Tempe's Hispanic Heritage

Photos

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Description

In the late 19th century, the residents of San Pablo, Sotelo Ranch, and Hayden's Ferry imported their Mexican culture and traditions to Arizona. Each neighborhood thrived in the town we now know as Tempe, Arizona.

Transcript

Narrator:
San Pablo , Sotelo Ranch, Hayden's Ferry. In the late 19th Century, these were thriving communities alive with the people and culture of Mexico , despite being 200 miles north in what we now know as Tempe , Arizona .

Chris Marin:
They brought their culture, their language, their customs, their religion, their expectations for a better life. And it was just a matter of coming from Sonora , from large settlements like Hermosillo to Tempe .

Narrator:
Many farmed or worked for pioneers, such as Charles Hayden on his flour mill or ferry, and settled along the Salt River .

Chris Marin:
Mexican families wanted to stay, so they began forming their community, and they named it San Pablo . By 1873, San Pablo was already in existence as a Mexican community.

Narrator:
San Pablo was located around the base of today's "A Mountain." the land was donated to the Mexican families by pioneer settler William Kirkland. The little town thrived for generations. Joe Soto paints from memories of San Pablo , where he grew up.

Joe Soto:
I remember one of my cousins telling how nice it used to be where we could go to sleep and leave the doors open. Somebody could walk in and borrow something from you, and then they'd bring it back the following day. But there was a lot of -- there was a lot of friendship, and everybody saw themselves like family.

Narrator:
Another successful Mexican pioneer community in the area was headed by an industrious woman, Manuela Sotelo.

Scott Solliday:
She came up here with her family and settled on this land and had a very difficult time, but got by growing vegetables and herbs and flowers, because all the other farmers were growing cash crops, they were growing alfalfa and wheat, and so she was the only one who was really providing a lot of the food for all of these -- these local farmers, and she continued to work that way throughout her life.

Narrator:
Sotelo subdivided her property and sold the parcels. The area near Rural and University became known as Sotelo Ranch, and later, the Sotelo Addition. Marci Gorman's grandparents, who came in 1890, built this homestead there.

Marci Gorman:
I love it. I've always loved it. I came when I was 3. She had two pear trees, two navel oranges, two grapefruit, and two pomegranate, two quince. And we'd eat the fruit, you know, and all the little chores that we had when they irrigated, we made into games. In summer, we spent all summer swimming.

Joe Soto:
You see that canal right there? That was our swimming hole right there. And the water was always clean and clear, and they had sandy bottoms, which were fantastic.

Narrator:
the canal and the river were the preferred swimming spots since the Tempe Beach Swimming Pool was off-limits.

Scott Solliday:
The swimming pool was basically closed for Hispanics. There was one night a week, and it was the night before they drained the swimming pool and filled it with fresh water. And so obviously, aside from the fact that they were not allowed to use the swimming pool most of the time, just the implications that we have to drain the pool after you're done swimming was really such a vicious insult to the people here in Tempe .

Narrator:
Another insult:
the school system.

Chris Marin:
In 1898, the Arizona Territorial Legislature established a bill that made it clear that Mexican children would be separated and educated separately.

Narrator:
Mexican American children were only being taught manual labor and homemaking skills. Parents began to recognize the injustice.

Chris Marin:
Parents were actually protesting the fact that the children were segregated, and that they were being taught by teachers who were not professional teachers. So they weren't being taught -- while they were being taught these skills to make them housekeepers, they really wanted their children to learn other skills, like Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, the typical “Three R's”, as they were called.

Narrator:
A landmark court case settled the issue in 1925 by allowing Hispanic children into Anglo schools. But that was just a prelude to a bigger battle that was brewing. Mexican Americans were recognizing their Civil Rights, and groups began to organize. In the 1930s, “Los Conquistadores” at Arizona State University formed to fight discrimination.

Chris Marin:
They spoke up for the workers who were not treated fairly, or who wanted a decent wage. They wanted to end the segregation in the schools in this County, Maricopa County , and not just in Tempe .

Narrator:
In the 1950s, a rapidly expanding Arizona State University wanted the land that housed Tempe 's distinct Mexican-American neighborhoods.

Chris Marin:
So using the power of Eminent Domain, the University was able to acquire property for growth, for expansion, and among the property that it acquired was that area called San Pablo .

Joe Soto:
The homes in the surrounding area, when ASU bought them, they came with a bulldozer and just knocked them down.

Narrator:
Only two original structures still stand:
Mount Carmel Catholic Church, where many social and cultural events took place and parochial school was taught, on University and College. It's now the Newman Catholic Center . And the Elias Rodriguez house, where Marci Gorman grew up, which was restored by the City of Tempe .

Scott Solliday:
The Elias Rodriguez house is really the last structure that really has a significant history with the Mexican-Americans that came up into this area.

Marci Gorman:
This just happened a few years ago that they started acknowledging the Mexicans, you know, because the Mexicans have been carrying their history around in their arms for years trying to make people aware that they were here.

Scott Solliday:
Having read so much about Tempe history, the one thing that really has surprised me the most is suddenly finding that there's this completely different story that has absolutely nothing to do with what has been written through all these years.

Narrator:
Tempe 's Hispanic history lives through photographs and paintings; glimpses of life long ago and the memories of those who once lived here.