East of East: Mapping Community Narratives at Mountain View H.S.


Hello Everyone on the Internet!

In continuing our live-blog on History in Action, here is the second of our entries on “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in El Monte & South El Monte”. Yesterday, we held our first event at Mountain View High School on the east side of El Monte California. I gave a talk and then a discussion with students studying journalism.

Michael Weller teaches journalism, his students this year have been involved in a yearlong collaboration with KCET Departures. With the help of Ruby Fregoza, students from five different schools in El Monte and South El Monte have learned to become student-journalists and citizen activists. At Mountain View High School the students are involved with a serious of reporting projects that are also meant to push for meaningful changes in their community. They take on large topics and week by week write and investigate different aspects of the issue they are working on. This has allowed them to work with professionals of various types from the area. It was with this in mind that we spoke with the students.


Nick Juravich, Romeo Guzman, and I, spoke about SEMAP and the project to create a community based archive on this area East of Los Angeles. Building on my piece for KCET Departures, I spoke to them about the history of the area, the various migrations that brought people from across the world to this little section of the San Gabriel Valley, the creation of and life in Hick Camp, the 1933 Berry Strike that was the largest strike by Latinos before the 1960’s, and the post-war developments that lead to the destruction of the camp and the economy that made it possible. The second half of the talk focused on how to make oral histories that allow people to tell their own stories. I used the example of Felix Ramos, whose life exemplified many of the trends in Chicano history in the 20th century, as a way to show that every life is tied to history. Students enjoyed a section of history interview I played, especially where he spoke of the challenges of going to school in the 1950’s, and chasing girls.


The students asked a variety of questions and contributed their own knowledge of El Monte’s history, including the history of the area where the school sat. We spoke about the things we don’t know as much as those we do. In order to answer the unknown, we have to do a historical investigation in archives, interviews, and other sources, and eve use of social media to get sources. After the main group left a smaller group stayed to talk to Ruby and us about their own projects. They will be working with us, paired to a PhD Candidate this weekend to learn how to do oral history and archive material.

Afterwards we all went to a Futbol game where Mountain View tied archrival El Monte in a dramatic game.


Daniel Morales