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*This portion of the interview can be seen as a video clip.
CARLOS: Let me tell you a little about our project. We’re a group of high school students getting involved with our community leaders, getting to learn the perspective of their lives. We’re [also] focusing on the Chicano/Latino culture and we’re hoping to ask some strong questions. So that’s who we are. And we’re going to interview you today. Okay, I’ll ask the first question, and then others will all ask [questions]. Can you please tell us how was your life growing up?
ANGELA ROMERO: Well, I was born and raised in Tooele, Utah. I don’t know if anyone knows where Tooele is. My family is originally from northern New Mexico, and my father is also American Indian and has family in Montana. Growing up in Tooele was interesting. At the time I was there, it was more of a small town, so you were either Chicano-well, my family identifies as Spanish-American because they’re New Mexicans, so that’s a whole other story when you’re talking about identity-so [in Tooele] you were either of Mexican-American descent or you’re white. It was interesting growing up because I knew my ethnic-racial identity before I actually identified with my gender identity, because people associated us to who you were. We were with the Mexicans, and we were Catholic; so we were very different [from the Mormons]. I grew up in Tooele, but in a small area they called Tortilla Flats because that’s where all the Mexican-Americans lived because our grandfathers had come to build tanks for the Army Depot. The majority of our families came to Utah to work for the U.S. Government and to build tanks. So growing up was interesting. It was not ideal, but I guess it formed who I am today and why I’m passionate about issues.
ALEXIS: My name’s Alexis, and I was just wondering if you ever have been discriminated against and how you reacted to that?
ANGELA: Well, we were stereotyped. You were Mexican, and you were supposed to stay in Tooele. You were never supposed to leave Tooele. So my whole goal [growing up] was to graduate from high school and go to college. And so one of the things I did was I worked with one of my aunts who lived out here in Salt Lake, and she took me up to the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, and-sorry guys [cries], I don’t mean to get emotional. I’m sorry. Usually I’m pretty functional, but this [shoulder] is still kinda fresh. So she took me up to the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs and that’s where I met people that helped me, like Archie Archuleta, Pete Suazo, and other community leaders.
So I faced a lot of discrimination growing up just due to my race and my ethnicity, but also [from] within [the] culture. I don’t know how do you guys feel about this-do you have sisters or mothers, you as young women?-but my grandma’s goal for me was to be a secretary. She thought me being a secretary was a step up. My grandparents really didn’t understand why I wanted to go to college. They’re like, “Well, we don’t go to college.” I’m like, “Why don’t you go to college?” So I was always questioning. So not only did I have exterior discrimination, but even within my family they didn’t understand why I wanted to go on to college. They’re like, “You can work in a bank, or you can be a secretary,” and for them that was important. I’m not trying to put that down, because my grandmother worked at Walmart, [and] my grandfather built tanks. I don’t want to take that away from them. But I always wanted something different. I didn’t want to be the status quo, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.
ALEXIS: We know you did go to college, but we were also told that you dropped out of college at one point. Why was it?
ANGELA: Well, see, growing up, my grandparents were really strict, and in my hometown most of the women-unfortunately, it’s a stereotype but it’s true-most of the women, during the time I was growing up, I don’t know if it’s the same now `cause this is like almost 20 years ago, they didn’t graduate from college `cause they got pregnant, or they just chose not to go to school. So what was the question again, I’m sorry, I got lost.
ALEXIS: That you dropped out of college….
ANGELA: Anyway, I wasn’t expected to go to college, so I didn’t feel like high school prepared me for college because I wasn’t what they called “college material” because I was Mexican-American. Really, there was no investment in our families `cause we were just bound to stay in Tooele. And so when I first wanted to come up to the U, my grandparents, who raised me very strictly, talked to the Catholic priests over here at the Newman Center at the University of Utah, and they’re like, “Can she live here?” They’re like, “Yeah,” so they got me in and I lived at the Newman Center on campus. But since it was the first time for me being on my own, `cause my family’s very traditional, when I first got up to college I was like, “Wow, I have a social life!” So I got mixed up with some people that weren’t in college, per se, but they had lots of money and they drove nice low riders and I was just having the time of my life. So I got caught up in a kind of a faster scene, and I wasn’t focused on school; so I dropped out for a while. And then after that, I became pregnant, [and] I realized like I came to Salt Lake for a reason. I want something different.
Now, even though I was partying and having this good life, I still was involved in activism. Utah Coalition of La Raza was formed in 1992 and I was one of their student founding members, so I was still doing community activism. But, yeah, I was more intrigued by this fast lifestyle my friends at the university introduced me to, and what’s really interesting is of that group of friends, I’m the only one, I think, that finished college. The rest never completed school because they stayed kinda living that life.
I think what really changed me is we were at a party one night, and we had some friends that were in Job Corps. They were Sureños, old Sureños, so they were going to college with us, and my best friend’s brother came. You guys are babies-I don’t know if you were even born during this time-but they were part of the Murder One family, which was QVO and 21st Street and a bunch of other gangs. So they came to the party, and you mix those two groups together and you have guns, well, you can imagine what happened. So this party changed my life, because somebody was shot and paralyzed”. So all of this stuff was going around me, [and] I had to question like-Why am I here? Why do I hang out with these people? Where are they gonna get me in life? For me that was an eye opener. Yeah, the fast lifestyle was fun. We were partying, there was always money, but at the end of the day where was that gonna get me in life? So that’s when I decided I had to go back to school and just refocus and change my friends. And that was hard, because these were people I identified with.
SILVINO: My name’s Silvino and my question is: How did you become involved in the gang life and what did you experience?
ANGELA: I was never a part of a gang personally. I was more there to party with them. My brother was a gang member. My brother was QVO, my cousins are all QVO, so that’s how I was introduced to that gang because this was in the early, early `90s. So my cousins and my brother, they were all QVO, my other cousin was a Sureño, so that always caused problems within my family. But I was never a gang member, I was more of, oh, where’s the party? I’m gonna go party. I dated guys that were gang members but I was never full-fledged, because it didn’t appeal to me. But the party life did. They had the money and the cars, and so where was I gonna go? I was gonna go party with them, but I think they’re all about-[and] this is what kills me-because they were always about Brown Pride, but yet here you are picking out people that look like you. So I always would question that. I’m like, “You’re saying you’re all about being Brown, but yet here you are trying to shoot your cousin who’s a Sureño!?” So for me the attraction was the identity of belonging to something and people having the [same] experiences as you, but at the same time, I think, what was different for me is that I had other role models like Archie Archuleta, who you interviewed, and the late Senator Pete Suazo, and people who were proud of who they were but instead of being destructive they were doing something positive for their community and their culture.
So that was hard for me, and that’s still hard for me sometimes when I go around some of my cousins, because a couple of my cousins still haven’t grown up. And now you see it with their children. I look at some of my cousins and the lifestyle they live, and it’s sad because it just doesn’t stop. I have a cousin who’s 15, who’s a father, [and] who’s a gang member, and I just look at him and I’m like, “What are you gonna to do with your life?” So it was fun at the time, like I said I was more of an acquaintance and it was a party scene, but I look at it now and go, “Wow.” I learned a lot. You have to think about what you learned from that.
ETHAN: I’m Ethan and, like, during all this party/social stuff, did you ever feel like you were actually getting anything from it?
ANGELA: It was more for a social time. Like I said, my grandparents were so traditional. I couldn’t answer the phone without them by me. It was kinda me going, “Oh, wow, I’m free! I can do what I want to do.” And it was just the attraction to the bad boy. I was like this naïve person from Tooele, and it was like being on my own for the first time. But what really helped me was having role models at the University of Utah and through other areas of my life that focused me back on my passion-my passion was education, and making sure that people like me could access higher education. So at the end of the day I knew that [while I was] hanging out with these individuals, people are dying, people are going to prison-was that what I really wanted to be around and associate myself with? `Cause I still see some of my old friends, and life hasn’t changed for them, and for me, through education and through working with different community organizations, my world’s been opened. And what I’m able to do and how I’m able to make a difference in my career, [is] because I chose a different path.
LUIS: I’m Luis, and my question is what was your religious upbringing and how did it affect certain life-changing decisions?
ANGELA: I was raised Catholic and so I was the poor child that had to go to church an hour before everyone else because my grandmother and her comadres would pray the rosary. I actually think that spirituality and that kind of developed my morals and who I am today. I’m still an active Catholic. I teach third grade religious education at St. Patrick’s, which is right down there in Glendale, and so it kind of saved me, I think, because my personal opinion is everyone needs to have some spirituality. I don’t care what religion it is, but they need to have some sense of identity and connection to a higher power. But it definitely influenced who I am and how I am, and Catholicism is part of the culture I was raised in, too. Growing up in Tooele, the only thing that brought our community together was the Catholic Church. So all our families would always get together, have socials at the church, and so it was the center of who we were when I was growing up.
CARLOS: I’m Carlos. Why is having family from New Mexico so important to you? Does knowing that your family has lived in New Mexico for years and years provide you a sense of national pride?
ANGELA: I think there is a stereotype about us as a community that we’re all the same, and we’re so diverse. I’m sure all of you have a different history with your families. And so and when I serve on panels or things like that, there’s animosity there. People are like, “Why don’t you just go back where you came from?” I’m like, “I’m here `cause my family was here prior to 1848 and the Treaty of Guadalupe. My family has always been in what we call the United States of America.” I think that’s important for me not to be ashamed of that, because this is who I am. This is where I’m from. And I think a lot of times you can have that conflict from people within your own culture-well, don’t you have family in Mexico? No. Well, where’s your family from? I’m like, “The United States of America.” I think people have a tough time with that, that you can be Mexican-American and still be empathetic and understand a plight of people who have families who have immigrated here to the United States, because at the end K-of the day we’re still racially profiled. And so I think there’s a rich history there in New Mexico, and I think a lot of times people underestimate that history, `cause my grandparents grew up speaking Spanish, and they’re like 16th generation. When they moved to Utah is when my family started to speak English, because in some of the rural parts where my family is from clear up in Gallina, Spanish is the primary language, even now in 2010. So a lot of times people misunderstand people from the northern New Mexico/Colorado, because we do have a history here in the United States and we do have a history in what we call México prior to 1848. So I think many times people are made to feel ashamed of that, `cause they were told that we have to have some kind of connection with another country, but this country has always been ours and we’ve always been here.
ALEXIS: So you moved to Salt Lake. When you were here in college did you experience any discrimination, especially when you were pregnant?
ANGELA: Just the stereotypes, like when I was pregnant I just felt humiliated when you’d go up and you have your WIC [Women, Infants, Children] card and you’re getting your groceries; people make you feel that way. But discrimination in a sense that people stereotype us as Chicanos/ Latinos/Hispanos, however you identify. They expect us all to have the same identity. I’d be in class and I’d be the only Chicana in class; and a professor would call on me and say, “What do you think from a Hispanic perspective?” I would always say, “Well, this is me, Angela Romero, speaking. These are what my thoughts are.” And just people having lower expectations of me, like say I got an A, they’d go, “Wow, you got an A?” I’m like, “Yeah, I study just like you do.” So those stereotypes-but actually I think the University of Utah was a safe haven for a lot of us. And if you ever get the chance to go up to the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, that’s where a lot of us met. We got involved in what is MEChA now, at the time I was there it was called Chicano Student Association, then it was called the Hispanic Student Union. Now it’s MEChA, which is a national affiliation. But also I was fortunate enough to have some really great faculty there, so for me…I didn’t feel a lot of discrimination, I actually had my strongest support system there….
SILVINO: Did your decision to take your life in another direction foreshadow your choice to become a leader of Chicano/Hispanics in Utah, and how?
ANGELA: I think I have always had a passion to create change, and I encourage any of you, whatever it is you’re passionate about, follow that, and it’s not like I haven’t made mistakes. I make mistakes all the time. But at the same time, I look at it like the challenges, like the discrimination or different barriers, I’m like, “Okay, how do I handle this situation? How can I learn from this situation and keep on going?” I don’t really allow the challenges I’ve had in life to hold me down. And that’s hard to do. None of us are perfect and so from each experience I’ve learned. I think my involvement in the community has helped me a lot, too. I’ve been privileged and fortunate enough to intern for Senator Pete Suazo. He was in the House of Representatives [at the time], and he really set the tone for me. And when he asked me to be his intern and watching politics and how it happens, and knowing that if I didn’t put my voice out there, they weren’t gonna pay attention to it. And so there are some of us, I hope you guys will get to interview Luz Robles. We went to school together, [and] we’re all still friends. Senator Luz Robles, she’s our state senator for Senate 1. And right now she’s working on immigration policy. So just google her name and do some research on her. We went to college together, and we’ve always done advocacy work. We [now] serve on the Hispanic Legislative Task Force and we track legislation that’s impacting people in the Hispanic community, and we lobby at the state legislature to say, “Don’t pass this bill” or “Pass this bill.” We’re also part of the Hispanic Democratic Caucus, all our elected officials are Democrats, and they all belong to the same caucus, so we do a lot of work that way. So that’s what kept me going, knowing there’s a lot of injustice in this world and if we don’t stand up and discuss it and take a stance on it, nobody’s gonna do it for us, and the laws will be that much more unbearable. So I encourage you, if the road you seek is to get involved in political action or civic engagement, feel free to call me. I can link you guys up to some organizations and get you more involved in stuff that we do, `cause we do a lot through UCLR and through some other organizations. Like I said, at the end of the day-my grandmother was a feminist. She didn’t realize she was a feminist `cause she’s very traditional, but she taught me at a young age, “You need to stand up for what you believe in, because at the end of the day if you don’t voice your concern on your own, then nobody will do it for you.”
That’s something I’ve also learned from other people I’ve been mentored by. Pete Suazo was a great example of that-he was our first state senator that was Chicano/Latino. He used to tell me, “You have to look at your world and see what hat you put on. Today I’m a state representative, so this is how I’m gonna communicate with people. But when we leave these doors I’m Chicano, and this is what kind of conversation I’ll have, so know your audience and know how to work with that audience because that’s gonna get what you need to get across. That’s much more powerful.” He taught me that. I remember I wanted to get more involved in the political process, so I ran for secretary of the Salt Lake County Democrat Party. I thought, in order to win this, I have to have support of not just Latinos/Hispanics, so what is the overall mission of the Democrat Party? Of course, it’s the minority party in Utah, so how do I identify with other people that don’t look like me? So he taught me those skills, to identify common issues with people and use them as your allies, and in turn they’ll use you as their ally. It’s networking, and I think that’s why I am where I am, because of that belief in self and using those networking skills, and having people like Archie [Archuleta]. When I was looking for a job, I’m like, “Archie, I don’t want to be in graduate school any more. I’m looking for a job.” He’s like, “Well, there’s a job in the mayor’s office,” but I haven’t worked in the Mayor’s office. He goes, “Send me your resume.” So it was that connection through Archie that I got my first job. I worked for Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, and my job was to work with young people such as yourself and empower them and introduce them to civic engagement. That’s why I am who I am today. I didn’t do it on my own. I had to have the support of other people.
ETHAN: So what are your responsibilities as a leader currently? What are your goals or what is it exactly that you do as a leader?
ANGELA: Right now I pulled away from things `cause I just finished my master’s degree. So as of last Friday I have a Master’s in Public Administration, so I had to focus on school. I’m also a mother. I have son who’s 13; you guys are close to his age, so my main priority is taking care of him. But as a leader you just have to stand up for what you believe in and know that you’re not perfect and you’re gonna make mistakes. As Archie always tells me, “When the spotlight finds you, know how to handle it. Don’t search for the spotlight, `cause it’ll come to you naturally. And when it’s there, how do you handle that situation? Remember who you are, because at the end of the day you’re not there for yourself. You’re there with other people to serve a message.” Our [UCLR] message is to make sure that everyone is treated equally, regardless of their race, class, gender, sexual orientation. It’s more of a social justice message. So for me, a leader is just following what you say you’re gonna do and know that you’re not perfect and you’re gonna make mistakes. I think a lot of times people forget to admit, like, I’m sorry I made a mistake, `cause people have so much pride. So when I make a mistake, I apologize. And knowing when to lead and when to follow; an effective leader knows when to follow, `cause you’re not always gonna be in the front. Sometimes you’re gonna be side-by-side with someone, sometimes you’re gonna be behind someone. So learning your role, and when it’s time to lead and when is it time to follow. You can’t always lead because then you don’t learn.
LUIS: What makes you a leader?
ANGELA: I think everyone has the potential to be a leader, but I think a true leader is someone that just stands for what they believe in…. [end of side 1]
LESLIE KELEN: I’ve got a follow up question: You said Archie and other leaders mentored you; could you tell us a little bit about how you were mentored? Did you find them, or did they find you? How did it happen?
ANGELA: Obviously I’m kinda loud [laughs] and opinionated, so I was up at the University of Utah and Ross Romero, who is now a state senator, found me on campus. He’s like, “Hey,” and I’m like, “Hi.” He goes, “You need to join the Chicano Student Association.” I’m like, “Okay,” and I went to the first meeting, and I’m like, “Oh, maybe I want to be in a leadership position.” So I ran. I think it was like first vice chair and I won, and then I met Archie and Pete through that and an individual by the name of Lee Martinez. And they’re like, “We need a student representative on the Utah Coalition of La Raza.” We were forming [UCLR] at that time. I’m like, “Okay.” So I went to their first meeting, I’m like, “Oh, this is cool.” Then I’ve always been interested in politics, and Pete was running for office, so I helped work on his campaign. And the first campaign he lost, then I worked on his second campaign and he won, and he asked me to be his intern, and so I was very fortunate. I’m like, “How do I do that?” So he actually walked me to the Hinckley Institute of Politics and said, “This is who’s gonna be my intern. Help her fill out the paperwork.” So I was very privileged to meet them through involvement at a student organization and then Archie kinda took over from there. And even when I was partying and doing everything, Archie was like, “Hey, are you gonna help with voter registration?” I’m like, “Yeah, another time, Archie.” One time I saw him when I was big and pregnant, he was outside of the Smith’s trying to register people to vote, he said, “When am I gonna see you again? When are you gonna go back to school?” I was just fortunate enough to have those two take an interest in me and mentor me and kind of send me on my way. There was other people in the background, but those two were probably my main support system. Pete was like: we need to get more of us involved in politics, so I was lucky to meet them at the right time in the right place. And I was 18, I was everywhere, so they’d ask me to be somewhere I’d be there. That’s another thing, too, is learning your boundaries because I got so caught up in volunteering and then in my social life I forgot about why I was at the university. It wasn’t until after I was pregnant and going back to school that I realized, okay, I’m here to get educated, `cause I could do so much more through my education than I can by just being an activist.
LESLIE: One more question. That experience you had at the party when the two gang members were there, I was wondering if you could go into that a bit more to say what the impact of that was on you emotionally. Why did that change you so much?
ANGELA: I just realized the danger-`cause at first it was just fun, like my cousins and my brother were all gang members and they were all pretty into it, but I was with the guys that had the money. I was with what you would call the high rep guys, so I was more into the social party. And these were the guys all my girl cousins that lived out here wanted to hang out with, and I’m like, Oh, wow, I’m hanging out with these guys! It’s cool. So it was a social thing; it was about the partying, the money, and the good times. When the shooting happened, it made it a reality to me, and I’m like: Oh, this is real. They’re like taking each other out. And that shooting led to another shooting, because we had a dance at Centro Civico and these individuals came to retaliate and they killed someone there. I was like: Ooh, this is getting ugly. Then I got blamed for some stuff, `cause my friend told her brother’s friends, “Oh, those were Angela’s friends.” Then I had a couple of guys threaten me, saying, “Why’d you bring your two reps here?” So I realized how I put myself in danger by being associated to someone who didn’t want to take ownership to what she had-she knew what was gonna happen when she brought these two groups together. So it made me realize, wow, this person’s not really my friend either. Obviously these guys got bigger issues, and I don’t want to be a part of it. And the majority of those guys I’m talking about now are either dead or they’re in prison. It’s just interesting to see what it did to my brother. My brother went to prison for five years for selling drugs, and so it’s really interesting to see how that impacted his family as well, `cause he got married really young. My cousin who was involved in that, he’s serving 60 years in federal prison. So just to see all of that happen around me and go: Ooh, this is not something I want to do, `cause it was something I was never really a part of. I was there more for the party scene, the fun times, but seeing how it impacted people around me, seeing someone die, that made me realize, wow, this is not about having fun and being with the good-looking guys. This is reality.
KENT MILES: When was it, what year, do you remember?
ANGELA: 1994, ’95? That was right when QVO was in its prime and like I said, it was the Murder One family, and you had 21st Street, you had a bunch of other groups going on, KMD, they were all kind of like these little groups, and this is when Sureños were first coming into Utah, `cause before that it was just really local gangs like LVL, people I grew up with, and QVO. And so you didn’t have these other influx of gang members. It’s a different world now than it was when I was growing up. There was a gang problem but it was different players. The Sureños, I mean, there were some, but they were all coming through Job Corps. These were like local guys, like QVO was all local guys, and LVL and Diamond Street; these were all like little neighborhood gangs I had grown up with. They weren’t very violent gang members. They weren’t violent, [and] then it started to get violent, yes. So that was really fascinating, I was really fascinated by that. I mean, you know, at the time I was young and I’m like, wow, these guys have really nice cars and they have lots of money. So what’s not to like, `cause you don’t think sometimes. But I was fortunate enough that I knew that was a path of destruction, and after being threatened by a couple of these guys, I was just like I just don’t want to deal with this. I don’t want to deal with this drama. After that I never went to car shows again. I was like, I don’t want to deal with this, this is not the life I want to live, `cause if I continue down this road it’s not gonna be pretty.
SILVINO: My question is you said there was racism. Now have you seen any racism, like I know some Latinos like Puerto Ricans [that] attack Mexicans `cause they don’t have papers. Have you seen some of that and are you seeing it now?
ANGELA: Yeah, I think it still exists, `cause this is the conflict I even have with some of my family members, because some of the people within my family they’re like, we’re American and we don’t want to be associated with that. So they can go to the extreme, like have you guys talked about the Minutemen, you know, like send people home, do that, and so it’s always a constant battle even within our family about immigration issues. Yeah, I definitely think people are targeted, and it scares me, especially with these laws coming on and people being targeted more and being exploited. It’s scary for me, but for my philosophy and the way I was mentored is that everyone is a human being, and this is where my spirituality comes in. Everyone is a human being and everyone should be treated like a human being. And, yes, our system’s broken, but you can’t focus on a particular group of people and spew hateful words and treat them as second-class citizens, because that’s not what the United States of America is about. It’s about opportunity and most people that came here are, everyone immigrated at one time; so why are we gonna change the rules now? We’re just scapegoating a group of people and so I totally don’t agree. The only people that were here were indigenous people. And people forget: Utah was part of Mexico until 1848, and the Treaty of Guadalupe, and the Mexican government allowed the Mormon pioneers to come in with the expectation they were going to be bilingual and things like that, so it’s just like this contradiction…. I don’t understand hate personally, and I’ll do everything to battle that. [But] I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I think it’s gonna get uglier before it gets better. I think you’re gonna see all the hate crimes increase, I really do. And it’s scary; it’s a scary time. Especially when it’s Brown on Brown.
ALEXIS: I have a follow-up question on immigration. I’d like to hear what you think about the list of illegal immigrants that are working here in Utah that was published.
ANGELA: I think that was wrong. It should have never have been published, and I’m hoping they penalized the people that published the list, they violated trust. There are so many laws they violated and I don’t agree with Representative Sandstrom. He’s trying to call them whistleblowers. And you’ll see my friend Luz-read the paper today; Luz is drafting legislation with Rebecca Chavez-Houck, another state representative [and] another friend of mine, and they’re going to come out with some[thing] comprehensive-something has to be done about immigration. There has to be a compromise. People are already here. You can’t penalize people that have been here for a long time. But the system is broken, and we have to do something about it. But I don’t think racially profiling people, or making people feel bad about themselves is the answer. And it’s been really tough because I work for government. I’ve always worked for the city, but my old boss, Mayor Anderson, he was okay with me being active and vocal, but the new mayor is not so supportive. So I’m always behind the scenes doing things, but I think it’s ridiculous, and I think they need to be penalized. I don’t think people should live in fear. What really bothered me is we had some kids walk in the [Sorenson] center, and they’re like, “Hey, Angela,” and I go, “What?” They’re like, “We’re legal residents, but our cousins are undocumented so we’re okay but they’re not.” I’m like, “Why are eight-year-old kids discussing who’s legal, who’s illegal? I mean, they’re children. They should be enjoying life. So it bothers me that small children are impacted by this. You don’t have a choice if your family brings you over. I’ve worked with students that didn’t even know they were undocumented until they were applying for college or looking for a job, and they’re just finding out like they’re kind of country-less. I think something needs to be done, and like I said, I think it’s gonna get a little ugly, especially this legislative session. At UCLR we’re about empowering all people and making sure that Chicanos /Latinos have a voice at the table. And so we’ll fight this [negative] legislation but that doesn’t mean it’s not gonna pass, because there’s an overall fear of people that are different than you. And when people are hitting hard times, they want to scapegoat someone; so, unfortunately, we’ve been scapegoated because they don’t distinguish between any of us. They just see a brown face.
KENT: This follow-up question deals with the time you made your decision to change the direction of your life. You had a chance to engage with people that were on the side that you didn’t want to participate any more. How did you go about engaging with those people that gave you a picture of an alternative?
ANGELA: I think at the end of the day I didn’t want to be like my mom, and I realized I was heading down that path. I had grown up around a lot of dysfunction. My grandparents raised me, and they did a really good job of trying to protect me, but when I had to go with my mom, I was always exposed to just-I remember being in second grade and marijuana just being on the table, and my mom always having parties when we were there. So at that point I was like, what am I doing with my life? I’m this person I didn’t want to be like, who I love, `cause you have to learn how to love people for who they are. I don’t want to be like her. I don’t want to do the things that she’s done, and here I was going down that path. So for me, I was at the point when all that happened, do I really want to end up like my mom? And it was a self-motivation, and just knowing that there were people out there that believed in me and like sometimes we become the self-fulfilling prophecy, like people tell us we’re supposed to be this way, so we act that way. And so I think that’s kind of like the road I was heading down.
My grandma always taught me: you have to believe in yourself, `cause if you don’t believe in yourself no one’s gonna believe in you. So that little voice was my grandmother, this little voice would go in my head, and so I was like, okay, I need to change my ways, because if I continue to hang out with these individuals, I’m not gonna accomplish what I want to, which is graduate from college. And then once I became pregnant, I was like I don’t want my son to grow up in the same kind of environment I had to grow up in, and being exposed to things I had to be exposed to at a young age, because you go to school and they’re telling you, “Don’t do drugs, these are bad!” But yet you were just at your mom’s house and there was pot and cocaine all over the table! So I had to reprogram myself.
KENT: And the strongest positive role models for you were?
ANGELA: I’d say my grandma. I mean, she’s probably like 4’6” but with her hair she’s like 4’9”. I don’t know if you guys have grandmas that have that little `fro going on. And she’s just a witty woman. And like whenever anything was not right, or if she felt like her kids were being discriminated against, or even myself `cause she raised me, she’d march up to that school. She only went to the eighth grade, but she would tell our principal, “I don’t appreciate this, and this is why.” So even though I told these guys she wanted me to be a secretary or work in a bank, and there’s nothing wrong with that. She always was that inner voice, that conscience. She prayed for me every night, too, that I would do well. My grandma prays 10 rosaries a day, she’s always praying. But she was like that inner conscience. And then having the support of Archie and other people and seeing my cousin and my brother go to prison, it’s like, do I want to raise a child whose father is locked up? So all of those things went on in my head. I just didn’t want to be another statistic. Because growing up, that’s what I was expected to do. I was expected to drop out of high school. I was expected to have four or five kids. I’m not saying that people in those situations can’t persevere, but I just never wanted to be the statistic of what people wanted me to be.