Los Deportados – a simple lesson

Feb 28, 2012

So what to do with a history that is forgotten? Shorter answers – listen to a story, share that story, write a story, write a book. Support someone who is teaching history. Incorporate history in the things you do.

These three young women were a part of the Harmonies Girls Choir that performed at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes. They did a truly fine job and then in the afternoon spent time enjoying LA Plaza.
It took precious little effort to encourage them to explore the section Calle Principal: Main Street Los Angeles, 1920. They were intrigued by the Music section. They asked questions, which led to other questions, and so on and so on.
Had they been here on a field trip with a class we could have gone back to school and shared local pictures like this one of Manny and Johnny Contreras of Pasadena. They could have learnd that this image was taken in 1938 – that they were among the lucky that weren’t deported. And so the lesson could have begun.
After the girls, Destiny, Daniella, and Lauren, were introduced to the fashions in the photographer’s studio they let me take a couple of pictures of them for the blog. Initially they struck very 21st century poses. I asked them to look at the images that were up on the wall. They were real images that had been taken in the 1920s.
I asked a couple of questions about what they saw and the result was the following:

Lesson given, lesson learned.
Yesterday I included the phrase “what is wanting and what is wanted”. I suspect a half dozen or so thesis have been written about this topic, here are some ideas that were covered…
What is wanting is coverage of the history of the region and how it affected and continues to affect the Latinos in the Southwest in general and in California in particular. A moving from the Western Expansionist paradigm, an inclusion on the treatment of the Mexicanos and Mexican Americans as a labor force, acknowledgement of the establishment of “Mexican Schools” throughout much of the Southwest – especially at the turn of the 20th century.
The list would also include the fact that California was in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. As an example, both Mendez vs. Westminster and Sharp vs. Perez were cases that were used as a foundation, one might even say template, for Brown vs. Board of Education and Loving vs. Virginia.
What is wanted is the inclusion of the Latino experience in the Southwest in our textbooks, in our teacher trainings, and state standards. What is wanted by some is the apology that should be given to those who were expatriated – those Americans who were sent away from “their country” to another country.
What is wanted, to paraphrase former St. Senator Joe Dunn, would be the creation of a commission to study the forced repatriation in California from 1929 to 1944. Lessons learned from the period would give those impacted by the deportations a voice they’ve been denied for 4 generations. To quote Dunn, “The only way we are going to ensure as a society that governmental entities are never enticed to go down this route again if is if they must in some fashion or another account for their past behavior”.*

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