Interview with Terry Humble, Felipe de Ortega y Gasca, Dale Giese & Tom Hester

Terry Humble, was born and raised in Santa Rita, NM. Growing up his dad worked as a miner in the area. He joined the Navy in 1959, and was a diesel fuel mechanic for Helicopters until 1963. He came back to NM in 1966, and became a miner at Magdalena, joining the Local 890 Union as a member. He retired before the October 2014 when decertification activity in Las Cruses.

#Clinton Jencks, what a dynamic personality he had. When you were around him you could feel the dynamism. When he came to our [Salt of the Earth] 50th anniversary, at the Cobre high school in the new auditorium, and I believe you have some film about his contents, but when he started getting on the stage, you could see him climbing up to the stage, and the entire room went silent. It was about 70% Hispanic, and everyone just went quiet. When he grabbed ahold of the microphone he said “Yo soy polimino”; he was known as the polimino because he had long blonde hair. Everyone stood up and clapped for 3 straight minutes

He had such a dynamic personality; did you meet him?

Felipe de Ortega y Gasca, changed his name when he joined the military from the Hispanic Version to the anglo name, Philip. He studied Anthropology at Berkley, and after the military he taught French at Jefferson High in El Paso. He speaks French, Spanish, English, and Russian fluently. He later taught at Cobre. He was friends with Caesar Chavez.

#No, no I haven’t

I taught at Cobre when we were out here [Southern New Mexico] around January 2007. Really the hurricane got the best of us, and Gilda said, “look at what I got here. I got it from the library in Silver City.” She had a flyer from Fae Vowl; she wrote one of the best dissertations of the Chinio/a literature at the time.

[Was I cognizant of the Salt of the Earth?] No because that was in 52, I hadn’t become a Chino until I was 40. I had a grey flannel suit, a derby, a cane. 1966, I joined the NMSU in 64, and in that summer in 66 this guy [Octavio Romano, the Pro Janitor of Chicano Lit] with baggy-khaki-pants and his shirt not tucked in, I said “Can I help you?”, [he said] “yeah I’m looking for coffee,” and then we spent the better of the afternoon talking. In that meeting he told me at Berkley, a cohort of Chicanos were putting together the first national journal [El Grito], and he asked me if I would join him. When I was at UNM, [Rudulfo] Anaya was working on his Master’s in English; he was a high school teacher. I was a teacher, of course, I was on the GI Bill, and the money wasn’t enough. In 52 when I finished, I received and Air Force commission of 2nd lieutenant. After studying two years Russian, although not very good at it, I was the only Mexican that could speak Russian. I was in Paris for 4 years, as a Capitan, not a high rank, in 62 I realized I was never going to be Air Force Chief of Staff, there weren’t to many Mexicans around. Immediately after the Air Force, I started my Master’s in English at Texas Western, a minor outpost. I was at UNM from 66-70.

Terry

#We came to town for a weekly basis, and we had to drive through the [Lady’s Axillary] picket line, and we never had a problem because they knew we weren’t against their cause.

When I was hired in Santa Rita in 66, I became a member of the Local 890.

Felipe

#When I got out of the Marines in 46, the chancellor at Pit [Pittsburgh State] said any veteran could get in at Pit, and oh! what an ordeal that was, and I knew English very well, with one year of high school. I started in the Fall of 46-48, during the summer I worked in the steel mills [in the United Steel Workers Union]. One night I was on the 3-11 shift I was looking out into the river and I thought “Dear God”, I was a machinist in the marines to make sure the engines were working properly in the plane and flying, so we kept those airplanes flying.

Terry

#I was in the Navy.

Felipe

#Sorry to hear that.

Terry

#My condolences to you, too. I was a jet mechanic from 59-63.

Felipe

#You too!? I worked on gasoline reciprocating engines.

Terry

#Right out of high school.

Felipe

#When I finished at Pit in 52, I went to flight school. I learned to fly small airplanes, like the kind George Bush-1 flew and got shot down in. I was in the last platoon of prop-planes.

Terry

#I was in a helicopter squadron, when I was discharged. I came back to Santa Rita and went underground as a miner in Magdalena. And when I came here I went underground, and I had been trying to find a job until I finally did in 66.

The mining pit just kept getting bigger and bigger, so all of the houses needed to be moved. If you were an Anglo and Catholic in Santa Rita you went to the Catholic Church, it didn’t matter, but there were very few of them.

If it hadn’t been for Milly, [Madam Milly] the children [in the strike] would of starved to death. She gave shoes to the kids; she owned the houses of El Repute (the Catholic church forbade support for the women on strike); she did the same thing in The Depression in the latter part of the 1930s; she helped children with milk and shoes. She was a character, I knew her. [She was also helped of her disabled sister].

I can’t say that my dad was supportive because he was leasing the mine. He was sympathetic with the cause because he had worked with them in underground. I don’t think there was more than a few of us who were Anglo in the local 890 union. The Chicanos were the laborers and the union was a labor union.

Felipe

#I’ve shown that movie here many times in this room [SOTE]. I saw the film for the first time in um, I’m trying to think of his name, in 69, UNM authorized its first Chicano studies program. It would have been the Summer of 69 when we had meetings with Arellano. I was just there and things were happening. I was at UNM as a teaching fellow, the only Nuevomexicano, I was the first Mexican-American to get a Ph.D at UNM, in the Summer of 66, from that point on I taught the film as a tribute to the women. Because it’s really a film about the women.

Terry

#I did not see the film when it came out because they would not show it locally. I saw it when I was about 40, they didn’t show it at Bayard. I saw it at the Sky View drive-in.

Felipe

#In summer January of 07, Fae came to me and asked if I would teach a rhet and comp course at Bayard, Cobre high  school, it was the first dual enrollment course here. She had asked the people in the Humanities department here [WNMU] and they said no because they weren’t “high  school teachers.” So, I taught the class, it was my first job in English [English Department].

Terry

#Do you remember when you showed it here for the first time?

Felipe

#Fall of 07.

Terry

#Within the past 3 or 4 years, we couldn’t show the movie right around the corner here, they had cancelled it because it had a copyright, but I thought it was because of how controversial it was that they cancelled it. There has always been a line right down the county that separated the Anglos from the Mexicanos, it was McCarthyism, the deemed everyone as communist.

Felipe

#The film is associated with the communist; communist was rife in Mexico. 1921, when my father left Mexico, he was 21 years old and he was Migonista –  he believed in [19]21 – when he left, the more time that had past. His stories were amazing; he made sure to let us know that Pancho Villa never made a decision without consulting him [laughs]. 1932 he joined the American Communist party. He took me everywhere. In 1934 he left the Communist party: he said Socialism isn’t going to work in Mexico; Communism isn’t going to work in Mexico. When they were doing my NATO-top-security-clearance, they saw that my dad was a Communist, but I said “yeah, he was, but not me.”

It probably didn’t help that the Marxist that lived in Mexico, Tratchee. Well, for a while in the 30s, the fear of Mexicans bringing Communism over the border didn’t seem powerful. However, my father, our house was a weigh station for the disinfected politicals that came from Mexico to the United States. His name was Arturo Caldman, he was a constant guest, he introduced me into the Spanish-language-Communism. There were Pochos that came over from Mexico with all kinds of stuff, Communist literature, and my father would distribute it around, and I read.

Tom Hester, teaches a lifelong learning course in which he incorporates the film, Salt of the Earth. He was a coordinator for the 50th year symposium, Bringing Salt of the Earth Home in 2002.

#[The first time I saw the film?] The museum had had a symposium for the 50th anniversary that was in 2002. It took them 6 years to convert the VHS to DVD.  They promised everyone that they would get a free DVD. I was assigned as a volunteer to give out all of these DVDs. So you can imagine, that this symposium took place and people had died. I think we had about 100 disks, and we sent out 53 or 54 of those disks to all of the participants because they were promised a DVD as a token.

Dale Giese

#[When did I see the film?] I’m guessing it was the 25th anniversary. They put it on the NBC program, and that ought to be here in the library, and I spent a lot of time with him [the NBC reporter who covered the story of Rosaura Revueltas who was not able to cross the U.S. Border], and we went and had dinner with him that night, and that was also the time we had dinner with Juan Chacon and Virginia, and Clinton Jencks. There was just a lot of hostility at the time: management. I taught History at the university here. I’m from Maryland originally: historian.

Everyone knew about the strike, but a girl named Dominguez who lived in Bayard, I think she was one of my students, and then she went out to California and since died. [Rosaura’s story] Well it’s all a part of this McCarthyism and hatred era, kind of like what we are going through today. The man who did the music was Sole Caplin. He stayed at our home.

There was 2 people back East that made another film of the movie. Maybe there is a copy here at the library, but it was a film about the film Salt of the Earth.

Felipe

#I’ve seen it. It’s got the actor of the film that was in the Fly. I wanted to leave you with something before I left. I taught that dual enrollment course for 8 years in Cobre. I wrote a piece, not to long ago called Masks of Identity. I write a monthly column. My conclusion is that the students responded well. We were hearing all of these war stories about how our kids don’t know how to write and all this blah blah blah, that wasn’t the case with me. I spoke Spanish to them, I spoke French, what was important to them was that someone was teaching them who looked like them and went through their experiences.

They ought to take the picture before it fades away. I think it should stay with the workers. I’ve been there a number of times. I was very good friends with Caesar Chavez. I would like to see it [Local 890 Union Hall] become more of a community center but with strong worker presence

Terry

#If we could just get it fixed up, a little we can rent-it-out. People are constantly wanting to rent-it-out for events. It was rented-out almost every weekend in the 80s and 90s. I’d like to see that again

Dale

#I could see it as a multiuse, weddings and so on. But I think the historical aspect of it is important. I worked on the preservation of Fort Bayard; I’ve been to Washington to preserve Fort Bayard. And I think it could be something like that.

Mining companies here that come and want to control. At this university, I had two people come to my office and tell me on behalf of their companies to get out of the race, “we have all the money to throw against you,” and I didn’t win that particular office. They have great interest in something like this. Labor was taboo, Salt of the Earth was taboo because it represented this labor movement. One evening I remember on May Day there were members of a Socialist or a Communist party handing out newspapers, and it went over like a lead balloon here at this university. It was just a taboo thing to even have this at the university. I think that was in 77. We also had a program where the women who took over that picket line from the men, the women came and told their stories. Even a lady took out her hat pin for defense, stabbing a deputy.

Terry

#It’s so controversial to this day. The recent resurgence of talk about the Union Hall brings up a response of both “shocks” and “sighs”. 6-8months ago, the mayors of the town got together said, “hey we are going to get together and wanted to do something with the Union Hall. Meet at McDonalds.” And an article came out. I immediately got two phone calls from Anglos saying, “my god what are you doing, we don’t need any of this stuff coming up.” I told them not to worry because you need volunteers and you need money to get anything going. Since then one of them has died. It’s a symbol of the movie it all ties together.

Tom

#As an outsider, I remember when I was sending out these disks, one of these old timers came through to the office, and I said hello, and we were going to have a retrospective for the symposium. I invited her and she said, “that communist thing! I would never be there.” [She was a supporter of the museum] She was very certain that this was not an event that she was going to attend. The symbolic value of the film and the Union Hall itself has the different echoes for different folks. The recollections from the symposiums, there were children that had been scabs for the company, they attended the symposium and they were really upset at the memories they had at school [the children of the town were divided]. It seems to me, that the event itself, beginning in 49 to the time the video was shown downtown, that whole period caused a social PTSD that people still remember in a vivid way that their grandparents had either participated on one side or the other. Even now talking to them, part of it is having to do with the labor disputes. The folks in Silver City were not in favor of advance pay and working conditions [there’s a sour attitude because people were not in favor of the rights].

Terry

#You can talk to someone from here locally for 15 seconds and know right away which side they stand on. Usually, if you have a get together to talk about it the women show up to talk about it, Joe J Morales, Pat, Rachel Valencia, she’s always involved – she was run over and her leg was broken on the picket line. There may not be any of them left. Rachel went to go talk to one of them, Rachel went to the door first, and she was so ill she couldn’t talk to us. Since then she has passed.

Dale

#There is a real fear of the federal government. I’ve run into that at Fort Bayard, and the people running for governors. The taking of land is a hornet’s nest. I see the “Indian-hatred” transfer to the wolves: ‘take your mitts off the land.” I testified for the monument for Glorieta Pass, and of course that came under Pecos, and we found 30 confederate bodies up there. I remember going to the funeral.

Tom

#Speaking as an outsider, and a recent arrival, I put it together as Fred’s murals [Fred Barraza’s murals on the outside walls of the Union Hall]. I didn’t know for nothing about the Union Hall other than the fact that Fred had done these murals, and much to my surprise, there was murals inside!

 

 

Terry

#The old boy [Bob Ames] who painted those had a trachea; you could barely understand him, but he would slop that paint up there. I liked those murals.

Jencks. One of the miners at the empire zinc was fired because he was always late, as my father tells the story. Jenks showed up early to a meeting, he’s tapping his watching and looking at it, he asks someone what time is it, when they sat down at the meeting, that guy was trying to get his job back, and Jenks showed up and said “you just fired this guy for being 10 minutes late and all you’re watches are about 15 minutes apart.” Some of the people who gave presentations were just poor.

Tom

#But Jenck’s address was powerful. He was branded as a communist, and they even put him in jail, but they couldn’t prove it. Those events were much in his past, but he spoke with much vibrancy from not only the past but also the future.

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