Interview with Juana Gonzales
November 21, 2015
East Lansing, Michigan
Chicana Por Mi Raza
We interviewed Juana Gonzales on Saturday, November 21, 2015. Upon arriving and unloading groceries, Juana offered her husband’s help to us while making breakfast and exclaimed, “This is definitely not a macho home!” At this point, we knew that Juana was someone with intense feminist ideals. Juana and her husband, Jesse, were excited to show us everything they owned related to the Chicana and Chicano movement. We were really surprised to find that Jesse was a collector of Chicano items such as movie posters, photographs, books, and pins. Jesse, like his wife Juana, was heavily involved in the movement and they actually met through Juana’s sister and their involvement with the movement.
Setting up for the interview seemed daunting at first, but Juana had a living space that was practically perfect for our interview. A sectional couch offered a spot for Juana to sit and a spot for Professor Cotera to be able to face her perfectly. Setting up the camera and lights went smoothly, although we had to face the light towards the ceiling so that it was not blinding Juana and not as reflective. We were having complications understanding whether or not the Zoom Recorder was recording properly. After fiddling with it, we thought we had it figured out. However, it appears that the Zoom did not save the sound files from the interview.
Juana is the second oldest of eleven children in a strictly Catholic family. She moved to Michigan in her twenties to help look after two of her siblings who started college at Western Michigan University. Prior to moving to Michigan permanently, Juana and some of her siblings lived in different parts of Michigan and Wisconsin as migrant workers. Juana became very involved with groups in Kalamazoo, including Planned Parenthood and a Chicana feminist group. It was apparent to us that Juana has always been very open about identifying as a feminist, unlike many of the other Chicanas that we have learned about. She remained very involved in organizing and fighting for equality until the end of her career as an elementary school teacher. We were surprised to hear some of her stories about the discrimination she faced throughout her lifetime. One particular story that stuck out was about her and other Chicanos and Chicanas taking over the president’s house at the University of Michigan to demand he address the treatment of minorities. He laughed at them and asked them to clean while they were there!
While Maria, Shirley, and Taylor interviewed Juana in the living room, Katelynn was busy scanning items from Juana’s archive in a separate room. Juana’s husband was even kind enough to put on the Michigan football game against Penn State. Juana and her husband had an impressive collection of buttons from various political and social movements that we scanned and added to our collection. Katelynn also scanned several pictures from Juana’s collection that included photographs from Juana’s childhood, her wedding to Jesse, and her days as a teacher. We also scanned several documents from Juana’s collection including love letters between her and her husband, Juana’s voting card from a women’s organization she was a member of, and an excerpt from a book that included all the organizations Juana was a member of in the 1970s.
After the interview was over, clean up did not take too long. We were able to successfully transfer all the images we took from our interview with Juana to our team’s hard drive, but as previously noted, we had issues with the Zoom Recorder. We also made sure to get a team picture with Juana. At around 4:30 we departed from Juana’s house. Little did we know that the most intense and terrifying part of our oral history was about to begin. The weather and road conditions were absolutely horrible for our ride back to Ann Arbor. What was supposed to be an hour ride home, turned into a two hour long ordeal of navigating the white out conditions on the road and counting how many cars had skidded to either the median or side of the highway. Needless to say that our group would not have survived without the cool calm nerves of Shirley Rivas behind the wheel as she fearlessly navigated through the snowy apocalypse.
Our group is excited to have finally filmed our oral history, but we know a lot more work needs to be done. In the upcoming weeks we plan on editing the film or our interview into 10 minutes sections, developing Juana’s collection catalog, and writing her final biography for the Chicana Por Mi Raza website.
We had some issues uploading a video clip to YouTube for our blog post, but the videos do exist on our team's hard drive and Taylor's computer.