Chicano Mexican American Veterans
Marty Ramirez, Greg Rodriguez, Joe Perez, Gavino Saldivar (all Vietnam Era, Veteran, community activists)
Veterans Day and Memorial Day are celebrated annually throughout our country and while these days honor veterans who served, little has been done to recognize the contributions of Chicano/Mexican American veterans from the Scottsbluff/North Platte Valley in western Nebraska. Many veterans come from humble beginnings and from a culture where patriotism was strong, which led many to serve. The history of Chicano/Mexican American in the military has been excluded from the historical consciousness of the country. (Moderator: Laura Muñoz)
Part of the Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains summit
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[00:00:00.000](mellow guitar music)
[00:00:04.630]Hello, everyone, welcome this morning.
[00:00:07.700]My name is Laura Munoz,
[00:00:09.040]and I am an assistant professor
[00:00:10.572]of history and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska.
[00:00:14.760]And we're here today
[00:00:15.680]as part of the Reckoning and Reconciliation Summit,
[00:00:19.890]which is sponsored by the Great Plains Center
[00:00:21.810]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:00:24.100]And today we have with us to discuss,
[00:00:27.900]the pretty incredible
[00:00:30.580]Scottsbluff Chicano war veterans Memorial,
[00:00:33.660]the founders of that war memorial movement,
[00:00:36.910]Marty Ramirez, class of '63 from Scottsbluff High School.
[00:00:42.250]Also Greg Rodriguez,
[00:00:44.960]also class of '63, Scottsbluff High School,
[00:00:47.400]Joe Perez, class of '63, Scottsbluff High School,
[00:00:51.520]and we're missing one last representative, I believe,
[00:00:56.350]Gavino Saldivar, who may or may not join us
[00:00:59.240]depending on his situation this morning.
[00:01:02.360]So with that, I'm gonna hand the floor over to Marty Ramirez
[00:01:06.390]who will start us off in this conversation
[00:01:09.080]about their effort to build this very important memorial
[00:01:12.470]to recognize the valiant efforts
[00:01:14.710]of Mexican-American veterans from Nebraska.
[00:01:19.903]Yes (speaking in foreign language) good morning
[00:01:21.930]and thank you all for joining us
[00:01:25.840]to talk about what we believe
[00:01:28.000]is going to be part of Nebraska history and a legacy,
[00:01:33.110]which we have no concept of legacy.
[00:01:35.520]I don't even know how to say that in Spanish.
[00:01:37.370]But nevertheless, everyone and almost everything
[00:01:41.130]has a story behind it.
[00:01:43.510]And this project is a reflection
[00:01:47.660]of really the legacy of how immigrants came to Nebraska
[00:01:53.160]and how in particular, Mexicans came to Nebraska.
[00:01:58.130]That was behind the passion that we all had
[00:02:02.200]in telling this incredible story.
[00:02:07.290]We're not the best in going back to our class reunions,
[00:02:11.690]but historically, me and Oscar Barraza
[00:02:14.700]who was part of this class would often go,
[00:02:17.410]and then in 2018,
[00:02:20.100]there were six of us at this class reunion.
[00:02:23.340]Joe was there, I was there, Benny Trevino was there,
[00:02:28.420]and Gavino happened to show up after the fact.
[00:02:31.200]And then on a Sunday, they had an annual Mexican dinner
[00:02:35.930]at Our Lady of Guadalupe.
[00:02:37.590]And so we decided to be there, Joe and I and Gavino,
[00:02:41.633]and Joe and I were just kind of sitting there
[00:02:45.640]and I always knew that many of us went to Vietnam.
[00:02:51.030]In fact, 60% of our Mexicans in our class
[00:02:54.850]were drafted and sent Vietnam.
[00:02:57.447]I always knew that.
[00:02:58.600]But we never got together really.
[00:03:00.003]In fact this is the first time
[00:03:02.110]that the three or four of us collectively got together
[00:03:05.850]since growing up, since high school graduation.
[00:03:08.630]So I was sending this to Joe,
[00:03:10.937]and I said, hey, Joe, we should do something,
[00:03:14.750]like build a monument honoring us,
[00:03:18.590]only us, Chicano veterans of '65.
[00:03:22.490]And Joe's always been quiet and he jumps up,
[00:03:27.690]goes through the...
[00:03:29.540]Grabs a microphone and announces that,
[00:03:33.527]"Who you are, we're here for reunion
[00:03:35.647]"and there were also Vietnam veterans."
[00:03:38.860]And then we got sort of an applause.
[00:03:42.760]And so we came back and sort of enjoyed the festival.
[00:03:47.280]Then time passed and then I says,
[00:03:51.700]I started getting some thought,
[00:03:53.250]I said, no, I think we need to honor
[00:03:55.690]all the Chicano Mexican-American of the valley,
[00:04:00.119]the North Platte Valley.
[00:04:01.670]And in Western Nebraska, that's Castro Oven,
[00:04:04.276]Minatare and Lyman and Mitchell and Monroe
[00:04:06.930]and about six communities surrounding Scottsbluff
[00:04:10.330]known as the Platte Valley.
[00:04:13.840]But then again, we had no experience.
[00:04:15.650]I had no experience on even how to do such a project.
[00:04:20.150]So there was a monument built in Omaha
[00:04:22.850]honoring decorated Latinos.
[00:04:25.050]I consulted with the people there and I got an image,
[00:04:29.240]took a photo of their monument, and we begin to formulate.
[00:04:33.690]One of the challenges that we had is I'm from Lincoln.
[00:04:36.720]So how do we begin to coordinate
[00:04:39.150]all this through people with Sodi and Joe
[00:04:43.010]and people in Scottsbluff?
[00:04:45.230]And then questions,
[00:04:46.180]well, I said, well, who's going to organize this?
[00:04:50.030]Where's the money gonna come from?
[00:04:51.630]I mean, scare the heck outta you on all these challenges.
[00:04:56.090]Luckily, I had known Dr. Laura Munoz who, my goodness,
[00:05:00.800]you have that adage of who do you really give thanks to
[00:05:06.650]and had to be Laura and her technical seals
[00:05:09.370]to the point that she did our first draft of the flyer,
[00:05:15.370]which was the godsend.
[00:05:16.850]We put that all in the email,
[00:05:18.040]and all of a sudden, we begin to get calls
[00:05:22.110]from people all over the country,
[00:05:25.240]because if you look at the history
[00:05:26.780]of our Mexican-Chicano culture,
[00:05:29.980]we take pride in a lot of things.
[00:05:32.340]We take pride in our military service kind of phenomena.
[00:05:37.480]And let me read you something
[00:05:38.620]that reflects us from the flyer.
[00:05:42.210]It was an overview.
[00:05:44.570]Veterans Day and Memorial Day are celebrated
[00:05:47.640]throughout our country on an annual basis.
[00:05:50.970]While these days honor veterans who serve,
[00:05:53.780]little has been done to recognize the contributions
[00:05:56.730]of Chicano-Mexican veterans
[00:06:00.120]from the Scottsbluff North Platte Valley.
[00:06:03.380]Many veterans from the valley come from humble beginnings
[00:06:07.440]and from a culture or patriotism was so strong
[00:06:10.450]that led many to serve.
[00:06:13.200]The history of Chicano-Mexican Americans in the military
[00:06:16.280]has been included from the collective historical conscious
[00:06:19.990]of the country.
[00:06:21.960]These soldiers were young and no male and female
[00:06:25.380]and proud of the military service.
[00:06:28.210]They were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice
[00:06:30.860]of dining combat.
[00:06:32.860]All entered the military for various reasons,
[00:06:35.850]just as they always have
[00:06:37.530]and just as they will when occasion demands it.
[00:06:41.910]In recognition of the service,
[00:06:43.720]the monument project will symbolize and ensure that legacies
[00:06:47.760]and stories will be preserved for future generations.
[00:06:52.250]It was also be in an audible tribute
[00:06:55.360]to a rich history of military service
[00:06:58.160]of Chicano and Mexican-American veterans from the valley,
[00:07:01.750]reflecting that we will not be forgotten.
[00:07:05.850]And that in essence,
[00:07:06.890]say that once the word started getting out,
[00:07:10.300]I was getting calls from all over
[00:07:11.810]and what sticks in my mind,
[00:07:13.770]a call from two Mexican-American women,
[00:07:16.960]eight in their 80s,
[00:07:19.370]that recall taking their beloved ones
[00:07:21.520]to the strange station to be gone for service.
[00:07:27.023]That was very touching.
[00:07:28.800]And we needed a nerve that we always knew it was there.
[00:07:32.875]If you go into many Mexican families,
[00:07:36.230]in their houses, you see plastered on the wall
[00:07:40.090]pictures, photos of their families in the military
[00:07:44.680]that really shows the pride and the passion,
[00:07:47.650]but never have we been found an outlet.
[00:07:51.290]And so everybody got excited from all over.
[00:07:54.050]The pride just finally came on.
[00:07:56.830]And so how do we get started?
[00:08:00.039]And so first, I'll pay a tribute
[00:08:01.200]to our first lady, governor's wife, Susanne Cho.
[00:08:05.080]They gave me a check of a substantial amount.
[00:08:09.650]And I said, I'm telling.
[00:08:11.560]So I would go out and say, look,
[00:08:14.200]this is a contribution of our first lady.
[00:08:17.230]If she can give this much,
[00:08:19.580]you can give this because in our mind,
[00:08:23.270]we sort of needed a lot of money and said,
[00:08:26.150]we're probably gonna need about 15 to $20,000.
[00:08:29.430]None of us had experience in fundraising.
[00:08:32.620]So we begin to thanks to Laura and ask for the nation,
[00:08:36.850]and slowly and surely, we begin to raise some fund.
[00:08:40.410]The other factor was,
[00:08:41.990]where do we put it in the bureaucracy?
[00:08:45.370]So we went through our Lady Guadalupe Church.
[00:08:47.970]Right there at the center,
[00:08:49.750]I don't know, Laura, if you can post a picture
[00:08:51.700]of the monument, this is the Guadalupe Center,
[00:08:56.150]and it's right in the bodial where many of us grew up.
[00:08:59.870]That was our playground.
[00:09:02.840]Right there is where we were sitting
[00:09:05.650]and that was our baseball field.
[00:09:07.000]That was everything.
[00:09:08.530]We had 200 Chicanos every summer night
[00:09:10.740]and the summer night gathering every night.
[00:09:13.000]That was a hub of the bodial.
[00:09:15.860]So right there, we were looking
[00:09:18.650]at that first monument right there.
[00:09:20.720]We had to ask Father Sorenson
[00:09:23.080]who was very positive, very willing.
[00:09:25.080]He had to get permission from the council
[00:09:27.650]and we start planning.
[00:09:28.940]We got the okay
[00:09:30.674]and then we proceeded to begin to fundraising,
[00:09:33.880]how we gonna organize this, how we're gonna set the agenda.
[00:09:37.730]And so that was really the challenges,
[00:09:42.060]tremendous challenges for all of us,
[00:09:44.780]because Sodi, I'll call him Greg,
[00:09:46.850]I'll call him Sodi, and Joe and Greeley
[00:09:49.680]and Bale Salvino, deceased member was in this kind of stuff.
[00:09:53.840]Later we had a committee, we had to have a committee.
[00:09:57.480]We added Laura and then Steve Servantez
[00:10:01.576]and then Connie Ernest.
[00:10:03.715]So we had the right people at the right time
[00:10:05.920]to begin to negotiate how are we going to look forward
[00:10:10.760]to this erection kind of thing?
[00:10:15.650]And I'll just go briefly to the day of the ceremony,
[00:10:18.590]November 12th in 2019,
[00:10:23.350]very, very, very cold day.
[00:10:26.070]Joe had this idea of a float.
[00:10:30.640]So we concocted, they have a veteran's day parade,
[00:10:34.600]and we were there.
[00:10:36.260]Chicano, he said,
[00:10:37.093]"Come, Chicano veterans.
[00:10:38.287]"Get on this very cold day."
[00:10:40.440]And we went on a short trip down East Overland,
[00:10:43.110]which is a main thoroughfare past our grade school
[00:10:45.930]where all the Latino and Chicanos went.
[00:10:48.070]It was a joy to see all these little brown kids
[00:10:50.640]cheering us on.
[00:10:52.670]So it was a joy kind of thing.
[00:10:55.456]And then we proceeded to go back to and do the celebration.
[00:10:59.400]Because of budgets, we didn't have too much.
[00:11:02.660]But back to the pride of the community,
[00:11:05.130]all of a sudden you had the ladies of the church
[00:11:09.030]in a matter of hours said,
[00:11:11.437]"Get outta the way.
[00:11:12.457]"We're gonna go to the kitchen
[00:11:13.847]"and we're gonna cook for you."
[00:11:15.180]And all of a sudden,
[00:11:16.013]we had a great meal kind of phenomena.
[00:11:19.970]And so the reason I highlight that is how we stepped up.
[00:11:23.490]The community stepped up.
[00:11:25.170]They were all excited to begin to acknowledge.
[00:11:29.690]We always had felt.
[00:11:32.300]And the other thing that I must mention back to,
[00:11:38.250]well, who's going to do this?
[00:11:39.970]And so Joe happened by essence
[00:11:41.310]to drive by this Palmer's Monument, happened to walk in,
[00:11:44.710]and saw Chicano in there,
[00:11:47.410]and through that effort,
[00:11:50.180]we ran into Stacy Helena
[00:11:52.700]who began to, "I'll work with you."
[00:11:54.380]And Laura, without her effort, this wouldn't happen at all.
[00:11:59.460]I introduced her to the Chicano payment plan.
[00:12:01.480]She goes, "What's that, Marty?"
[00:12:03.160]She goes, "Well, I'll pay you when I get the money, Stacy."
[00:12:07.129]She said, "Say what?"
[00:12:10.287]But back to Stacy, a major contribute to that.
[00:12:14.800]So I'll go ahead and stop there and turn it over to Sodi.
[00:12:20.742]Hello, my name is Greg Roger Rodriguez,
[00:12:23.360]and I'm the one they call Sodi.
[00:12:25.600]All through high school,
[00:12:26.610]everybody thought my real name was Sodi.
[00:12:28.930]And after I got older, they realized that Jesus,
[00:12:31.620]his name was really Greg.
[00:12:33.450]But my whole thing with Marty.
[00:12:35.460]Marty and I met in kindergarten
[00:12:38.000]and have been friends since then.
[00:12:40.260]We both grew up on the Southeast side of Scottsbluff.
[00:12:44.550]I ended up in Scottsbluff via Kansas city.
[00:12:47.270]My father was a meat packer,
[00:12:49.930]and Swifts opened up a packing plant in Scottsbluff.
[00:12:53.620]And I think I was about four, five years old
[00:12:56.630]when we moved to Scottsbluff.
[00:12:57.750]I was only supposed to be there for two years.
[00:13:00.240]Well, needless to say, I never left Scottsbluff,
[00:13:02.030]but it turned out to be the highlight of my life.
[00:13:05.233]I had good friends like Marty and Joe.
[00:13:07.670]We went to grade school together.
[00:13:09.810]We went through high school together.
[00:13:12.570]And in regards to the military and the draft,
[00:13:15.310]the one thing I can honestly say for our entire group,
[00:13:18.250]not a single person in that group,
[00:13:20.650]the thought of not going, not serving your country
[00:13:24.250]never crossed our minds.
[00:13:26.100]We were raised in a neighborhood
[00:13:27.850]where people who had gone to the military
[00:13:30.400]were always held in high esteem.
[00:13:32.870]To us, they were our heroes.
[00:13:35.090]They had left Scottsbluff, they went off the war,
[00:13:38.040]they went off to the military,
[00:13:39.840]but they came back and they shared stories with us,
[00:13:42.480]which we enjoyed and we thought, wow,
[00:13:44.570]that's a we all sort of, in a sense,
[00:13:46.260]have the John Wayne complex.
[00:13:48.430]We were going to war and we're gonna save this country.
[00:13:50.910]We're gonna do all these wonderful things.
[00:13:52.760]Little did we know John Wayne never really went himself.
[00:13:55.360]But another side of the point is we did go, we served.
[00:14:01.330]I think every one of us came out with honorable discharges.
[00:14:04.470]We all accomplished and made good rank
[00:14:07.790]while we were in the service.
[00:14:09.740]But I think the biggest thing was,
[00:14:11.140]we all walked away with our heads held high
[00:14:13.180]knowing we had done something right,
[00:14:15.740]we had served our country,
[00:14:17.490]we had bought pride to our community,
[00:14:19.690]and we continued the belief that in Scottsbluff, Nebraska,
[00:14:23.850]the Mexican people, when they're needed,
[00:14:25.640]will stand up and do what is needed to get things right.
[00:14:29.380]And I really believe the young kids today
[00:14:32.270]look back at people like,
[00:14:33.600]Marty has been very instrumental in getting a lot of kids
[00:14:36.490]who would've never gone to college into college.
[00:14:39.730]When I was in school,
[00:14:40.660]they never once asked me if I wanted to go to college
[00:14:44.260]or encouraged me to go to college.
[00:14:46.110]They basically would treat us like the typical Mexican kids.
[00:14:50.040]They put green powder in our hair,
[00:14:51.290]'cause they thought we all had fleas.
[00:14:53.410]They would basically get us through the school
[00:14:56.060]knowing we would be working probably
[00:14:58.320]menial construction jobs or just doing being laborers.
[00:15:02.330]But Marty and Joe, Joe being a runner,
[00:15:06.100]getting scholarships to run,
[00:15:07.900]Marty being an athlete, playing baseball,
[00:15:10.540]went to college and showed us we can do this.
[00:15:13.670]And actually I went to college on the G.I. Bill,
[00:15:16.110]which is a big benefit.
[00:15:17.630]But we were never encouraged to go to college.
[00:15:19.333]We were encouraged, get a job, make money.
[00:15:22.420]If not, do a claim, do something.
[00:15:25.130]But for God's sake, you don't have to go to college.
[00:15:27.600]Well, Marty proved them wrong.
[00:15:29.500]He brought back to Scottsbluff the belief that yes you can
[00:15:33.190]and you can make this a better place
[00:15:34.997]and you can make your life better.
[00:15:36.890]And once you get out of Scottsbluff,
[00:15:39.290]you realize there's a whole world out there
[00:15:41.920]that it's up to you, what you wanna do with it,
[00:15:44.850]and where you want to go with it.
[00:15:46.470]So the belief that Scottsbluff
[00:15:48.260]was a place you ended up at,
[00:15:50.160]it is and it's where you started,
[00:15:51.900]it's where you gained the belief
[00:15:54.020]of trusting your fellow man,
[00:15:55.890]where you built friendships that last a lifetime,
[00:15:58.760]but the biggest thing is you turn around,
[00:16:01.010]you grab the person behind you,
[00:16:02.730]take 'em by the hand and help pull them up
[00:16:05.080]and bring them to where you would like to see them.
[00:16:07.750]So I mean, it's important that we all turn around,
[00:16:09.930]help each other.
[00:16:10.763]None of this look what I did.
[00:16:12.240]It's look what we can do.
[00:16:14.290]And that's one of the biggest things
[00:16:15.740]that I've enjoyed about my association,
[00:16:17.890]my friendship with Joe, with Marty,
[00:16:20.670]with Galino, all the kids I grew up with.
[00:16:23.810]We were a group that we cared for each other.
[00:16:27.800]If ever there was a fight, you didn't fight one of us,
[00:16:29.780]you fought all of us.
[00:16:31.140]Also when we played sports, Marty's brother was our coach.
[00:16:35.320]He not only coached us in sports,
[00:16:37.190]but we looked up to him because he was a boxing champ
[00:16:40.080]and he showed us that you always have to respect yourself
[00:16:43.380]before somebody else will respect you.
[00:16:45.760]And from that lesson, we've all grown,
[00:16:49.830]we've all lived good full lives,
[00:16:52.410]and we all look at that monument with pride
[00:16:54.340]because it's something we earned
[00:16:56.740]and it's something that brings pride to the community
[00:16:58.427]where we are raised.
[00:17:00.190]And one of the things I'm noticing now,
[00:17:01.970]like Marty says, I'm getting a lot of calls.
[00:17:04.050]I get people to come up and say, well,
[00:17:05.350]what do I have to do to get my name on there?
[00:17:07.360]I was in the military.
[00:17:08.860]So little by little, we're collecting more names
[00:17:11.310]and already we're looking at another monument
[00:17:13.480]that's gonna have these additional names on there.
[00:17:16.020]So I mean, it's really amazing what Marty and Joe started.
[00:17:20.340]This whole project has brought the community together,
[00:17:23.380]the people have taken pride in it,
[00:17:25.320]and everybody that was attending this event
[00:17:27.660]and everybody who was a part of this has a vested interest
[00:17:30.610]because they either were in the military
[00:17:32.510]or they had a relative who was in the military.
[00:17:34.710]So yes, this is a good thing.
[00:17:36.080]And I mean, it's the kind of thing.
[00:17:37.587]We did it because we thought, you know what?
[00:17:40.736]Nobody realizes what really happened here.
[00:17:42.870]Nobody realizes what these people have basically contributed
[00:17:46.650]to the betterment of Scottsbluff
[00:17:48.430]and the betterment of this country.
[00:17:50.100]So yes, it's something we all take pride in,
[00:17:52.160]and I think for Scottsbluff,
[00:17:54.820]it's that little jewel in the old crown
[00:17:56.700]that's gonna make it a better place.
[00:17:58.980]And now I'll pass it on to you, Joe.
[00:18:02.170]Thank you very much, Greg and Marty.
[00:18:04.590]My name is Joe Perez, better known as Joe Perez.
[00:18:09.730]And I say this.
[00:18:12.600]I went to the same grade school that Marty and Greg went to.
[00:18:17.420]I went in as a Perez and I came out as a Perez.
[00:18:22.170]So I think in that statement,
[00:18:24.840]I'm trying to reflect that same thing
[00:18:29.050]that has been stated before,
[00:18:31.120]that our dignity, our pride, our self-esteem was diminished.
[00:18:38.530]And I kind of felt that.
[00:18:41.730]And I really felt that at our class reunion
[00:18:46.090]when I reconnected with my fellow classmates
[00:18:49.960]and I realized that we had traveled our life
[00:18:54.380]and we had had a similar experience.
[00:18:58.720]That experience was that we had gone to Vietnam.
[00:19:03.100]We had put our lives at stake, a year of stress.
[00:19:10.790]Marty is a purple heart recipient,
[00:19:16.050]but to come back and find out that not only I but others
[00:19:20.320]and I really felt that we were again being dismissed
[00:19:26.090]or that we weren't being honored
[00:19:28.630]for what we had contributed.
[00:19:31.410]Like Benny Travino, one of our classmates said
[00:19:34.860]he came back from Vietnam
[00:19:36.297]and Vietnam War was not a popular war.
[00:19:39.420]And he felt like, wow, I'm a second class citizen.
[00:19:43.670]I'm also a second class of veteran.
[00:19:47.680]And I think what we tried to accomplish
[00:19:51.640]is to shed that second class citizen discrimination,
[00:20:08.452]We are Americans.
[00:20:09.410]We're proud of it.
[00:20:10.360]We are of a Latino heritage and culture.
[00:20:13.970]I love our music, I love our Mexican food.
[00:20:17.320]I had tortillas and beans this morning for breakfast.
[00:20:21.370]I love our culture is beautiful.
[00:20:24.630]And I think this is a summation of that total pride
[00:20:32.440]and Marty mentioned the beginning of this monument,
[00:20:39.470]where is it gonna be placed at one of the city parks?
[00:20:43.290]Is it gonna be placed?
[00:20:45.980]Then we have to deal with the city
[00:20:48.490]and their regulations and all this
[00:20:51.360]and where are we gonna put it?
[00:20:55.690]Collectively, we went to Father Sorenson,
[00:20:58.390]and again, like divine intervention, father said,
[00:21:03.117]"I know where."
[00:21:04.710]And we put it right where it should be,
[00:21:07.220]right at the Guadalupe Center, close to the church.
[00:21:13.830]We all went to the same church.
[00:21:15.650]We all went to the same grade school,
[00:21:17.310]we all went to the same high school, same bodial.
[00:21:20.910]So it was very appropriate, I think.
[00:21:23.170]I believe in divine intervention.
[00:21:24.880]It just happened to be that it came to be
[00:21:27.950]and I think that's a total reflection,
[00:21:32.410]a part of what's on that monument,
[00:21:34.750]how a religion was part of this culture
[00:21:41.530]that we also are very proud of as well as our language,
[00:21:46.330]which we took with us to the military
[00:21:49.400]and we brought it back and continued to serve,
[00:21:53.750]speak both languages.
[00:21:56.660]Mocho Pedro, we get through it.
[00:22:02.020]I think that's my comments.
[00:22:04.880]I think to me, it's just a summation of our total,
[00:22:09.310]the pride that started in that bodial, in the church,
[00:22:13.450]in the great school, into high school, into college,
[00:22:16.600]into our future lives as soldiers.
[00:22:22.620]And we wanted to share that pride
[00:22:25.370]with our fellow body oaths members,
[00:22:31.090]our fathers, our brothers, our older brothers,
[00:22:33.790]our uncles who have served.
[00:22:37.430]And this is a reflection of their service and contribution
[00:22:42.170]to the United States of America
[00:22:44.478]and our acceptance or our desire to still,
[00:22:50.150]whether we're considered second class citizens
[00:22:53.240]by let's face it.
[00:22:56.490]We face sometimes when discrimination was right in our face.
[00:23:02.830]It's not as right in our face,
[00:23:04.880]but it's still there in our community.
[00:23:16.229]I still heard a couple weeks ago
[00:23:19.410]from a realtor friend who was yelled at
[00:23:24.150]by his neighbor across the street
[00:23:28.940]and told to go back to my Mexico.
[00:23:31.060]I mean, it's still there, that air, that aroma,
[00:23:37.920]and that's hopefully what this monument will say.
[00:23:44.750]We are proud,
[00:23:46.770]we stand as Americans and Latinos and Chicanos,
[00:23:51.870]but we were here, we served, we did our duty,
[00:23:55.350]and this name calling and being made to feel
[00:24:00.690]like a second class citizen has to be gone.
[00:24:04.220]Like Gregory said,
[00:24:06.620]we want to pass this on to our younger generation.
[00:24:10.780]Be proud, be Latino, and step on our shoulders
[00:24:16.780]to get up ahead, get progress further.
[00:24:20.430]Become doctors, become lawyers.
[00:24:24.655]We do have some of our bodial residents
[00:24:29.660]who have become doctors, who have become professors,
[00:24:32.660]who are teachers.
[00:24:36.990]So let's continue the movement.
[00:24:41.773]Okay, just to follow up on the media.
[00:24:46.010]We convinced NPR to do a documentary
[00:24:48.530]and you can see it on TV on the flyer.
[00:24:50.860]If anybody wants a flyer, it shows the mini coverage.
[00:24:54.400]We had great support at the time of the media coverage.
[00:25:00.730]So let me tell you a little bit about the class of 1963.
[00:25:05.130]I have the name of all of us who started in kindergarten.
[00:25:08.390]There was 55 of us little Chicanios
[00:25:11.544]that started Roosevelt in 1950.
[00:25:14.590]22 graduated, and we were part of the 22.
[00:25:19.450]Out of that class of 63,
[00:25:21.880]12 out of the 22 have gotten BAs or better,
[00:25:26.140]12 out of that that we could match that nationally.
[00:25:30.760]If you won five years, either way of '63,
[00:25:33.640]you're lucky to have five, let alone two go onto it.
[00:25:37.240]So what about the class of 1963?
[00:25:40.610]That was so special.
[00:25:43.060]It wasn't the water, but it's for a great project.
[00:25:48.160]Nevertheless, that shows you about this class
[00:25:51.250]that was so special,
[00:25:52.800]but they know this all together in the stereotypes.
[00:25:55.590]I think I was a bestie student in Scottsbluff.
[00:25:58.530]And why you Mexicans?
[00:26:01.100]You have no future.
[00:26:03.150]Why would you wanna go to college?
[00:26:04.530]They ignored us, you know, the counselors did.
[00:26:09.270]And so that's what the challenges that we were up against
[00:26:12.180]in the whole bodial, especially our class.
[00:26:15.240]One thing that separate us in the class of '63,
[00:26:19.260]we lived in two world.
[00:26:20.160]Many of us were involved in sports,
[00:26:23.160]and that was a thing, a godsend,
[00:26:25.540]and go back to what prior to our bodial.
[00:26:29.490]So that's a class of '63.
[00:26:33.050]The other thing that was, well, how are you going to then?
[00:26:37.860]How are the names?
[00:26:39.100]I could write a thesis on, how do I get in my mind?
[00:26:43.710]I knew that it had to be over 500 names just in my mind.
[00:26:48.520]It took us two years, Joe and I,
[00:26:50.130]two years to get 600 names by word of mouth.
[00:26:55.610]Incredibly how these names came together.
[00:26:58.780]And they, so he said,
[00:27:00.077]"There's always gonna be somebody and what about me?
[00:27:02.067]"You left me."
[00:27:03.140]So we already have 50 names
[00:27:04.951]ready to go on the fifth monument.
[00:27:08.140]That was incredible to go to the work
[00:27:10.450]and the pride and the challenges we faced
[00:27:14.950]in getting these names.
[00:27:16.740]One thing I will thank COVID for, if you can believe that,
[00:27:20.287]initially we were going to have, how do we put these names?
[00:27:23.510]It was a cemetery and military
[00:27:25.313]that had every name of everybody buried in military.
[00:27:29.480]And they had a little index card that you could slide in.
[00:27:33.570]Well, we contracted with this company
[00:27:35.680]that went on a business.
[00:27:38.530]Thank God because then, Palmers and Stacy and myself
[00:27:43.220]and Stasis, well, let build three more monuments
[00:27:46.940]and engrave those 600 names.
[00:27:50.000]And that's pretty what God send,
[00:27:52.510]because people can now go, look, and pay homage.
[00:27:57.440]And it's really hard to envision the pride
[00:28:02.250]that we have in our culture to vision the pride
[00:28:05.820]that we have in our soul of our veterans
[00:28:09.410]who fought bravely of our patriotism.
[00:28:12.560]It's very hard to envision that, let alone to express it.
[00:28:17.000]And so when you pass by the monuments
[00:28:19.690]and my cousin lives right there next to the monument, Steve,
[00:28:23.640]he says, "Oh, Marty,
[00:28:24.473]"I see the people that stop by and take note."
[00:28:29.140]And that gives us great pride.
[00:28:30.840]Never envision mean what going to be the outcome?
[00:28:35.260]So again, thanks to many thanks to Laura,
[00:28:37.440]my good at what a godsend.
[00:28:40.850]And thank to many others that took part in this legacy.
[00:28:46.420]So we'll stop right there, Laura,
[00:28:48.420]and see, I have comments, questions from anybody.
[00:28:51.170]I wanted to ask you, Marty, we do have some questions,
[00:28:55.018]but if you could tell us,
[00:28:56.650]I have the image in the screen here.
[00:28:59.520]If you could tell us about each of the items here
[00:29:03.380]that you all raised money for, 'cause I see a bench,
[00:29:06.840]I see the initial monument, and then three additional ones.
[00:29:10.780]Yeah, so if you look at the, I don't have my fingers,
[00:29:13.610]but on that first monument, Laura,
[00:29:17.402]I like the first monument.
[00:29:18.870]Then we say, well, people are gonna come and pay homage.
[00:29:23.030]We like them to stand, I mean, to sit.
[00:29:26.470]And so that then we had to contract
[00:29:28.730]and get the bench right there.
[00:29:33.670]And this is a new story right here to the south
[00:29:38.010]is the beloved ninth street.
[00:29:41.160]Ninth street is really so valuable in thenos of...
[00:29:45.880]So we lived on ninth street.
[00:29:47.660]There was 200 Chicano kids,
[00:29:49.230]200 that lived on ninth street during the 50s and 60s.
[00:29:54.414]So then we had to take out
[00:29:56.670]some of the father's favorite plants.
[00:30:00.220]And then we begin to vision to the right,
[00:30:03.270]the three monuments.
[00:30:04.270]And this is where we had the ceremony last year
[00:30:07.380]of the three monuments.
[00:30:09.030]And there's, I think,
[00:30:10.610]90 in the front and then 90 in the back.
[00:30:15.270]We had thought about, well,
[00:30:16.450]do we separate it by military service?
[00:30:19.690]But that was gonna get too complicated.
[00:30:21.530]So we have the engravements,
[00:30:23.370]we have the invading of those three monuments.
[00:30:26.610]These are the benches to the right.
[00:30:28.340]I think were already there.
[00:30:30.130]So we have space right there in front
[00:30:32.830]that people can stop by and look at that.
[00:30:36.300]The back of the center there, that was already there,
[00:30:39.630]and they did a great job in depicting
[00:30:42.090]because if you look at it at a glance,
[00:30:44.360]it really gives pride in our Latino culture.
[00:30:51.549]You know an interesting point too, Marty,
[00:30:53.810]is the fact that where they built this monument,
[00:30:56.920]that when we were young kids was our playground.
[00:31:01.200]That was our baseline field.
[00:31:03.000]That was our roller skating ring.
[00:31:05.160]That was our basketball court.
[00:31:07.240]That's where the boxing took place in the rec center.
[00:31:10.260]And that's where we had Theona running
[00:31:12.120]across the ball field.
[00:31:14.423]In the state, we never hung around there at night.
[00:31:16.650]Marty who lived on the other side,
[00:31:18.570]we would walk him up to the last light pole, wish him well,
[00:31:22.190]and he take off running for home.
[00:31:24.240]But I mean, that whole area there
[00:31:26.080]was part of our growing up.
[00:31:29.060]It was the center of where we would meet,
[00:31:31.220]what are we gonna do today?
[00:31:32.640]What are we gonna play?
[00:31:34.500]We ride our bikes wherever we went,
[00:31:37.130]and Scottsbluff was the kind of town.
[00:31:38.770]You didn't do anything wrong because the minute they said,
[00:31:41.137]"I'm gonna tell your mom or dad,"
[00:31:42.810]we were suddenly good, well-behaved boys.
[00:31:45.190]So yeah, no, that whole area there
[00:31:47.630]has a lot of meaning to all of us
[00:31:49.110]because we spent a lot of our youth there,
[00:31:51.720]playing, staying, trying to stay out of trouble
[00:31:55.130]and enjoying what we thought
[00:31:56.670]was the greatest place to live in the world.
[00:32:00.651]May I interject, Laura?
[00:32:06.650]Going back to the picture of the Guadalupe Center,
[00:32:10.810]if you will for me,
[00:32:13.922]on the back of the dark, the first monument there
[00:32:21.030]are the list.
[00:32:21.950]We've listed the names of the KIAs, but starting,
[00:32:27.340]well, we first started with the Vietnam veterans
[00:32:29.990]and there's names of Latinos who were killed in Vietnam.
[00:32:34.480]One of them names is Richard Estrada who's from Rich Park.
[00:32:40.030]Last summer, Richard Estrada's graduation class
[00:32:48.250]came down to Scottsbluff to see the monument.
[00:32:51.890]And I can share with you one story.
[00:32:55.620]They were all, they were not Latinos,
[00:32:58.440]but they respected Richard
[00:33:00.300]and they had heard about the monument,
[00:33:02.610]and I talked to them about why we wanted to do it,
[00:33:07.150]which we have shared here this morning, why it came about.
[00:33:12.260]But one of the gentlemen who was Richard Estrada's classmate
[00:33:19.500]started kindergarten with him, went to eighth grade,
[00:33:23.270]then moved away and then came back to Bridgeport.
[00:33:27.710]Unbeknownst to them, they both ended up at Vietnam
[00:33:31.580]at different times and they reconnected.
[00:33:38.590]And this gentleman told me
[00:33:41.210]he had received a package from Richard.
[00:33:45.870]The package said,
[00:33:47.797]"When we get back home,
[00:33:49.537]"let's share this can of beer."
[00:33:52.370]And it was a can of Foster's beer in this package.
[00:33:56.980]He come to find out that Richard was killed in Vietnam
[00:33:59.950]a couple weeks later.
[00:34:02.950]He still had that can of beer.
[00:34:05.660]And his wish is to go back to Washington,
[00:34:09.670]to the national memorial,
[00:34:11.750]put that can of beer there in Richard's honor.
[00:34:15.110]I think that's the kind of pride and stories
[00:34:19.450]that need to be shared about the monument,
[00:34:25.465]the 600 names that are put on there.
[00:34:28.000]There's a lot of stories in there
[00:34:29.640]about gentlemen who have received like Marty purple hearts
[00:34:33.930]for the wounds or sacrifice.
[00:34:36.600]In addition to the sacrifice of the KIAs,
[00:34:40.760]I like to mention the sacrifice of our parents, our mother.
[00:34:46.430]I know my grandmother and mother prayed for me.
[00:34:49.460]Marty, I think shared with me
[00:34:51.420]that he had received a medal that he wore
[00:34:55.140]on his uniform the whole time he was there.
[00:34:59.450]My classmate, Benny Travino,
[00:35:01.910]tells me that he really wasn't a religious fellow
[00:35:05.270]when he went to Vietnam.
[00:35:07.520]But he said, "I learned to pray in Vietnam."
[00:35:10.913]I mean, religion sacrifice is not only ours,
[00:35:15.730]but the whole community
[00:35:16.980]as Marty and the others have mentioned.
[00:35:21.462]Laura, let me mention that when I came back from Vietnam,
[00:35:25.970]like Sodi said, we went there to fight for the ideals.
[00:35:29.530]There was two type of Vietnam veterans,
[00:35:32.181]one before 1970 and one after 1970.
[00:35:35.500]When I came back from Vietnam, somebody said,
[00:35:37.937]"Hey, Marty, did you watch this video
[00:35:39.857]"called Chicanos against the Vietnam war?"
[00:35:43.000]And I said, say what?
[00:35:46.100]So we always thought that the Chicano Movement
[00:35:49.520]was started by Cesar Chavez and the farm workers.
[00:35:54.730]No, the Chicano Movement started
[00:35:57.060]in the protest of many Chicanos in Arizona and California
[00:36:00.770]against the Vietnam war
[00:36:02.830]because they were called expendables.
[00:36:07.560]They were drafting Chicanos and blacks and poor whites
[00:36:10.760]as high numbers and putting them in the front line.
[00:36:14.600]They were called expendables.
[00:36:16.740]Fast order to when Marty finished college,
[00:36:19.990]Marty became the Mexican who happened
[00:36:23.690]to have a college degree
[00:36:25.550]because 60% of our class in Scottsbluff went to Vietnam.
[00:36:32.550]And if you look at Vietnam,
[00:36:34.000]when Latinos were only 12% of the population,
[00:36:39.700]we were 22% of the casualties.
[00:36:45.640]And so when we now did
[00:36:48.660]and let me jump over to the next, the celebration.
[00:36:52.780]So back to fate.
[00:36:54.820]So this time as we were gonna just put the three monuments
[00:36:59.030]right before I got wind of there's this organization,
[00:37:03.270]national, the Quilt Of Valor,
[00:37:05.360]and they presented all of us,
[00:37:06.720]Joe and I and Sodi and Oscar
[00:37:09.380]and Benny and Galvino with a quilt
[00:37:11.900]just honoring for our service, 'cause they saw that on NTV.
[00:37:16.240]And then there was this other organization
[00:37:18.100]that I cut in is called Quilt of Remembrance.
[00:37:23.260]And this was honoring those KIAs from Vietnam,
[00:37:28.080]and I believe there were 70.
[00:37:30.860]So the ceremony was truly a success,
[00:37:34.140]very, very emotionally because we call up the parents,
[00:37:37.570]the family members of those who died.
[00:37:41.490]So again, you almost had to be there
[00:37:44.050]to really have that sense of this legacy,
[00:37:47.950]that (speaking in foreign language)
[00:37:50.020]of the class of '63 put together.
[00:37:52.820]Anyway, I'll stop there and go to the questions.
[00:38:01.200]So everyone's welcome.
[00:38:02.550]If you would like to enter into the chat questions
[00:38:05.640]that you might have for any of the speakers
[00:38:08.630]and I'll start off with a first question here
[00:38:11.520]about this issue that Mr. Perez raised about dignity.
[00:38:17.760]I'd like to learn more about why dignity
[00:38:21.190]was so important to you,
[00:38:22.480]how you think of the monument as instilling dignity.
[00:38:26.500]If you could just tell us a little bit more
[00:38:28.130]about your take on dignity.
[00:38:31.840]Well, I think it's self-dignity
[00:38:39.900]which I was made from a very young age to feel inferior
[00:38:46.880]by the society.
[00:38:48.770]I was called being a greaser, a wet back.
[00:38:52.850]I told to go back to Mexico
[00:38:54.710]and it was really complicated in my mind
[00:38:58.460]at age five or six to grab a hold of it
[00:39:04.990]because I'd come home and I'd be loved
[00:39:08.210]and I was made to feel proud by my bodial community,
[00:39:13.610]my friends, the church,
[00:39:15.740]but it was very complicated
[00:39:18.230]for me to understand and fully come to the fulfillment
[00:39:25.350]in understanding I'm just as equal.
[00:39:28.510]I'm just as good.
[00:39:31.044]As mentioned by other speakers,
[00:39:33.570]I was having to be athletic and I was a conference champion.
[00:39:40.530]I was a state champion for the state of Nebraska.
[00:39:43.570]But despite that, I was still a second class citizen
[00:39:50.360]or made to feel that I hadn't earned enough.
[00:39:54.560]And with a college degree, I still hadn't.
[00:39:57.290]I still didn't get the jobs that I still had a struggle.
[00:40:04.440]So that dignity part, I think this fills that void.
[00:40:10.660]The day before last year's parade,
[00:40:13.120]I was speaking to one of the boys
[00:40:15.690]that was walking through by the street there
[00:40:18.630]when we were working on the floats
[00:40:20.950]and he happened to be a native American heritage.
[00:40:24.220]And I told him about the Marine
[00:40:28.226]who helped put the flag at Iwo Jima
[00:40:31.710]who was a native American.
[00:40:36.040]The name skips in my mind.
[00:40:37.690]But he says there were...
[00:40:40.740]I said there were native Americans
[00:40:42.530]that were fought as Marines in World War II.
[00:40:46.380]He had never heard that story.
[00:40:50.780]Isaiah was his name.
[00:40:51.950]I believe it was Isaiah.
[00:40:54.063]Anyway, the name skips my mind,
[00:40:55.952]but he was a Navajo Indian.
[00:40:59.030]I told him about the Navajo code talker
[00:41:03.390]who helped save American lives
[00:41:06.750]by talking on the radios in Navajo
[00:41:09.670]and the Japanese could never break the code.
[00:41:12.500]So I mean, and then I saw him at the celebration
[00:41:17.610]that Marty spoke about that we had last year.
[00:41:20.790]And I could see the pride in him.
[00:41:23.550]I mean, the gleam in his smile in his eyes.
[00:41:26.840]So I guess, I don't know if I've answered your question,
[00:41:31.440]but there's a need there
[00:41:34.460]to take your total being and be proud of it.
[00:41:39.890]We still continue.
[00:41:40.900]Marty's a professor.
[00:41:42.500]Greg's a tennis instructor or a coach
[00:41:47.500]whose teams have won state championships in Colorado.
[00:41:51.590]So all these little things contribute to filling you up
[00:41:55.370]and making you proud and making each other of us proud.
[00:42:02.154]So I don't know if I answered your question.
[00:42:05.500]Oh, definitely. Thank you so much.
[00:42:07.350]Laura, let me answer that to back to dignity
[00:42:09.860]tied to identity.
[00:42:11.740]Latinos are always in search of an identity.
[00:42:15.620]We grew up, as Joe said,
[00:42:17.410]the reason you're poor is 'cause you're Mexican.
[00:42:20.130]The reason you can't do this as you, I mean, for all that,
[00:42:23.760]it impacts you as a child and you take it to the grave.
[00:42:28.090]And this is what the demons we have to fight
[00:42:32.260]back to our dignity.
[00:42:33.810]What this monument represents
[00:42:35.440]is something we can't express in words.
[00:42:38.660]All we have to do is look at this picture,
[00:42:41.150]look at the names, look at the KIA.
[00:42:43.740]Don't be telling us that we don't belong here.
[00:42:48.630]Check out your history.
[00:42:50.520]That's what this monument display is.
[00:42:56.707]And Mr. Rodriguez, would you like to respond?
[00:43:00.400]I think the biggest thing
[00:43:01.590]about where Joe was talking about dignity and pride,
[00:43:05.470]one of the things that always in my days
[00:43:09.820]in Nebraska growing up in that
[00:43:11.800]and I'll mention his name again
[00:43:13.350]because he's Marty's brother,
[00:43:15.180]but Isabel Ramirez was our baseball coach
[00:43:19.310]and he was one heck of a boxer.
[00:43:21.630]He was a golden gloves champ,
[00:43:23.750]and to us, he was the most amazing person
[00:43:26.890]that walked on this earth.
[00:43:28.330]But one thing that Isabel had,
[00:43:30.670]he had a quiet, calm dignity about him.
[00:43:34.940]You saw when he walked into the room,
[00:43:36.980]you knew he was somebody special,
[00:43:39.400]but he in a way, conveyed that to us,
[00:43:42.510]both in playing baseball and when he boxed and everything,
[00:43:46.820]Isabel always maintained this era of dignity.
[00:43:51.070]If you didn't treat him right, if you didn't respect him,
[00:43:55.900]you paid the price when you got in the ring with him.
[00:43:58.570]So I mean, this is something that he conveyed to Marty,
[00:44:00.750]Marty and going to college and playing baseball,
[00:44:03.620]and at the college level,
[00:44:05.350]Joe running track at the college level.
[00:44:07.900]All of them took great pride in what they did.
[00:44:11.110]But at the same time,
[00:44:12.720]they did it knowing they came from a neighborhood
[00:44:15.530]that they not only had to be a participant,
[00:44:18.230]they had to participate harder, they had to give more,
[00:44:22.040]they had to run further, they had to have a longer day,
[00:44:25.450]and you gotta remember all these kids came from a background
[00:44:28.330]of having worked in the field, having done labor jobs,
[00:44:32.810]and looking at their neighborhood and saying,
[00:44:34.687]"I can do better than this."
[00:44:36.480]There was the priest we had there who was Father Down,
[00:44:39.240]who once told me, he said, "Sodi,
[00:44:41.077]"when you leave Scottsbluff, you will never come back."
[00:44:44.730]And I said, oh, G, father, I'm coming back.
[00:44:46.640]I'm gonna marry this girl.
[00:44:47.660]I'm gonna live in Scottsbluff and be happy
[00:44:49.750]for a miserable for the rest of my life.
[00:44:51.960]He said, "No, once you leave and you see the world out there
[00:44:55.277]"and you start to see the vistas of what is possible,
[00:44:58.697]"you will never come back."
[00:45:00.610]Well, he was right.
[00:45:01.650]I never did go back.
[00:45:02.880]But the one thing, a bomb,
[00:45:03.960]that I always kept in the back of my mind
[00:45:05.510]is I had people back there who had instilled in me
[00:45:09.170]the fact that keep pride and what you do.
[00:45:11.840]If you're gonna do it, do it right.
[00:45:14.160]And secondly, don't let anybody judge what you do.
[00:45:17.490]You be the judge of what you're doing,
[00:45:20.040]know yourself and the rest of the world falls into place.
[00:45:23.430]And I mean, that's one thing.
[00:45:24.430]I look back to people like Marty, Joe,
[00:45:27.030]Benny, Pete Castile, all the kids I grew up with.
[00:45:30.720]We always instilled the pride that we were a group
[00:45:34.600]and we could and would do more
[00:45:36.750]than the average person was doing.
[00:45:38.770]So in other words, don't be afraid to try.
[00:45:40.720]It's better to try and fail than to not try at all
[00:45:43.500]and that's one thing that was instilled in us.
[00:45:46.050]If you're gonna be in the game, play the game,
[00:45:48.320]give it your best,
[00:45:49.600]and then walk away with your head held high
[00:45:51.810]and we did of that.
[00:45:54.287]One of the things I've heard all of you speak about
[00:45:56.480]is the fact that you left Scottsbluff.
[00:45:59.500]And even in the preparation for building the monument,
[00:46:03.260]a lot of the work took place over email
[00:46:06.410]through the GoFundMe account, which was eventually set up.
[00:46:09.810]People were contacting you by telephone
[00:46:12.780]from across the nation.
[00:46:14.350]Can you talk a little bit about what it meant
[00:46:16.670]to leave Scottsbluff and then to go back there
[00:46:19.860]and create this monument
[00:46:21.190]and to reconnect with all of these people?
[00:46:25.370]Well, I think our parents,
[00:46:29.200]I'm a son of Mexican immigrants.
[00:46:30.790]My father found the Mexican Revolution with Pancho Villa.
[00:46:34.150]They didn't have the capacity to see beyond tomorrow.
[00:46:39.050]They were surviving.
[00:46:40.300]They were doing the best.
[00:46:41.400]They instilled in this religion and hard work.
[00:46:45.220]I think with many of us,
[00:46:46.824]the majority of us were being influenced
[00:46:49.510]in that other world call athletics.
[00:46:52.720]When we would get great coaches,
[00:46:54.550]that would say, you can do better, you can do more,
[00:46:58.570]and this is how collectively,
[00:47:01.600]we sort of supported each other.
[00:47:03.550]So when we getting that outside influence,
[00:47:06.480]how does anybody even encourage Marty or Joe or Sodi,
[00:47:10.370]looking at their grades,
[00:47:11.250]getting Cs and Bs and say, you're a college material.
[00:47:15.640]We sure didn't get that from the counselors.
[00:47:17.950]But I think we got that motivation from my brother
[00:47:21.410]and coaches who went out, who saw something in all of us.
[00:47:26.535]For me that 'cause my goal
[00:47:28.390]was after I'm done playing minjibar,
[00:47:30.630]I'm gonna join the military.
[00:47:32.520]So I knew I was going to get out of Scottsbluff,
[00:47:34.540]because somewhere I knew there was something better.
[00:47:37.890]Didn't have a plan, didn't have the money,
[00:47:40.690]but I just knew that.
[00:47:41.972]I think that was part of all of thinking at that time.
[00:47:46.220]Mr. Perez, you wanted to speak?
[00:47:48.560]Yes, I think I had parents who from a young age,
[00:47:57.200]I have to thank my mom and dad would take us on vacations.
[00:48:04.240]Not far, we didn't stay in motels,
[00:48:08.970]but my dad tried to expose us to outside our bodial.
[00:48:17.430]Later on in life,
[00:48:20.800]I found out that some of my cousins
[00:48:22.700]kind of thought we were up with ease and upper class
[00:48:26.960]because our parents took the time and opportunity
[00:48:32.575]to take us to the Black Hills, to Yellowstone,
[00:48:37.060]to visit our relatives in other states.
[00:48:41.160]And I found that to be the beginning of, wow,
[00:48:45.050]there's something more out there than just the bodial.
[00:48:50.440]The bodial is where my grandparents are, my lived, my boots,
[00:48:55.870]parental and maternal and my relatives have lived there.
[00:49:02.740]So that's my roots.
[00:49:06.560]And I still think of it as that's home for me,
[00:49:11.890]but I live here in Colorado,
[00:49:14.240]but the bodial is still in my heart
[00:49:19.729]where I grew up with these, with my classmates,
[00:49:23.480]I would have to say,
[00:49:25.800]that was probably the best time of my life.
[00:49:31.020]I was free,
[00:49:34.450]the potato chip factory was there,
[00:49:36.370]the smell of the potato chips, the church, the school.
[00:49:40.500]Man, I was in heaven, you know,
[00:49:44.610]kind of a small heaven,
[00:49:47.920]and I guess, yeah.
[00:49:51.830]And that has a lot to do with where I am today
[00:49:55.680]because I still, whether I live in Colorado or go anywhere,
[00:49:59.193]there's still those elements.
[00:50:02.270]Like I mentioned earlier, discrimination.
[00:50:06.080]Fortunately or unfortunately,
[00:50:10.800]I applied for a job when I was in seventh grade
[00:50:15.800]in one of the stores downtown in Scottsbluff
[00:50:19.317]and I was told by the owner to get out
[00:50:21.560]and never come back into his store again.
[00:50:24.180]I went to college.
[00:50:25.720]My classmate or roommate told me,
[00:50:29.777]"When you get back for this summer, go here and apply,
[00:50:32.307]"'cause this is where I'm gonna be working this summer."
[00:50:34.930]I was told to get out and never come back.
[00:50:38.130]I did have a good boss who hired me, but it was a labor job.
[00:50:41.790]I worked my way through high school and colleagues
[00:50:46.860]by working basically 40 hours a week and trying to study
[00:50:51.790]and it was not an easy road, but I got through with it.
[00:50:56.980]I don't know what that has to do
[00:50:58.270]with going back to Scottsbluff,
[00:50:59.930]but it has a real impact on my life.
[00:51:06.200]And I'm proud.
[00:51:07.470]And if I might touch base just a little bit,
[00:51:11.910]my grandfather and the parents of Marty and Greg
[00:51:16.440]and other men in the community
[00:51:19.010]started this 16th of September celebration,
[00:51:22.560]which was a recognition of the culture,
[00:51:25.010]the music and everything.
[00:51:27.430]And they didn't have.
[00:51:30.080]They used to rent halls.
[00:51:31.570]Terry's Arena, it burned down.
[00:51:34.950]They would go to the Scottsbluff County Fair
[00:51:39.090]to have the festivals and Father Valdesis,
[00:51:43.920]he was finding a very difficult
[00:51:45.690]to find a place to have these community meetings.
[00:51:49.270]So that developed the Guadalupe Center.
[00:51:53.400]But I think society just kept pushing us and pushing us
[00:51:58.600]and we're gonna resist now and say, we're here to stay.
[00:52:02.010]I don't live in Scottsbluff
[00:52:03.290]but my footprints are still in Scottsbluff.
[00:52:07.642]So are the other fellows footprints.
[00:52:10.790]I'm sorry, I've taken so long to win,
[00:52:14.690]blow my windmill here.
[00:52:18.116]We have seven minutes left, eight minutes left.
[00:52:22.320]If any of you would like to make other comments,
[00:52:26.000]you're welcome to do so.
[00:52:27.010]If there's something that you're dying to share with us,
[00:52:29.860]we'd love to hear it.
[00:52:32.250]Well, I think I wanna thank anybody,
[00:52:35.000]all those who joined in.
[00:52:37.720]Thank everybody that's making
[00:52:39.960]come out of this invisible world.
[00:52:43.410]It's given us, you know,
[00:52:44.760]much of the emotions of hatred
[00:52:46.810]and prejudice are in your soul.
[00:52:49.670]And so what's happening right now,
[00:52:51.180]currently in today's society is like Joe said,
[00:52:55.570]we're not immigrants.
[00:52:57.480]We've always been here.
[00:52:59.170]Latinos are a part of Nebraska history.
[00:53:02.150]Check out your history.
[00:53:03.640]So I guess I wanna take this time to thank,
[00:53:06.040]especially you, Laura,
[00:53:08.340]for giving us this grand opportunity
[00:53:10.535]to share our stories
[00:53:12.027]and what the legacy represents to many and many aspects,
[00:53:15.990]and to give homage to the veterano who sacrificed,
[00:53:22.320]who gave the ultimate.
[00:53:24.150]Anybody that joins the military signs up
[00:53:26.610]for potential combat.
[00:53:28.630]And so what this gives us the opportunity
[00:53:30.480]both through the monument and what's happening now,
[00:53:33.070]a sincere gracias to everybody.
[00:53:38.410]I would like to just mention
[00:53:41.710]that what Marty had said before,
[00:53:44.300]check got the video of the program that was put together.
[00:53:48.890]It's called "Nebraska Bodial:
[00:53:52.920]The Bodial Boys from Nebraska."
[00:53:56.442]I think that would be a nice addition
[00:53:59.490]to what we have talked about today.
[00:54:05.040]Nebraska bodial voice.
[00:54:06.940]I did post that in the chat.
[00:54:08.730]So everyone has access to that
[00:54:11.120]and we do have some questions coming through.
[00:54:13.860]So let me share those with you as well.
[00:54:18.060]First, Sophia Garcia says,
[00:54:19.950]thank you for speaking about your experiences.
[00:54:21.990]I've learned so much and appreciate learning from you all.
[00:54:25.540]And then Kathleen is asking, in addition to the monument,
[00:54:31.640]what would you like to see in Nebraska to honor Latinos?
[00:54:42.250]Greg. Go ahead, Greg.
[00:54:44.490]Okay, I think it would be nice
[00:54:46.870]for both the university and the entire state of Nebraska,
[00:54:51.340]which I can probably still say I call it my home
[00:54:54.760]and Scottsbluff will always be in my heart
[00:54:57.590]because it was a major part of my life
[00:54:59.980]and part of who I am today.
[00:55:01.710]But I think it would be nice if Nebraska would have a day
[00:55:04.900]to honor the Latinos, the Hispanics,
[00:55:07.830]the Mexicans that have contributed so much to the growth
[00:55:12.350]and the success of Nebraska
[00:55:14.460]and have also done a great deal
[00:55:16.340]to try to bring the youth to the forefront
[00:55:19.380]and give them a better future than what we had
[00:55:22.300]though we had good opportunities
[00:55:23.720]and most of us did take advantage of them.
[00:55:26.050]But I really think we need to stop,
[00:55:27.770]pause one day a year and say, you know what?
[00:55:31.720]The Hispanics did contribute a lot to Nebraska
[00:55:34.670]and they did make a mark and we owe them a lot,
[00:55:38.380]because I mean,
[00:55:39.213]so many times we just get pushed to the side,
[00:55:41.400]and like Joe said, they had a lot of names for us,
[00:55:44.430]greasers, you know, even a little Mexicans.
[00:55:47.290]I remember if we go to south camp with Father Wale
[00:55:49.830]and they'd say here's Father Wale with his 42.
[00:55:52.603]So I mean, all this is part of what we grew up with,
[00:55:55.890]but I think we can change that
[00:55:56.910]and start to show some respect and some gratitude
[00:56:00.360]to what the Latino population has contributed
[00:56:03.030]to the subset of Nebraska.
[00:56:06.401]I think it's the media.
[00:56:09.270]You were part of the media.
[00:56:11.200]I think it's the media that has to tell their reporters,
[00:56:14.270]go out and find the stories because the stories are there,
[00:56:17.360]they've always been there.
[00:56:19.098]It's now in the, when we go discuss,
[00:56:21.580]the only time you saw the Mexican name is...
[00:56:28.400]We're having audio problems.
[00:56:30.320]Yeah, we are.
[00:56:31.510]Marty, can you unmute yourself?
[00:56:32.747]You're muted, Marty.
[00:56:36.134]Get your mute button. There you go.
[00:56:37.940]Real quickly, it's the media.
[00:56:39.610]It's the reporters and the TV people
[00:56:41.850]that have to go for find these stories
[00:56:43.700]and you have to find them,
[00:56:45.610]but you shouldn't have to research
[00:56:47.050]because they've always been there.
[00:56:49.000]So I think it's a me that has to go out
[00:56:51.110]and do what we've all expressed kind of thing.
[00:57:00.440]I think what you're doing,
[00:57:03.753]what the university is doing,
[00:57:05.890]we have to reach out to the grade schools and high schools
[00:57:10.150]in Alliance, Nebraska, Sheridan, Gordon,
[00:57:13.980]Carney, Grand Island, all these high schools.
[00:57:17.950]We have to go in and make some presentations
[00:57:20.460]to let the people of Nebraska realize
[00:57:28.170]that little Latinos have contributed
[00:57:31.650]to the history and growth and economy of Nebraska,
[00:57:40.290]and that we are a multicultural state.
[00:57:46.653]And to allow us to be proud to be Americans
[00:57:53.310]and to be Latinos at the same time,
[00:57:58.760]the community enjoys Mexican food.
[00:58:02.420]I miss Mexican music like we had when we were kids.
[00:58:13.220]So I agree with Greg.
[00:58:15.470]I think there's a lot that the state can do
[00:58:19.050]and we can contribute even more and like Marty says,
[00:58:21.880]just opening up the media to letting them know
[00:58:26.060]that we're here, ask us to participate,
[00:58:30.300]and let us reflect our pride in our country
[00:58:35.050]and our state and in our community.
[00:58:38.110]We have approximately two minutes left.
[00:58:40.640]I know that Marty always has lots to say.
[00:58:44.310]Marty, would you like to make some closing remarks?
[00:58:47.910]Sure, one of the things
[00:58:49.220]behind all of what we have said is a thing called change.
[00:58:52.740]And the number one change happening to is the demographics.
[00:58:57.270]When we grew up, there was about 40,000 Latinos in Nebraska.
[00:59:02.480]Now Nebraska's over 200,000.
[00:59:05.520]Latinos have saved these small communities.
[00:59:08.330]I could go on and on where we're now at the table.
[00:59:13.190]And we bring and this is economics, this is agriculture.
[00:59:18.230]Who's working in the meetup plans?
[00:59:20.890]And finally, you have young pride,
[00:59:23.620]Latinos and Latinos real quick.
[00:59:27.190]In the class of '63, there was two Chicanas,
[00:59:29.810]two Chicanas that a favor man and cousin.
[00:59:33.090]Ruthie Salvanders and Suzie Ramos
[00:59:34.770]joined the military in 1963.
[00:59:38.270]So you still had that pride
[00:59:39.780]of Latinos to join the military.
[00:59:42.560]That's all going on today.
[00:59:44.360]But the number one impact is called demographics.
[00:59:47.360]The business world knows it, the educational world,
[00:59:49.760]the community knows it.
[00:59:51.330]We are forced to be reckoned with.
[00:59:54.920]Thank you all so much for joining us today.
[00:59:57.350]Thank you, Mr. Rodriguez,
[00:59:58.860]Mr. Betas, Mr. Marty Ramirez
[01:00:01.530]for taking the time to share your story with us.
[01:00:03.650]We are so excited at the Great Plain Center
[01:00:06.110]that you participated in this conference
[01:00:07.960]on reckoning and reconciliation,
[01:00:10.000]and I'm super thrilled that Latinos are part of this story.
[01:00:13.240]Thank you all very much.
[01:00:14.940]We'll see you later.
Thank you for your time.
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