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Voces Oral History Project Interview with Arturo Madrid

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0:43 - South Texas Border Initiative, Trinity University, Higher Education

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Segment Synopsis: Madrid was involved in the South Texas Border Initiative because he was directing the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute on Latino Issues at the time that the initiative was taking place. Some of his colleagues had worked with MALDEF and other entities involved in that initiative during this period (the late 1980s and early 1990s). Madrid's organization, the Tomás Rivera Center, hosted the community groups that were involved in planning the South Texas Border Initiative. The Tomás Rivera Center held the Institute for Policy Studies and Latino Affairs. One of its goals was to put together people from various sectors of the community to discuss challenges and issues facing them. When they were approached by MALDEF and the other entities involved in the major lawsuit against the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, they were asked to convene community leaders, educators, and members of the legislature to talk about the matters and to provide advice to MALDEF and its partner organizations.

The Tomás Rivera Center was an independent 301(c)(3) tax exempt organization. It operated on the campus of Trinity University, but it was not a part of the university, it was an independent institution and thus Trinity University was not directly involved. Madrid participated in a number of meetings but not centrally since he was based in California and the meetings were taking place in Texas. Madrid found the meetings to be very professional, carried on by a very good staff. They facilitated those meetings and recorded them; they provided the information to MALDEF and the other entities involved.

Madrid was involved in higher education issues for almost three decades. He was very knowledgeable about the inequities that obtained in higher education for Latinos throughout the United States and in particular in Texas. Madrid knew that a great many Texans had to leave the state to pursue graduate education because there weren’t many opportunities for them in Texas. He knew the options for Latinos with respect to Texas A&M and the University of Texas were also very limited; they only accepted a very small number of students and Latinos were marginalized at other regional campuses. Other college opportunities were truly absent in the south of Texas.

Keywords: community college; Latin American; Rio Grande Valley; South Texas Border Initiative; United States

Subjects: College students-Education; Discrimination in higher education; Latino Americans; M.A.L.D.E.F.; Trinity University (San Antonio, Tex.; University of Texas at Austin

5:47 - "In the Country of Empty Crosses"/Childhood and adolescent life/Mexican American community

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Segment Synopsis: Madrid explains the reasoning behind his book, “In the Country of Empty Crosses.” He was involved in higher education issues for many years but he says two things define him; the place where he was born—New Mexico—and what he has done throughout the course of his life. Many people judged Madrid by the way he looked, the manner in which he carried himself, and the way he spoke. He was very proud to be from New Mexico and wanted to write about being a New Mexican and how New Mexico shaped his life. He wanted to document a special history that ran contrary to the usual image of a Mexican or Latino being Catholic. His family was Protestant, which was very unusual, and his life took a very unusual trajectory that he wanted to write about for future generations.

During his childhood, Madrid noticed the absence of Hispanics from the larger world; he would read magazines and newspapers assiduously, and he noticed that his community seemed to be absent from that world. He also observed discrimination in the form of exclusion or marginalization of Latinos from the institutions of society. When Madrid was writing his book, someone told him that one of the most segregated things in New Mexico are the cemeteries. There were Catholic cemeteries for Catholics who were Hispanic and for Catholics who were not. There were Protestant cemeteries for Hispanics and others for Protestants who were not.

The continuing challenge for the Mexican American community was inclusion in the institutions of society. The community needs to have participation in the institutions society that superseded their participation in the institutions of imprisonment. He recalls that many young people in their community are imprisoned in jails; that’s an institution but they need to be represented in other institutions, in educational, civic, economic, financial, social institutions. Mexican Americans are not present in that world, and he states that their level of education is not very high in part because there’s a history of exclusion from education. The community is absent with respect to engagement in the critical institutions of society that determine their future. They don’t have many people who are in positions of leadership to be able to set policies that address their concerns.

Keywords: Latin American; Mexican American neighborhood; New Mexico

Subjects: Catholic Church; Childhood; Mexican Americans- Segregation; Mexican Americans-Segregation; Minorities in higher education

11:25 - Identity/ Values and Beliefs/Groups of Involvement

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Segment Synopsis: Madrid characterizes his hardships as outright discriminatory, bigoted, prejudiced behavior. For example, Anglo children excluded him from activities not because he did not speak English nor because he wasn’t a good student but because they thought those opportunities belonged to them only. He had trouble getting job opportunities because of the perception that others had of him. He was viewed as not being smart enough as an educator and not able to speak English as well as his Anglo counterparts. He recalls being interviewed for a job as a teacher of English because he carried a heavy accent. The man who had interviewed him had not bothered to determine whether he had any preparation, just on the basis of hearing him speak English, he decided Madrid wasn’t qualified to teach English. Madrid stated that discrimination happens very subtlety in some instances. He said their credentials, presentation, qualifications, and the range of experience are just as good, but somehow the person doesn’t qualify.

Madrid’s values and beliefs were altered by his parents' view on things. His parents were religiously formed, very socially aware, and very socially conscious. His parents were concerned with doing very well not only for themselves but also for their community. They wanted their children to be well educated, and raised to be Protestants. His parent’s social activism, their social consciousness of the Protestant church, was part of their mission.

In his early life, Madrid’s principal organization related with the church, the Presbyterian Church Preston Youth organizations. Then when he went off to further his education he joined academic organizations and honor societies. When he went to New Mexico in 1956, the percentage of Anglo population was 90% and maybe 10% or 15% Hispanic. He realized that his community was marginalized within the institution across the board. The only place that he felt there was a sense of representation was in the Spanish Department and of course the service workers were Hispanic but not a lot of his classmates were Hispanics; only in the Spanish Department would he find other Hispanic students. Overall, Madrid's goals in being part of all these organizations and groups were to start thinking about how he was going to address the absence of Latinos in educational institutions as students and educators. He wanted to start creating change in higher education and he began to participate as actively as he could in every organization. Madrid recalls that Thomas Rivera, a distinguished writer and educator, told him to create a space and let someone else enter and so forth. That is Madrid's mantra: to keep opening the doors for someone else and creating a space for them.

Keywords: Anglo community; New Mexico

Subjects: College students- Education; Discrimination in higher education; Education, Bilingual; Hispanic Americans- United States; Protestant; Spanish (language)

24:57 - Spanish Language Usage/Lack of Latinos in Higher Education and Resources/Future Generations of Latinos

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Segment Synopsis: During the period in which Madrid was growing up in the 1940s into the 1950s, Spanish was a prohibited language by law. Madrid recalls being discouraged from speaking Spanish; English was encouraged in the public space. The authorities could govern in the public spaces but they could not govern in the private spaces. Children, particularly, were forbidden from speaking Spanish in public, and forbidden from speaking Spanish in schools as well. Madrid recalls it being the language of being a citizen. There was a part of public life as it was defined by the legal system in governing taxes, property in which the state was mandated to use Spanish and people had to understand what their rights were so in the public space of the courthouse the order of business was carried out in Spanish. Madrid recalls his mother during her time as a public official. In that atmosphere Spanish was a legitimate language.

Madrid talks about the lack of Latinos in higher education. During the 1960’s higher education was expanding at an extraordinary rate, multiple institutions were created, money was being allocated so that the poor students could go to school, and there was an encouragement for that as well. All of that began to close down during the 1970’s and by the 1980’s it became problematical that students that had completed their PhD’s could not get a job. The situation has remained dire ever since; it has become a shrinking field. Madrid said they have not been able to increase the percentage of Latinos getting their necessary credentials to become academics and the job opportunities available to them have shrunk dramatically. It has also gotten very expensive to pursue a graduate degree and become a professor and the chances of doing well have decreased.

The lack of resources became very apparent in the final decade of the 20th century. During the Reagan administration of the 1980’s, public policy determined that higher education was a private good rather than a public good. Fewer and fewer resources went to higher education to support students. This was a moment when the numbers of minorities and people of color began to enter higher education and at that same time it began to become a private good. Students had to finance their education through loans and work instead of scholarships. Tuition gets higher and higher because public money is not being allocated. There are fewer opportunities and less support for fellowships and students.

Madrid strongly believes that society is less invested in human capital for the the public good. We are developing human capital for private interest. That is, I will support you to get an advanced degree as long as it benefits my corporation, my company, to make money, not for the well-being of society. That’s the dilemma we have: there is less and less interest in investing in the public good in human capital and much more interest in the private good.

Keywords: Anglo community; Anglos; Latin American; New Mexico

Subjects: childhood; college students- education; discrimination in higher education; Education, Bilingual; higher education institutions; Latino Americans; public institutions; Spanish (language); Spanish-speaking people (United States)

33:21 - Achievements/Chicano Latino-Latina Studies/Thomas Rivera Center

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Segment Synopsis: Madrid’s greatest achievement in helping the Latino community was that he dedicated his life to developing the intellectual resources of the Latino community. The principal activity has been the development of Latino academics. This was not an individual effort initiative but rather a collective one. Madrid was fortunate enough to be placed in a position where he could advance those interests through the directorship of the Ford Foundation Graduate Fellowship Program for Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans through the creation of an organization called the National Council for the Advancement of Chicanos in Higher Education, which helped academics get tenure and move into academic administration through work with various organizations and institutions. This has been Madrid's life’s work.

Madrid was part of a crossover generation that was very traditional in fields of studies that focused on Hispanics' social and historical experiences. These subjects dealt with the past, not with the present, and Madrid sought to challenge that framework. Hispanics need to see that their cultural expression, historical experiences, and lived experiences are significant and need to be valued and studied. The task then was to disseminate that point of view and gather resources. He was in a generation that conceptualizes the study of the population and says it is a valid area of study, to be taught and advanced. Madrid said through the development of curriculum and materials the individual must invest in carrying out historical research studies and, since no one is interested in publishing them, the individual has to develop publishing houses to publish them. They have to build organizations that disseminate information, and bring in the people to build on the work and encourage, support, and nurture them. Hispanics need to develop an entire infrastructure parallel to the existing ones. They have to create cultural institutions that are going to advance their cultural interests.

Madrid's first real challenge in establishing the nation’s first institute to bring to light public policy change for Latino issues was changing a way of thinking a conceptualization which is issues affecting Latinos. They were seen as issues that were cultural or familial and therefore not subject to public policy change. Madrid had to change the conceptual framework, and with the privilege of living in a political world through his mother who was an appointed public official and understood how the political world worked. In a survey he conducted, Latino parents wanted their children to gain an education. There came a time period in which Madrid was strongly against the law of only speaking English in public and people came up to him and said they had to change it through public policy but Madrid said it would not be changed by public policy, they could fight it but it wouldn’t settle the matter. However, he stayed positive the issue would be settled in the end. Madrid believed the corporations would be the ones to settle the matter because they would realize that, as the population increases with Latinos, they are going to want to reach out in the Spanish language.

Keywords: Latin American

Subjects: College students-Education; Diversity in higher education; Hispanics (United States); Mexican American Youth Organization; minorities in higher education; Spanish (language); voting rights

55:25 - Latino Community and Equality/Future Generations/Dartmouth College

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Segment Synopsis: The Latino community as a whole is absent in the larger policy-making arena. There are Latino elected officials, there are certain people functioning in organizations. There are more non-governmental associations as well as in the corporate sector. One of the driving factors in American society today is the emphasis on the private good rather than the public good. Hispanic-centered organizations don’t have a lot of support financially. Younger generations of Hispanics have grown up without knowing their historical backgrounds and the doors that had to be broken down in order for them to be where they are. Madrid said people have to create a consciousness of the community and there aren’t many ways of doing that. The likelihood of a young Latino signing up for a class on Mexican-American history is slim. Madrid also addresses the societal fear of the Latino community expanding because Latinos are the future. Many people forget the dark events in American history and the sophisticated ways in which those events are downplayed.

Madrid main point in the interview is that there needs to be a Hispanic social awareness and social engagement. The benefits of society are not for the private good bur rather for the public good. The well being of everyone benefits us as individuals.

When Madrid went to Dartmouth College, he realized they hired from prestigious universities and he was selected from UCLA, which at the time was not considered prestigious. Dartmouth became his important card. The environment was drastically different; it was a world where some people thought they were better than the rest. It was a very critical moment in Madrid's life because the Civil Rights movement was beginning to impact American Indians and black students in higher education. Madrid organized against the war and became an advisor to American Indians students who were protesting Dartmouth's American Indian mascot. The students sought the advice of Professor Madrid who at the time was the only nonwhite professor. Dartmouth also struggled in recruiting women because at the time it was an all-male institution. Madrid's time at Dartmouth helped shape him in profound ways.

Keywords: Latin American; United States; Vietnam War

Subjects: African-Americans; College students-education; Dartmouth College; Latino Americans; public universities and colleges

79:27 - Protestant/South Texas Border Initiative/Discrimination

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Segment Synopsis: Madrid was set apart from the community in two ways. First, his parents were professionals and educated, while the rest of the population was basically farmers and field workers. Second, they were not Catholic. The Protestant world helped him create a sense of himself that separated him from the rest of the world. His religion gave him a chance to pursue his education at the highest levels as a consequence of Protestantism while the average Catholic did not have that same opportunity unless they had the means by class advantage. Madrid was able to attend college by living at the Protestant boarding school for four years and that is how he was able to pay for his education.

Going back to the South Texas Border Initiative, Madrid says the South Texas Border Initiative has not been memorialized properly. With South Texas growing in population, there is still a lack of major institutions of higher education. The University of Texas has not grown to incorporate all those people nor has Texas A&M. The Rio Grande Valley is not coming up in the world; the issue needs to be addressed again because the students are there but there are no opportunities for them. They need investments to help support them.

Madrid endured discrimination in many settings. Madrid was in a semi-public setting, having a conversation and an individual asked a question about the Chancellor, and the person that was being addressed for the question turned and said they couldn’t talk about that matter because Arturo was present because he came from that part of the world that society chooses to ignore time after time. They were discussing a minority person and Madrid was the only minority in the meeting. Madrid was the one and only in many situations, or become the first for many things. He was the first Latino professor at Dartmouth College, the first Latino Dean at the University of Minnesota, and so on.

Keywords: New Mexico; Rio Grande Valley; South Texas Border Initiative

Subjects: Colleges; Degree-granting institutions; farm workers; Higher education; minorities in higher education