John J. Chacon

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I’m the third Juan Chacon. We are four generations from Grant County. My family is originally from the San Andreas Chihuahua region of Mexico. My extended family used to come visit when I was young, but after my parents died their visits from Mexico were no longer as frequent.

My parents were Virginia and Juan Chacon. They were both born in Mimbres Valley. I am the oldest of three. I was two years old when the strike was going on. My mother was expecting my sister at the time and wasn’t permitted to walk the strike line. I spent a lot of time with my babysitter because my mother was very active with the union. My sitter was a family friend named Maria Sias who I considered my grandmother.

Throughout my school years, my father was the union president and my mother was active in the Ladies Auxiliary. The Local 890 was a strong and united organization. I attended a few meetings while I was a kid and would wait for my father at the union hall after my sports practice and school activities.

We used Spanish and English at the union. At that time Spanish was more dominant. There was a lot of discrimination then. We called ourselves chicanos and there were very few Anglo’s in the union. There were separate facilities for the Anglos and Chicanos at the mine and in the schools. This was one of the reasons for the strike.

My father was a big reader, and I remember him always typing up his meeting notes on a big underwood typewriter. When my mom got sick, she moved in with me and her house was robbed and they stole my father’s old typewriter.

When the film was being made, my mother and father were very involved and I spent a lot of time with my babysitter. The movie company filmed onsite and later had to film offsite because the authorities feared the film was communist propaganda.

In my own experience growing up, I could see the kind of discrimination shown in the film in the schools and in the mines. There is still discrimination here today. My parents and the union were regularly dealing with these discrimination issues throughout my life.

The film and the strike didn’t become significant until after my father died in 1985. My son was named after both of his grandfathers and didn’t get to meet my dad. When people would meet my son, they would put two and two together and realize he was Juan Chacon’s grandson. My son heard about my father when he visited my mother and learned about our history.

The union hall was named the Juan Chacon Union Hall, but when it was painted about ten years ago the name was painted over and not restored. It became called the United Steelworkers Mine Mill Union Hall. I think the union hall should be restored and preserved as a museum and used again for events.

And I think it’s name in honor of my father should also be restored. His name was on the union hall for more than five years before it was removed. It was changed, but I’m not sure why or how that came about. My mother passed away in 2005. She was alive when it was named for my father. It would be very disappointing to her if she was alive now knowing that the name of the union hall had been changed and the union was decertified. It was such an important part of her life and our family.

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