important thing they had was a chest. As a kid I imagined a treasure chest.
>> What else can you tell us about Alejandra's family or about that chest?
>> Alondra was amazing. He has always had one foot on both sides living in the South Bay in Tijuana. He traces his ancestors back to San Diego in the 1700s and then secondly, he has this traumatic experience of the Mexican Revolution be your his family comes to Southern California. One of the most fastening parts is his father was Alondra Senior and he and his brother Carlos set up a gas station in the 1920s and San Isidro. That gas station became so popular they were able to set up several other gas stations and by, California Park but in the 1930s, the Mexican president nationalize everything and the brothers lost everything and had to start all over. They had a little car parts store in Tijuana and by the end of 1940, they got a concession, a permit to build the underground natural gas lines for all of Tijuana.
>> How common is that one part of Alejandra's family story of coming in part because the Mexican Revolution?
>> It was very prominent. There are so many families who talked about the revolution. It was the time of the great migration which coincided with World War I. It coincided with American capitalist going into Mexico and recruiting for the railroads. Many of them did come and talk about that war that was 20 years and historians mention that 2 million were killed in the war. They did come to the South Bay with those scars and stories.
>> How do you use those personal stories and exhibit to create that larger history?
>> The oral histories are crucial because a lot of the stories had never been told like the Valley farmers, the old-time national cities, San Isidro -- Isidro. The smaller stories had never been told and from there I can look up newspapers and look in to go for the back. I have all of these other records that I can backup and build larger histories.
>> You spoke with Chicano activists regal Ray. You're talking 2016 and he talks about what being Chicano meant to him.
>> We were looking for an identity in a great sense because here in the United States, like you stated in the beginning, many of our community had been here for many generations before this was United States. Yet, in 2016 today, we are still seen as outsiders. We are still seen as immigrants.
>> How much does this Chicano history cover?
>> A lot. The museum histories only 16 cases, I dedicated an entire case to the Chicano movement. The catalyst for this project was Chicano activists Herman DACA who created an epicenter for the Chicano movement in the 1970s. I am in regular contact with her mom DACA and received a large -- Herman Bock,.
>> Cesar Chavez was here many times, Herman had a lot of communications with Caesar Chavez which is where you pictures of Chavez in the cases as well. I can't express enough how important the Chicano movement has been and there is another chapter in the book about bilingual education. I hadn't realized it until I did the research, a lot of the student walkouts, a lot of the bilingual educations and cultural sensitivity that we see in today's exceptional schools was really the work of Chicanos.
>> You mentioned a book, there is a book version of this exhibit. What will people seen the Chula Vista library?
>> People will go in and see a chronological history against the wall. They will also see themes on the floor and they can go to an iPad and see all of the interviews there and hear some of the videos and see several hundred archival photos. Then, they can purchase the book, it is a 200 year survey that puts together all of the history that you see on the floor.
>> My to be more stories you collect as people see us exhibit and feel they want to be sharing their story?
>> Yes, this is just scratching this surface. We are 500,000 people strong in the South Bay and over half have a Spanish-speaking history. I was only able to interview 50 people. I wish we could continue this work with 300 people.
>> That was historian Barbara Gardner goes a -- the Spanish-speaking history of the South Bay runs through 2019 at the Chula Vista public library. Be sure to watch K PBS evening edition tonight. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh , thank you for listing.