Listen: Migrant Farm Workers

Midday presents a special Mainstreet Radio documentary, entitled “Migrant Farm Workers.” The documentary profiles migrant farm workers in St. James who came to Minnesota, and wound up staying here. Following the documentary, Jose Trejo, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council, answers listener questions about issues facing Hispanics in Minnesota.


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DAN OLSON: The Station, KXLI-KXLT, serving Central Minnesota and Rochester on UHF Channel 41 and 47. This is Minnesota Public Radio, a member-supported service. This is KSJN 1330 Minneapolis Saint Paul and KNSR FM 88.9, Collegeville Saint Cloud. It's 12 o'clock noon. We welcome you back to this portion of midday. Dan Olson reporting in Saint Paul, with my guest, Jose Trejo, the Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Council in Minnesota. And we'll be getting to a conversation with Mr. Trejo in about 15 minutes, because we will be talking about the history and present day circumstances of the Spanish-speaking people in Minnesota.

But before we get to that, we have a report from John Biewen on migrant workers in the Saint James area. And we should mention to all of you that Minnesota Public Radio's coverage of rural issues is made possible by a major grant from the Blandin Foundation. Every year, thousands of Hispanic migrant workers come north to Minnesota to work in farm fields weeding and picking crops. Most of them return home in the fall to Florida or Texas, but a growing number are staying in Minnesota, taking year round jobs, buying homes, settling down, and slowly changing the faces of some small towns, towns that until recently, were virtually all white. One such town is Saint James in southwestern Minnesota. John Biewen of our Main Street Radio Team visited Saint James and prepared this report.

JAVIER FLORES: We're just going to paint it all. And we'll maybe fix inside, paint it inside because it's real bad. [LAUGHS]

JOHN BIEWEN: Javier Flores is putting a coat of dark brown paint on his family's house on the northwestern edge of Saint James. Saint James is a town of 4,500 people about two hours southwest of the Twin Cities. Javier Flores is in his early 30s, his wife, Maria, is 27. They got jobs last February at the Tony Downs Food Processing Plant in Saint James. They and their five children, aged two to 13 decided, to stay. And they bought this house in June. The Flores's have lived in other Southern Minnesota towns for four years. Before that, they were migrant workers.

JAVIER FLORES: We used to come every year over to Owatonna to work in the asparagus fields. And then from there, the [INAUDIBLE], and then from there to the company, the corn company. Then from there, when it finished, we used to go back to where we live over in Texas.

JOHN BIEWEN: The Flores' are one of an estimated 70 Hispanic families who now live permanently in Saint James, making up between 5% and 10% of the town's population. John De La Cruz is a human resource developer at the Saint James office of the Minnesota Migrant Council, a nonprofit group that helps migrants get schooling and permanent jobs. The Migrant Council has helped most of Saint James Hispanics settle in the town. De La Cruz says about 20 Hispanic families have come to town in the last year.

JOHN DE LA CRUZ: Because of the fact you're working, a lot of them are getting tired of the migrant stream. And they would like to have something permanent, get a job that's there year round. And we have it.

JOHN BIEWEN: The job Saint James has for migrant workers are mostly at Tony Downs and Swift-Eckrich, two companies that process meat and other foods, and employ about 500 workers in Saint James. Officials at both companies declined to be interviewed for this story. But the Migrant Council's, De La Cruz estimates that the two employ about 100 Hispanics at their plants in Saint James and two nearby towns. Wages at Tony Downs and Swift-Eckrich start in the $4 to $5 range. And there's a shortage of workers in the area to fill such jobs. The unemployment rate in Watonwan County is less than 3%. But De La Cruz says the Migrant Council has no trouble finding Southern Hispanics willing to fill the jobs.

JOHN DE LA CRUZ: Well, in Texas right now, there's nothing as far as work. A lot of them that have come here, they come from the Laredo, El Paso, the Valle as they call it, which is down the more southern part of Texas. And they every time they come here, they just say there's no work. There isn't anything in Texas that's worth staying for. And they know that if they come down here, they're going to find something.

JOHN BIEWEN: And for migrants willing to endure Minnesota winters, year round jobs in a place like Saint James offer a chance to settle down.

IRMA CARRIO: My husband and I talked about it. And he said, well, we're tired of just working in the fields all the time, waking up so early, you know, the weather. You always have to work when it's muddy, when it's cold winter, you know?

JOHN BIEWEN: Irma Carrion her husband, Jose, and their four children have lived in Saint James for two and 1/2 years. Irma and Jose work at the Tony Downs plant. Irma Carrion says before the Minnesota Migrant Council convinced them to settle in Saint James, the family lived the migrant life for 10 years, traveling state by state with the field work. She says the family had a home in Brownsville, Texas, but spent only a few months a year there.

IRMA CARRION: My oldest kid is from Florida. Jose Junior is from Florida. Freddy is from Fremont, Ohio. And Tony is from Toledo, Ohio, and Ruby from Texas.

JOHN BIEWEN: You mean, that's where they were born?

IRMA CARRION: Yeah, they were from-- yeah. So now, we-- [LAUGHS] we settle down here for a while.

JOHN BIEWEN: The Carrions live in their own mobile home in a Saint James trailer park. On the inside, the Carrions trailer looks like a typical Midwestern middle class home, except for a couple of Mexican trinkets on a glass shelf. There's an entertainment center with a TV and VCR. The Carrions watch the Spanish language channel on cable. The local cable company included the channel in its offerings at the request of the Minnesota Migrant Council.



JOHN BIEWEN: Spanish language TV is especially important to Jose Carrion, who doesn't speak much English. Irma says the family has been well accepted by white people in Saint James. But in a small town that's 95% white and English-speaking, she says each new Hispanic arrival helps them feel a little more at home.

IRMA CARRION: You know, we see more people coming. And we don't know them, but we always say hi to them. And we tell them when did you get here? Where are you working at? And then they tell us, and they give us their phone number, and this and that, and then we get to meet them more and more and more. And we get to meet more and more people, not only here in Saint James, we have people-- we meet people in Mankato, Fairmont. We got a lot of people all around that we know that we go up there to their houses and cooking, and Saint James, Wilmer, everywhere.

JOHN BIEWEN: Saint James is just one of several small Minnesota towns with growing Hispanic communities. Among the others are Crookston, Wilmer, Glencoe, and Blooming Prairie, all farming towns with field work to attract migrant workers in the summer and factory jobs to keep them year round. In 1980, there were 16,000 Hispanics in rural Minnesota. More recent figures aren't available, but it's generally assumed that figure has gone up substantially. Slowly, Hispanics are changing the flavor of small town Minnesota.


Mexican dances are becoming common summer occurrences in southern Minnesota, this one complete with a Tex-Mex band was held at a ballroom in Mankato, a half hour from Saint James. About 150 Hispanics came from miles around.


The dancers promenade and spin around the dance floor, sometimes, entire families together, including small children. They move in Mexican and Caribbean steps not ordinarily seen in these parts. Tom Garza and his wife, Rosa, made the 50 mile drive to the dance from Blooming Prairie. They say their families did summer migrant work in Minnesota for years. But now, they've settled here and work year round in an Owatonna factory.

TOM GARZA: When I was just a teenager, back then, there was nothing like that. Always just migrants coming down to work in asparagus, and all that kind of stuff, you know? But back then, there were hardly any dances or nothing like that. The only thing was going on was softball. And that was it. But nowadays, you know, Hispanics are coming in, and they're having a lot of dances just like this one here. And that's catching on really pretty good.


JOHN BIEWEN: This dance was organized by Nino Perez. He's lived in Mankato for more than 10 years. He directs minority enrollment at the Mankato Area Vocational Technical Institute, and also has a Spanish language radio show once a week on a Mankato station.

NINO PEREZ: Wherever there's Hispanic people, you always-- they're always are looking for the culture, our culture, the food, the entertainment kind of thing, like, the music tonight. Anything-- and then other families, other migrants, they would look for each other to have-- to get together and things like that.

JOHN BIEWEN: Of course, it isn't just their shared language and culture that makes Hispanics in small farm belt towns tend to hang together. There's also the fact of being a small minority in otherwise white communities. Though, in Saint James, by all accounts, racial problems are minor. One hears of racially motivated fighting in town 15 or 20 years ago during an earlier Hispanic in-migration. But apparently, those days are gone. Irma Carrion says the worst signs of prejudice she hears involve name-calling in school.

IRMA CARRION: A lot of kids being saying to the Mexican kids that they're wetbacks. The Mexican kids get mad because, well, they're not wetbacks. But you know, IT hurts their feelings saying that they're wetbacks, because they're not wetbacks. There's some kids that I heard that they've been having problems since that other kids called them that-- those in school or something like that. But with my kids, I haven't had problems about that or with us, or anything, so.

JOHN BIEWEN: John De La Cruz of the Minnesota Migrant Council downplays the race problems in Saint James. He grew up and graduated from high school 15 miles away in Madelia. His family was among the first migrants to settle in the area in the early '50s. He says the area's Hispanic population has fluctuated over the years with the ups and downs of the Texas economy. And he says, considering that the current wave of Hispanic settlers is the largest in 20 years, it's not surprising to hear of occasional name calling by young people.

JOHN DE LA CRUZ: All of a sudden, there's this big mass of Hispanic kids coming into this town, and you know, and everybody's wondering where are they coming from, and you know, why are they coming. And you know, and it's a whole new generation of people who are seeing this. And it's a whole new ballgame for them.

JOHN BIEWEN: Most of the Hispanic students in Saint James are in the elementary grades. Jim Andrew Jack, who's been elementary principal in town for 20 years says, he doesn't consider race a problem in his school or in town.

JIM ANDREW JACK: A few instances, isolated instances over the years, but no real problem. These kids come in, and they assimilate real fast. Our kids get used to them because we have so many of them here. And they make friends just as fast as anybody else.

JOHN BIEWEN: Irma Carrion says the whites that she and her husband work with at the food processing plant have been kind and helpful. Besides, she says, any problems associated with being a minority are far outweighed by the advantages of living in Minnesota. One of the main ones is the education her kids are getting in an all English speaking environment. She says in Texas, the kids didn't learn much English because Spanish is spoken in school.

IRMA CARRION: Like, I didn't graduated. I just went to ninth grade. My husband just to third grade. So I told my kids, do you always want to be working in the fields like us, you know, always working when it's raining, cold, and everything? You go, no. Well, you got to study and try to do something when you grow up and get a good job, or get something better. So that's the good thing about here. They got good schools, real good schools.

PATTY HOFFMAN: OK. And is she eating?

JAVIER FLORES: She is eating.

PATTY HOFFMAN: Yes or no, is she eating?


PATTY HOFFMAN: OK. What is he washing?


PATTY HOFFMAN: OK. Can you say it in a whole sentence though?

JAVIER FLORES: He's washing his ears.

PATTY HOFFMAN: OK, very good. You did a super job on it. Now, we have to go to the writing part.

JOHN BIEWEN: Patty Hoffman is the English as a second language instructor in the Saint James schools. She's assessing second grader, Javier Flores's, English proficiency. The boy by the way, is the son of the Javier Flores we met earlier painting his house.

Until three years ago, Saint James didn't have an ESL instructor. There were just a handful of Hispanics in the school. And most of their families had been in town for years. But with the recent settling of former migrant workers in town, this year, there are about 30 Hispanic kids getting extra help with their English. Teacher Patty Hoffman says, while Hispanic kids benefit from being in an English-speaking school, their presence is good for white kids too.

PATTY HOFFMAN: To me, this seems like a real cultural advantage to Saint James students. I mean, there are times when they probably get a little less teacher time because sometimes, these students require more help. But I think it's a marvelous opportunity for them to become at least somewhat acquainted with another culture, another way of looking at things.

JOHN BIEWEN: Spanish, it turns out, is one of the most popular electives among white students at Saint James High School. Spanish replaced German three years ago as the only foreign language offered in the curriculum. The Migrant Council's John La Cruz says he and others are proof that Hispanics can live permanently and happily in rural Minnesota. He expects that at least some of the migrants who have settled in Saint James in the last year or two will put down roots as he has.

Irma and Jose Carrion, and their four children all say they want to stay in Saint James. Jose Jr. Plays on the eighth grade football, basketball, and baseball teams, and says he has lots of friends here now. Irma and Jose Sr. Are building seniority at the Tony Downs plant and soon both will be making 5.55 an hour.

IRMA CARRION: Now we have this trailer, and we're planning to buy a house too. So maybe. Let's see what the will of God is if we stay. But for our planning, we want to stay here.

JOHN BIEWEN: I'm John Biewen in Saint James.

DAN OLSON: 15 minutes now past 12 o'clock. You're listening to midday on Minnesota Public Radio. Dan Olson with you in St. Paul with my guest, Jose Trejo, the Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council in Minnesota. Jose, as we listen to that visit to the families in Saint James, you and I were listening to John Biewen's report and you were commenting on a couple of things, including the importance of the economy as you think it affects those families moving in. Why is that so important?

JOSE TREJO: First of all, the economy works both ways in this whole issue. The first part is that the economy in Texas is really bad and has been bad since the oil crisis. As the economy continues to deteriorate, people are forced to find other jobs or find other places. The primary reason for migrants coming and settling in Minnesota is because of employment opportunities. And the second reason is education.

The other thing that is happening is that while in Minnesota smaller towns are being depopulated, the people are moving into the urban areas, migrants are coming in and providing a new economic base, as the lady was saying, she's going to buy a new house. As you know, housing sales in small towns are really low. And you must have people in order to maintain your economy. The Hispanic migrants coming in are actually improving the economy of the small towns.

I want to pursue that in just a moment as I give out the telephone number that listeners can call to join us in this conversation about factors affecting the lives of the Spanish speaking people in Minnesota these days. And our guest is Jose Trejo. You can call us in the Twin Cities at 227-6000, 227-6000 if you have a question for our guest. Listeners outside the Twin Cities within Minnesota can call us on our toll free line. There's no charge for this telephone call at 1-800-652-9700, 1-800-652-9700. And in the Twin Cities, 227-6000.

DAN OLSON: That report from John Biewen, Jose, made it sound as though things are going fairly smoothly. No great indication that there is a large rupture of relations between the Spanish speaking or the white community in a town such as Saint James. Is it going as smoothly as that report portrayed it?

JOSE TREJO: It depends on the towns. In Saint James and Albert Lea, things are going pretty smooth, simply because of the fact that Hispanics have been moving into the area for the last 20 or 30 years. In the city of Albert Lea, Hispanics are moving into the city and become permanent residents all as early as the 1940's. However, in other towns where the Hispanics have not moved in large numbers, or have not moved in at all, we have some serious problems.

One of the towns that comes to mind is the city of Wilmer, where they did not have a Hispanic population. And now, has 1,500 Hispanics. This is a very sizable increase in a very short period of time. People are not accustomed to the dramatic change that this can bring about. And therefore, problems are bound to surface.

DAN OLSON: Is it your impression that a lot of the Hispanics moving into these communities, Saint James, Albert Lea, Wilmer, wherever, will stay?

JOSE TREJO: Definitely. I think that the Hispanics have been moving into Minnesota for the last almost 100 years. And many of them will stay. Resettlement is a very difficult process to come into a strange environment, an alien language, alien culture, makes it very difficult. However, the desire to improve your life, the desire to get a better education, and the desire to have steady work, thus, overweigh or overcome those fears and frustrations.

DAN OLSON: I can imagine the economic opportunities for a Hispanic family coming to a Saint James. As you point out, some housing prices in portions of greater Minnesota are relatively low. They could probably afford to buy a house on a $5 an hour wage in some portions of Minnesota. I can imagine the economic problems they face trying to move to a Minneapolis and Saint Paul are quite different.

JOSE TREJO: Yes, they are far more difficult. However, there is also on the other side of the coin, there is also more support systems for the people moving into the Minneapolis and Saint Paul. There is more social service agencies. There is greater opportunities for employment. And wages can tend to be somewhat higher. It is more difficult for a person in the Twin City area to become homeowners for example.

DAN OLSON: So put some numbers to the migration of the Hispanics coming to Minnesota. What does it look like in terms of 10 or 20 years?

JOSE TREJO: There is three factors affecting migration to Minnesota. The first one is the immigration that is immigration from the southwest from Central and South America, from Mexico and other Latin American countries. The immigration numbers are quite high. They've been high for the last 10 or 15 years.

The second factor that affects Minnesota's population is the fact that the Hispanic community's median age is 19 years of age as compared to 31 for the majority of the population. We have a far greater percentage of women in childbearing years than the non-Hispanic population. And the third factor is that we have larger than average birth rates, 3.6 compared to 1.9.

Now, if you take these factors together and look at the growth, there is going to be a bulge of Hispanics coming up that are presently in elementary schools. As the Saint James report indicates, there are a lot of children in elementary schools. In some schools in Saint Paul, we have a 30% to 40% Hispanic population rate already. Looking down the road, we can see our population doubling in the next 10 or 15 years.

DAN OLSON: From what to what?

JOSE TREJO: From 52,000 to about 110,000.

DAN OLSON: So this is clearly the largest bulge in Hispanic migration history in Minnesota.

JOSE TREJO: At the present time, it is, yes. We have had other bulges in the past, but this one-- there hadn't been one for about 20 years. But this one is the largest one in the last 20 years.

DAN OLSON: I recall meeting families as I said to you, who I think moved to the Shakopee area in the early '20s when there were jobs there. So obviously, the Hispanic migration has a rather long history in Minnesota.

JOSE TREJO: The first Hispanic to arrive in Minnesota came in 1886. And ever since then, we have had waves of immigration come in depending on the economic conditions outside of Minnesota, depending on political conditions. In the 1920's, we had a large influx of people fleeing the Mexican Revolution. At the present time, we have a large influx of people fleeing the problems in Central and South America.

DAN OLSON: The time is about 20 minutes past 12 o'clock. We're visiting with our guest in the studio, Jose Trejo, the Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council in Minnesota. And we're inviting your questions. The telephone number in the Twin Cities, 227-6000. There are a couple of lines open, 227-6000.

Listeners outside the Twin Cities within Minnesota, no charge for this call at 1-800-652-9700. And we'll go to our first caller. Hello, you're on the air.

SPEAKER 1: Buenos dias. And clear back in the '40s when they stopped offering German in high school after two years of Latin, I took a year of Spanish and got a pen pal in Bogota, Colombia. I'm wondering how widespread the acceptance is of Spanish as a foreign language in Minnesota. My other observation is that there are neighborhoods in Saint Paul that seems to be where Spanish-speaking people sort of hang together. And that's understandable. But is there some kind of a ghetto effect? And my final comment is, how can an employer be sure that a Hispanic that they are thinking about employing is a legal immigrant?

JOSE TREJO: OK, Spanish is-- an answer to your question, Spanish is becoming a very important and popular language in Minnesota. It is replacing German in many instances. According to the World of Work Institute, in order for a person to succeed in the future, they must be trilingual. They must be able to speak Spanish, English, and computer. And we are contributing to at least the Spanish end of it.

In answer to your second question about where the majority of the people live in Saint Paul, while the largest concentration of Hispanics is in Saint Paul's west side, the majority in terms of numbers live outside of the west side. Most people believe that all Hispanics live in the west side. And it's not true. The greatest concentration is.

The one thing about the concentration that it does is that it permits for the concentration of services, concentration of grocery stores, and so on. And so the west side becomes a magnet for the rest of the community. However, we have individuals in the Twin Cities living all over the Twin Cities, and coming into the west side to purchase food items, or to go to the Catholic church, or to go to other kinds of services very, very important. It provides a sense of identity. It reduces ghettoization to the degree that Hispanic population has been mobile and has moved to other parts of the city. It is not concentrated just in that area.

DAN OLSON: Then on that issue of the employer, which is one of the questions I wanted to pose to you as well about how one can be assured whether an employee being hired has legal status.

JOSE TREJO: No one can be assured 100%. First of all, it is incumbent upon the employer to ask the question whether or not the person is here legally. And the person who provides the documentation, basically, it's on that person. If the person provides false documentation, or wrongful documentation, the only thing the employer has to do is ask the documentation to be provided.

DAN OLSON: All right. Let's go back to the telephone for some other questions. And it's your turn. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 2: I'm concerned because we spend a lot of time in Southwest Texas where the Hispanics want to have Spanish as the main language, this problem of culture assimilation. And they also-- the other thing with the tight job market, they're going to be taking jobs away from Americans. You know, they're coming over the border. The other thing is the crime rate is the highest in the United States in the area they're coming from. Are they going to bring that to Saint Paul and to Minnesota?

JOSE TREJO: This is a very interesting comments that we get quite often. First of all, language, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that considers a person to be educated speaks only one language. No other country believes this. Most other countries speak more than one language. And to consider yourself educated, and to be monolingual is no longer plausible into the 21st century.

Secondly, English is the most important language there is as far as international trade and commerce. It would be wrong for Hispanics to maintain only Spanish. However, it will be greatly essential for them to be bilingual not only in Spanish, but also in English.

The question about people coming in and taking jobs, if this was true, why are 200 Hispanics employed in Tony Downs when the person indicates and says that they come in and provide a labor force? Why come the local people are not working there? Because many times, local people are not willing to perform those types of jobs. They have better jobs, or they adopt up not to work in those kinds of conditions. The Hispanic community has provided a tremendous economic base to this state. Without migratory workers, we will not know-- the agriculture will not exist the way it exists now.

And then finally in your comment about crime, we always believe that newcomers create crime or crime waves. I have read letters in the Historical Society when people complain about the Polish. They complained about the Italians. They complained about the Swedes. They complain about every other group. It is a very common factor. Any time we have a new group of individuals coming in, that new group is blamed for everything that happens in the community.

DAN OLSON: The $5 an hour wage, that is a starting wage in Minnesota that I presume is somewhat higher than Hispanic migrant workers might find in many other parts of the country.

JOSE TREJO: That's absolutely true. The $5 starting wage in Minnesota, the migrant wage is 3.35 an hour at the present time. So making $5 an hour is higher.

DAN OLSON: As long as 20 years ago, we were being told that migratory workers, the migrant workers who come to hoe, and weed, and pick fruits and vegetables in Minnesota would not be part of the scene 20 years later. But they're still here. Is that-- are their numbers diminishing? Is the trend clear that someday there will not be migrant workers?

JOSE TREJO: The numbers have diminished. We have had at one time very large numbers coming through. Recently, because of mechanization and the use of herbicides, there has been a decrease in the actual number of migratory workers. However, migratory workers have also begun to diversify in the areas in which they work. Now, they are beginning to work in the packing food industry. They are beginning to work in other related areas that did not work at one time.

There is always going to be a need for some type of readily accessible labor. Whether this labor comes from southern Texas, or it comes from rural Minnesota, it is making a difference. The need is always going to be there for a readily accessible source of labor that can be available at a moment's notice when you need to pick crops, or when you need to do the seasonal type of work. That is the reason migrants are here, because they are needed.

DAN OLSON: Let's go back to the telephone for another question for our guest, Jose Trejo, the Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council in Minnesota. And it's your turn. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 3: Hello.

DAN OLSON: Go ahead.

SPEAKER 3: I have great admiration for the Hispanic people and their culture in most ways. But there's one aspect that I think many of us share some fear of, and that is the high birth rate that Latin America and Hispanic people generally have. And if they do not-- as they come here, if I feel if they do not lower their birth rate to match ours, they will in time create the same problems in this country as in the countries they fled, Mexico and points south. This world is already bursting at the seams with people. Thank you.

JOSE TREJO: The Hispanic community has had traditionally had a higher than average birth rate. And in fact, in worldwide populations, people of color outnumbered the so-called white population. This is a common fact. And it will continue to be a fact into the next century.

Trying to deal with birth rates, or trying to bring about changes, one of the best contribution to lowering the birth rate is going to be economic. If people are not able to afford to take care of their children, they're going to be-- they're going to reduce their birth rate. When Hispanics have come into the United States and have looked at other things that they would like to have, for example, a higher education, housing, and all of those other things, those are expensive items to have. So the younger Hispanics are beginning to see the need to lower large family sizes. Large family sizes were very common in an agricultural society. If you look at America's agricultural society back in the 1920's and '30s, you will see the same high birth rates.

DAN OLSON: Back to the telephone for another guest. And it's your turn. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 4: Thank you. Mr. Trejo, I'm wondering why people think that just because you speak Spanish that you're not a citizen of the United States. And when are these attitudes of people going to start changing? A lot of the migrant workers that come to Minnesota are citizens of this country, even though Spanish is the first language that they speak.

JOSE TREJO: The United States has had always a very myopic attitude towards languages and what is American. Speaking English does not necessarily translate into being patriotic. Many Hispanic individuals went to fight for this country without speaking a word of English. In fact, we have some medal of honor winners who fought and died for this country and never spoke a word of English. So English and patriotism is not synonymous.

Secondly, it is critically important for people in this country to understand that the knowledge of language is essential for the growth of the United States. The more languages we know, the more languages we can speak in this country, the better off economically we're going to be in the international world markets.

DAN OLSON: Back to the telephone for another question. And it's your turn. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 5: Yes, I had a two part question. I was wondering, what are the different agencies that offer support services for the Hispanic community? And the second part would be, how could I or anybody get involved with these agencies?

JOSE TREJO: First of all, there are agencies in the Hispanic community that provide services, or provide educational programs, or provide other things that Hispanics need to become more viable participants in our society. The best way to contact or get a hold of these agencies is either through the local Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, contacting our office, the Spanish speaking Affairs Council at area code (612) 296-9587. We do have a directory of agencies providing services for the community that we can provide you with telephone numbers of agencies that can provide particular services you may be interested in.

DAN OLSON: Jose has just given out the telephone number for his office, the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council. And that area code was 612. The telephone number was 296-9587. And we'll give that telephone number out once before the end of the program too.

That's not our telephone number here for our calls that we're taking. We do have the toll free line open momentarily. The other lines are busy at the moment. The toll free number for those of you outside the Twin Cities is 1-800-652-9700. Back to the phone, and your question, please. Go ahead.

SPEAKER 6: I thought I'd start off and tell the story about a few years ago here when I worked in North Dakota. I worked with a young couple that had adopted a daughter from Colombia because they could not have any more children. And she was trying to teach the child some Spanish. And I worked on this farm. So sitting there at the table, and the grandmother made a comment about people in this country should learn to speak English, but she said it in Norwegian. Just a little different. Some of these cultural differences I think are--

Anyway, I'd like to ask a question about now. I've lived in Mexico and also worked with migrant workers. And I don't really find the languages and cultures always to be the same. And maybe could comment a little bit on the differences amongst some of these-- between the immigrants and people coming up here from Texas. And I'll hang up here.

JOSE TREJO: That's true that there are cultural differences within Latin American countries. Also, there are some variables in dialects and language differences. However, the underlying process is that language is a very unifying factor.

Many of the people that come from Texas and other parts of the United States speak Spanish. Some of them do not. People coming from Latin America may speak different Spanish dialects and may have slightly different cultural traditions and cultural patterns. But the most important thing is that as individuals come into this country, the majority of them learn quite early in life the importance of being fluent in English, and the importance that this place is in this country. So what the Hispanic community is doing in fact, is contributing not only by bringing in the reinforcement of learning a foreign language or another language, but at the same time, by understanding the importance of speaking in English very well.

DAN OLSON: Back to the telephone for another question. And it's your turn. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 7: Hello. My question also is concerning language. I belong to US English, which is a group that is lobbying to have English become the official language of the United States in state and federal constitution. And the head of that organization is a Hispanic woman, Linda Chavez. I don't-- I wouldn't say that I oppose people maintaining their Native languages when they go anywhere, but I have two concerns. And one is that the people who come here and who are channeled into the second language programs in schools, and some of them speak perfect English, that they will never really gain a good enough grasp of English in order to progress in our upwardly mobile society, take advantage of those things.

And the other thing that concerns me is that with any language, there's a certain tradition, cultural, legal, and political tradition. And that I think what makes the United States a desirable place to come is our legal and political tradition, which is English. And I think it's important that that be maintained.

DAN OLSON: All right. Let's give Jose a chance to respond to the two concerns you've raised.

JOSE TREJO: United States does have a legal and political tradition that has become English. Most people do not understand that at one time the Minnesota Consitution was also written in French. And that French, and German, and other languages were spoken throughout Minnesota as recently as the 1950's and 1960's. We had German newspapers and other Polish and Norwegian newspapers, and so on. English has become a predominant language in the United States only in the last 20 or 30 years. It has not been traditionally that way in the past as the man was indicating, the grandmother spoke Norwegian.

The fact that we have English synonymous with the United States is kind of interesting-- it's an interesting historical sidelight. The most important aspect of any culture is its language. If I want to become a viable, contributing member of this society, it is incumbent upon me to learn this language and to learn its traditions of this culture. At the same time, if I want to be a viable participant in my own society and in my own culture, then I must be able to maintain those things.

The reason our agency has opposed making English official language is that it has a lot of other ramifications. The ramifications are very crucial and very critical to this country. First of all, there's going to be a tendency to de-emphasize the studying of foreign languages. Secondly, in areas where there is a need for people to be informed so that they can participate as equal citizens in this country information that is needed by them to be good citizens will be not provided by them.

Like, for example, bilingual ballots and the right to vote, and other things that are very essential in a Democratic process. And we are in fact, denying this individual simply because they don't speak the language, full participation in the American political system. The best way to encourage this participation is to allow them to participate. And then at the same time, say to these individuals, if you really want to get into it far better than what you are doing now, you must learn the language.

DAN OLSON: Would you favor even more stringent requirements that there be much less equivocation on the part of public schools in Minnesota about how they shall provide English as a second language, or Spanish-speaking programs that in fact, they should require that on a more regular and common basis that there should be bilingual ballots, that there should be other kinds of bilingual recognition in the state?

JOSE TREJO: I think it's very important to recognize the fact that there is more languages than just English. One of the things that I find interesting is that we have in Saint Paul a Spanish language immersion program in which non-Hispanic children go to the program, go to the program and learn everything in Spanish. At first, there was a lot of opposition to it and people felt that this was wrong.

However, now, if you talk to the children that are the non-Hispanic children are participating in this program, you will find a tremendous amount of emphasis and liking of this type of program. As far as other services, bilingual services, if we're talking about equality and we believe that our country is based on equality, then we must provide the kind of information that the individuals need in order to participate on an equal basis in the society, whether it's bilingual ballots, bilingual signage in transportation systems, or other things. We have a very simple process in our office that we recommend in which, for example, if you have a notice, a governmental notice that impacts on the person's education, economic status, or whatever, that this notice have a short sentence printed in the foreign language that says, this information is very important to you. Please have someone translate it for you. Simple things like that recognizes that they're not everybody is fluent in English.

DAN OLSON: All right, we have about 15 minutes remaining in our conversation with Jose Trejo, the Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council in Minnesota. And we'll go to you next. Your question, please.

SPEAKER 8: Good afternoon, Mr. Trejo. This is Janet Getchell Nelson Schneider. I'm an artist and an author myself, a retired secretary. My question is, what are the artists, and artisans, and sculptors, and authors, and scholars doing in the Midwest? And how are they getting along? Where is their work being exhibited and published?

JOSE TREJO: I'm glad you asked those questions, because we are having some difficulties in the art area. Hispanic art has not been fully recognized in the Midwest, even through the United States in Washington D.C. had a major art program last year on Chicano art at the Corcoran Gallery. And it was very well received and so on. In the Midwest, there hasn't been any efforts by major arts groups dealing with art and culture.

The latest effort was at the Walker Art Center when they had La Casa de Bernarda Alba, and also, Leo and Lena. Those are very few examples of art in the Midwest. Secondly, there is a group of artists in Saint Paul and in Minneapolis that has been conducting a series of lectures on art and culture based at Centro Cultural Chicano in Minneapolis. And the Minnesota Humanities Commission and Campus have provided some funding for this program. So we are beginning to become more involved in the mainstream art area. However, the major art institutions still do not look at Hispanic art as a viable entity.

DAN OLSON: Let's continue on with our next caller. And it's your turn to ask a question. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 9: I just wondered if there was any indication that with the establishment of this Hispanic population that-- is there any other professionals or skilled Hispanics that are moving to Minnesota?

JOSE TREJO: Yes, there is. In fact, we have far more skilled professionals than ever before in Minnesota. In the last few years, we have had a very large influx of people from Central and South America. And many of these individuals have come with high skills.

There is a national-- there is a National Association of Mexican professionals headquartered in Minnesota of all places. We have people that are lawyers, doctors, educators. And so unfortunately, the tendency for Minnesotans is to look only at the low skill individual and at the migratory labor.

DAN OLSON: Is there some indication do you think that should peace break out in Guatemala, El Salvador, wherever in Central America? And for that matter, if political conditions in some South American countries should stabilize, become more open, that in fact, what we're seeing as a trend line upward in Minnesota for Spanish-speaking, some of those people will head back to countries where they are native to?

JOSE TREJO: There is no doubt that some people will head back. But the majority of the people will have established roots by that time. One of the things that we find very interesting here is that the more individuals that come into this country from the educated segments of their societies, it becomes easier to develop good relationships with those countries in the future. And these individuals become very good ambassadors to the United States, and become excellent liaisons between the United States and the respective countries.

DAN OLSON: From 52,000 currently, you said, Spanish-speaking people in Minnesota to as many as 100,000 by when?

JOSE TREJO: In the next-- by the turn of the century.

DAN OLSON: We'll go back to the telephone and our next caller. It's your turn. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 10: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I have a comment and a totally unrelated question. I really like that idea of the line on the ballot or wherever that in some language, Spanish, and many others saying that the instructions below are very important. If you don't understand English, please get somebody to translate it for you. Rather than having six different languages all written up there, such as you get with your camera or something.

Also, a question, I've seen bumper stickers that say "de colores." Pardon my pronunciation. Can you tell me what they mean please? I'll hang up and listen.

JOSE TREJO: De colores is a very common phrase in Latin American cultures. It means of many colors. Traditionally, Hispanics come in many colors. The Hispanic community can be white, or Caucasian, blue eyes and blondes all the way to Black. And so we have everybody in between. Not all Hispanics are dark-skinned, and not all Hispanics are light skinned. We have a large variety.

What we mean by de colores, we mean an inclusion of all people, of all races, of all groups, and of all nationalities. That's what de colores means. And it comes from a song that talks about-- there's a children's song that talks about all the different colors of the rainbow, and how we are so much like it.

DAN OLSON: Back to the telephone for another caller. And it's your turn for a question. Go ahead, please.

SPEAKER 11: Yes, good afternoon. Mr. Trejos mentioned computers as a possible third language for Hispanics. My question is, is there an organized program for developing computer knowledge among Hispanics? And what's the scope of that program and the status? And which would be the agency coordinating it?

JOSE TREJO: We don't have any specific organized program at the present time to deal with computer language and computer training. What I was referring to was the fact that according to the World of Work Institute out of New York City, they believe that the learning of three languages will make a person very viable in the future, and then computer being one of them.

There is a program, however, that does provide with assistance for people who want to get into the computer field, even though it doesn't teach computer languages per se. This program is the Hispanic Education Program. And the Hispanic Education Program provides scholarships, counseling, and other technical assistance for individuals who are interested in getting into the technical and professional fields.

DAN OLSON: Back to the telephone, another caller. And it's your turn for a question. Go ahead.

SPEAKER 12: OK. I was wondering, with the permanent relocation of the migrant community in Minnesota, do you feel that the different migrant programs will become obsolete?

JOSE TREJO: They may in the long run, but not at the present time. In the near future, this different migrant programs will become very critical and very important because they are the first line, or the first place of assistance for people. They also are serving in excellent way as being intermediaries and liaison between the migrant communities and the non-migrant communities. The Minnesota Migrant Council for example, has provided involvement in assistance in the areas where migrants have been settling in the past. This program will continue to be very valuable programs.

We don't expect to have resettlement end in the near future. This is going to continue. I mean, we can't expect to have all the Latin American peoples coming, and all the people from Texas come moving to Minnesota in the next 10 years. I mean, that's going to continue on for a long, long time to come. So I believe that this program is going to continue to be viable, because there's always going to be a need for them.

DAN OLSON: Back to the telephone, and another question. It's your turn. Go ahead.

SPEAKER 13: Yes. It seems to me that the Aztecs are already speaking one European language. Spanish is European language. And the Europeans that came here, they didn't adopt the Indigenous language of the nations on these shores. And it seems like a dichotomy that it seems that it's rather heavy-handed.

JOSE TREJO: All right, Jose, you want to react to that? Well, I think that it's not unusual for groups to adopt languages or adopt customs from other groups. I'm sure that the Norwegians that came here adopted English. The Polish that came here adopted English, but they still maintain Norwegian and Polish languages in their own native countries. That's not an unusual thing to happen.

The other thing that is very interesting here in world history, had, for example, the United States not been settled by the English, we would probably speaking Dutch, or we would probably be speaking French, or something else, or we would also be speaking Spanish. At one time, Minnesota-- portions of Minnesota belonged to Spain. So the reason we're speaking English is only a fate of history. It's not a God-given right.

DAN OLSON: Back to the telephone. Another caller with a question. And it's your turn.

SPEAKER 14: Hello. I have quite a few things that I'm interested in. Real quickly, one would be how to contact the Hispanic Education Program. Another one would be is, there a place where we can get the facts that you've been talking about, reasons why we should allow people to continue with Spanish as much as we do? And then maybe on a personal level, I'm a Spanish learner in Mankato and wonder how I could get exposure, how I could meet more Spanish people, and encourage them, practice, and so forth?

JOSE TREJO: OK. I don't have all the phone numbers right at the tip of my fingers right now. But if you will contact our office, area code (612) 296-9587, we can provide you with that information that you need in relation to the Hispanic Education Program. And some of the background information on learning English and English as a second language programs.

DAN OLSON: All right, another caller with a question. And it's your turn. Go ahead.

SPEAKER 15: Hi. I just have a clarification on the de colores bumper sticker thing that a caller just called in recently. There are some bumper stickers around town. And it is for the [? Crassile ?] community, which does mean of many colors, but it is a Christian beacon that people go on, and their little sign is de colores.

DAN OLSON: So there are two de colores version bumper stickers. How do we know which is which, Jose? We don't, do we?

JOSE TREJO: No, we don't. They mean the same thing, yes.

DAN OLSON: We have to take it on faith, I guess, don't we? Back to the telephone and a question. Yours, please.

SPEAKER 16: Good afternoon. Mr. Trejo, I would like to know what opportunities and rights do Latin American adopted children have in this country? And second, how can adoptive parents help their children to keep their cultural heritage? Thank you.

JOSE TREJO: In Minnesota, we have developed-- we have passed a Minority Heritage Preservation Act. This act provides for the maintenance of culture and language by adopted children from Latin American countries, Black, and American Indian children. The State of Legislature felt the importance of the need to maintain these cultures and these traditions in adopted children, particularly, if they come from other countries or are Native American, or are Black.

The second thing that is here is that there are programs throughout the United States and also in Minnesota that will assist parents. For example, Children's Home Society in Saint Paul has a program that will assist parents in learning about how to maintain the culture, the language, and the traditions of their adopted children. There is a parents group in Minnesota also that has adopted Latin American children.

DAN OLSON: We have one time-- one caller left for a question for our guest, Jose Trejo. And it's your turn. Go ahead.

SPEAKER 17: All right. I want to comment in two things. First, Mr. Trejo, said that there are more opportunities for the migrants-- for the people that want to leave the migrant jobs, and there are more opportunities around the cities. And I wonder why there are not the same opportunity? I'm calling from Moorhead. And the second thing that I want to comment is about the people that is asking why still this controversy that the Europeans that came, they have to learn the Spanish language, the English language, and the Hispanic continue to put so much emphasis in Spanish.

And I want to comment about this last thing. It has past almost a century since the Europeans came. And now, you have to read the sign of the times. The Latin American countries are the third world right now, so they are not going to be the third world all their life. They are economists that the English people have to deal with in economic matters.

And so that's why it's important. They have-- they're going to make business with the Latin American country very soon. And the other thing is that there are many, many Americans, they go to live after the retirement to Mexico. So it's important for them to learn the Spanish language.

DAN OLSON: Any reaction, Jose, to those points?

JOSE TREJO: The first point is that there are more opportunities in the Twin Cities primarily because the economic base is greater. And also, the service-- the service provision base is greater. There are programs in Moorhead, Minnesota where you're calling from that are very good programs. The County and the Minnesota American Council, and the University of Minnesota do have programs there. What I'm referring to is basically there are more opportunities simply because we have a broader economic base, and also, we have a broader service provider programs.

DAN OLSON: All right. I guess we have time for still one more question. And it's your turn. Go ahead.

SPEAKER 18: OK. I'm a Spanish speaker from South America. I love and appreciate my cultural heritage, as I do with American respectively. I feel very sorry for people who think they are the best for the fact of being born in this country. I do speak English, German, and Spanish, and also studying in University. How should I tell those people that I am not less than they?

DAN OLSON: A good point at which to end the discussion, I think.

JOSE TREJO: Well, one of the things that is very, very important is that the more languages a person speaks, the more viable they become to this country. And the more we can contribute to this country, Japan, for example, has become a world trader. And one of the main reasons is that the Japanese are very good at picking up other languages.

DAN OLSON: Let's give out some of these telephone numbers, the telephone number for your office, and maybe an address I think too in case people want to try to reach you. First of all, the telephone number that Jose Trejo has given out where his office staff can be reached for the Office of Spanish Speaking Affairs in Minnesota. That area code is (612) 296-9587. You indicated you do have a directory of services and programs that you will send out. How about a mailing address for that office?

JOSE TREJO: Our mailing address is 506 Rice Street Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55103.

DAN OLSON: 506 Rice Street, Saint Paul. I missed the zip code. 55--


DAN OLSON: 103. Very good. And we thank you for dropping by and taking all the calls and questions. And also, thanks to our telephone callers for their conversation and commentary too.

Probably not the first city you think of, but there was a riot of sorts in Saint Cloud over the weekend. And today on NPR Journal, we'll have a report on what happened. Also, [? Block E ?] has finally met its Waterloo. And we'll have that story. We invite you to tune in, 5 o'clock on most of these stations, 5:30 on our news stations.

A reminder that Midday on Monday is made possible with the financial assistance of television station, KXLI, KXLT, serving Central Minnesota and Rochester on UHF Channel 41. And Minnesota's Public Radio's coverage of rural issues is made possible by a major grant from the Blandin Foundation. Tomorrow, during the noon hour on midday we'll hear live coverage of a National Press Club luncheon with NASA administrator, James Fletcher. And certain to be the topic during that Press Club will be the ambitious space shuttle program that NASA has embarked upon with their first successful launch here in quite a time.

And also, a bit of weather information for our region, the shower activity that had been reported across portions of southern and eastern Minnesota, apparently, continues. Although the sky is expected to clear by tonight, because a high pressure system is building into Minnesota tonight, the sky will gradually clear from the west to the north. Temperatures under a partly cloudy sky tonight are expected to be into the 20s and 30s. So it will be cool.

That's Midday for today. Thanks to Technical Directors, Patty Ray Rudolph and David Schliep. I'm Dan Olson. And a reminder that the rebroadcast of Midday for our KNSR listeners will not occur because there will be live coverage for our KSNR listeners of a speech by Anne Krueger from Saint John's University on the topic, Debt and Poverty in Developing Nations. This is KSJN 1330 Minneapolis Saint Paul, and KNSR FM 88.9 Collegeville, Saint Cloud at 1 o'clock.


BETH FRIEND: Hi, I'm Beth Friend. And this is Takeout. Today, meet the world's foremost spokesperson for jazz, pianist and composer, Billy Taylor. You'll also hear from anthropologist and author, Jack Weatherford, about his new book, Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World. So it's jazz, anthropology, and Dr. Culture, and the Lazy Woman, today on Takeout.


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