SeriesLIVE

Alex Nogales

Immigrant Archive Project
Alex Nogales, former President of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, candidly shares insights into his early life, reflecting on the challenges his family confronted due to racism. He delves into the current landscape of the U.S. Hispanic market and articulates how the power of storytelling can serve as a positive catalyst for societal change.
Show transcript
00:00
We are the descendants of the many people who came to this nation
00:05
and made it what it is to be a great nation with great opportunities
00:09
but you gotta fight for it.
00:16
Let's begin the way we do with everyone with your name and nationality
00:21
Sure, Alex Nogales.
00:22
Um I am Mexican American and more specifically Chicano, a
00:29
pleasure to have you with us.
00:30
Thank you.
00:30
Um Tell me a little bit about your, your childhood.
00:35
Well, I am the child of immigrants.
00:37
We came here, my parents came here after the 1910 revolution
00:41
in Mexico and uh people were getting killed right and left
00:46
in Mexico.
00:47
Uh My grandmother picked up her two sons and she came north
00:53
My grandmother, maternal grandmother, the other side of
00:57
the family.
00:58
Uh they had to flee in the night because her father and uncle
01:04
were very active in the revolution and they were going to get
01:09
killed the following day.
01:10
They got word of it.
01:11
So they in the middle of the night left everything and went
01:14
north, worked in the mines.
01:16
They went to Brawley California.
01:18
That was a little town in the Imperial Valley, right on the
01:21
border that attracted a lot of the refugees.
01:26
You know, and it was a very beautiful little town at that time
01:30
and there was, uh, because it was an intellectual type of group
01:34
that had come over.
01:35
Not only that but also that, um, they had their own, their own
01:40
pharmacies, they had their own theater, they have poetry
01:43
readings.
01:44
They had all these things.
01:46
Now, doesn't mean, as I said before that everybody was well
01:49
educated.
01:49
Ok.
01:50
Um, my mother had a one first grade education.
01:54
My father a third grade education, but they were both um very
01:58
determined people.
02:00
So they have four Children, two and 22 boys, two girls and all
02:05
four of us graduated from a major university.
02:08
And that happened in one generation and it was through their
02:12
prodding, it was through their inspiration and through their
02:16
push and pull.
02:17
My mother was a general.
02:19
I mean, this woman commanded the, you know, the, the troops
02:22
and she told us how we were gonna do this.
02:24
We'd be out of the fields, picking the fruits of season, up
02:27
and down the state of California.
02:28
And she would say to us, if you wanna go home early after picking
02:32
grapes day, we're gonna have to go all the way out there, which
02:35
is about a quarter of a mile.
02:36
So hurry up because we gotta pick all those grapes and then
02:40
we can go home and it would be about 12 o'clock in the afternoon
02:43
We would start a day break because by 12 in the afternoon it
02:47
was too hot.
02:48
You had to get out of the sun.
02:50
So that's my early childhood.
02:53
We used to, as I said before, pick the fruits of season.
02:56
And there were signs up and down the state of California that
03:00
said no Mexicans or dogs allowed.
03:01
And that's the way it was and it hurt and you try not to look at
03:05
them, you know, not consciously because they were there.
03:09
They were all all over the state of California, but subconsciously
03:13
you know, they were there.
03:14
You could see them.
03:15
I remember when Disneyland first opened.
03:18
Um I don't recall exactly how old I was maybe 13, 14, something
03:23
like that.
03:24
And my dad had limited English uh language skills and we were
03:29
meeting his cousins who were coming in from New York.
03:33
They had driven across country and his cousins were kind of
03:36
an interesting uh batch.
03:38
The father was Mexican and the mother was a German war bride
03:44
OK.
03:45
And so they were very like collected, they only spoke English
03:48
They were very ingrained into the culture.
03:51
Well, we weren't, my dad was a little bit darker, your coloration
03:54
approximately maybe a little bit darker.
03:56
Um My mother was a little bit lighter, but nevertheless, I
03:59
mean, just to see us, we look Mexican.
04:02
So we went um to this particular hotel where, you know, it was
04:06
understood that's where we were going to meet and the fellow
04:10
refused to, to rent to us, refused to give us um a hotel room
04:15
because we were Mexican and it wasn't like he hinted at it.
04:18
He just directly said this to my father.
04:21
It was my father and I that were inside that room.
04:25
And you can't imagine the humiliation that I felt.
04:29
And the really is well towards my father because he wasn't
04:34
protecting us.
04:35
You know what I mean?
04:35
He had limited English language skills and he couldn't quite
04:39
express himself and this guy was just cut it dry.
04:42
No, I don't run to Mexicans and I remember how that felt man
04:47
and it felt terrible.
04:48
We were humiliated.
04:50
It was just horrible.
04:52
My uncle came in after about two hours of us waiting outside
04:56
OK?
04:57
And he went inside and he said, hey, these are family.
05:00
They're nice people.
05:01
They're, yes, they're Mexican, but they're good people that
05:03
I don't know how he did it, but he convinced them and they gave
05:06
us a room for the night.
05:07
But you know, those things that stay with you that you never
05:09
forget.
05:10
Those were things that really hurt for years and years.
05:15
It marginalizes you in one fashion or another.
05:18
You, you feel different, you feel that you're not good enough
05:21
especially with all the signs that said no, Mexicans or dogs
05:24
allowed.
05:25
And also when you were, you know, going to schools, I mean,
05:28
we would be out of Calexico, our hometown, our home base for
05:32
six months at a time and we would attend about three or four
05:36
different school districts because we'd be on the road picking
05:39
first of all grapes in the, go up to Gilroy for plums.
05:43
And then we cut across the central valley here in California
05:47
and we would do tomatoes and then we go to Modesto up north a
05:50
little bit for more grapes or tomatoes.
05:52
So you'd be moving around and the teachers very nice people
05:58
Um But they were segregated in the school place.
06:01
The Mexicans were over here.
06:03
You know, there was only about four or five of us in that particular
06:06
grade I remember and the, and the angle kids over there.
06:09
So you noticed it, you felt it, but it was never spoken out loud
06:15
Do you know what I mean?
06:16
My father felt it more than my mother because my mother was
06:20
just a, you know, uh we're good enough for anybody type of thing
06:24
But she was a general and my dad was a sensitive visionary type
06:27
you know, sensitive um a visionary that was thinking ahead
06:33
and he always felt that the equalizer was going to be education
06:37
I mean, he just said it, he meant it and that's the way it was
06:41
Now.
06:42
We'd be out in the field.
06:43
Raza can be horrible.
06:44
You know, here's my dad, an idealist, a missionary, talking
06:48
about education and how we needed to get out of the fields.
06:51
To pursue a better life and his peers that were out there in
06:55
the fields with us, with my, that they would, uh, get on his
06:59
case.
07:00
And I wanted my dad who was a tall Mexican, he was 5 11, you know
07:03
and all these little short Mexicans 5657, you know, they
07:07
they give him a hard time.
07:08
I wanted my dad to go and beat the shit out of these guys.
07:11
You know, my dad wouldn't do it.
07:12
He'd take the high road.
07:14
I would get so pissed at my dad because he would do that.
07:17
So when I went into the series, I was 18, almost 19 years of age
07:20
I used to fight about once a week, minimum of once a week for
07:26
a good year and a half.
07:27
And, you know, it was really, um, a reaction to what my father
07:32
didn't do.
07:32
So, I mean, if you looked at me cross eyed, I'd be on your case
07:36
you know.
07:36
And when you were young, I was in the infantry and there was
07:39
a lot of, you know, adrenaline pumping at all times.
07:42
So I used to fight all the time and then I came back and I started
07:46
seeing my father in a different light as this gentle.
07:49
He was a real gentle man, you know, as a visionary, someone
07:54
that had understandings that others did not have I started
08:00
appreciating it and look what has happened.
08:03
I've gone full circle in more ways than one.
08:05
I started here with my father being pissed or being pissed
08:09
at my father, I went full circle and in many ways, I have become
08:12
my father with the skills of education to be able to do what
08:17
he was not able to do, but dreamt of doing.
08:22
You realize it took a lot more courage to do what he did.
08:25
No, the high route oftentimes requires a lot more courage
08:30
I think.
08:31
Yeah, but it wasn't just courage.
08:33
It was also um being afraid of consequences.
08:37
You know, um if you get into a fight, you do one of two things
08:41
you pull your punches or you go all the way I go all the way my
08:45
father would never go all the way he would pull his punches
08:47
He would not really want to hurt the other person or have the
08:52
other person hurt him.
08:53
So there was a little bit of that to me on his part.
08:57
And yes, the high road.
08:58
Yes.
09:01
Sometimes the high road is necessary.
09:04
But in different settings, do you know what I mean?
09:07
Sometimes you just have to fight, be it physical, be it psychological
09:12
be it emotional, be it professional.
09:14
You have to fight, you've incorporated that lesson into your
09:19
professional life.
09:20
I take it every part of it, every part of it.
09:25
Um My father had the feeling therefore for our community to
09:34
go forward, we needed to be as prepared than we had to rise above
09:46
the common, the pedestrian, we had to be better in every sense
09:53
of the world, in terms of our jobs, in terms of our families
09:59
in terms of our culture, in terms of everything he was right
10:05
We needed to be better because opportunities were not going
10:07
to be extended just because, you know, we had to be better and
10:12
prove ourselves that we were better all of the time.
10:15
And that's what I've done all my life and I'm sure you have done
10:18
the same thing.
10:20
So in answer to your question, yeah, we had to be better.
10:25
We had to fight and we had to with our words with our fist.
10:31
If we needed to, we needed to protest.
10:34
We couldn't be the Mexicans of old who, when they were challenged
10:38
they would stand there with their hats in their hands and
10:42
be paralyzed.
10:43
And my father had to do that.
10:46
I remember that he had to do that.
10:49
So I am so sorry that he had to do that because he was such a good
10:54
man.
10:55
But you know, there is no other way.
10:57
If he wanted the job, he had to take all the shit and I don't have
11:03
to do that and I won't do it.
11:06
That leads me to my next question as the educated son of immigrants
11:14
who has all the advantages now that he doesn't.
11:18
Mhm Do I know the answer to this question?
11:21
You'll forgive me?
11:22
But I just have to ask it.
11:23
Do you feel a certain responsibility?
11:26
Now, given the opportunity you've been given to look out for
11:31
that humble Mexican immigrant who has no voice.
11:37
That's what I do day in and day out.
11:40
It is a huge responsibility and I embrace it and I embrace it
11:44
because I can do it.
11:46
I embrace it because I do it every day.
11:48
And it gives me incredible satisfaction to be able to do what
11:52
my father only dreamt about.
11:55
And I don't think about it.
11:56
You know, my father, you know, but it gives me great pleasure
12:00
to have the skills to be able to change the equation.
12:05
To have our people pursue their dreams in front or back end
12:09
camera to be able to achieve because they were granted the
12:13
the opportunity.
12:15
It is about opportunity.
12:16
You know, when Latinos complain, they give us another training
12:18
program.
12:20
I am so tired of training training programs.
12:22
It's not about training programs.
12:23
It's about actually offering the job and that's what I like
12:28
to do.
12:29
I go through all the nonsense and I want the job.
12:33
I want the job for all those kids who are just as capable as anybody
12:37
else's kids.
12:41
Going back to something you mentioned earlier, seeing signs
12:45
that read no, no dogs or Mexicans being an immigrant.
12:49
I'm here in a, in a, in a foreign land.
12:52
So whenever I feel insulted or attacked, I'm being attacked
12:57
by somebody else, but you were born here.
12:59
You're American.
13:02
How did that make you feel?
13:04
Versus the way it made your father feel because your father
13:06
wasn't American.
13:08
You are.
13:09
But he had a, a sense of belonging though, you know, he, he saw
13:14
or felt that he belonged here.
13:17
And with me, of course, it's even more magnified.
13:20
I mean, I went to school here.
13:22
I was raised here.
13:24
I absorbed the culture here.
13:27
It is not Mexico, it is not South America.
13:30
It's here.
13:31
Now, I'm blessed as you are blessed by being able to also relate
13:35
to another culture, to relate to another language and speak
13:38
it fluently.
13:40
But I'm here and nobody's gonna take that away from us.
13:44
We're here and we're here to stay.
13:45
We're not going back to Mexico or anywhere else or all the Racists
13:49
and bigots would like us to do.
13:51
No, we're here.
13:52
We're part of this land.
13:54
And even though the founders were white Thomas Jefferson
13:58
George Washington, all of these guys doesn't matter, you
14:01
know, they gave us a network with which to work with.
14:07
And we are the descendants of the many people who came to this
14:11
nation and made it what it is to be a great nation with great
14:15
opportunities, but you gotta fight for it.
14:20
So I don't feel, you know, I belong somewhere else.
14:23
I'm here.
14:24
I belong here, you know, and this democracy is the best in the
14:29
world and I'm gonna help it get even better when you look back
14:35
to that sign.
14:37
Yeah.
14:38
What's the modern day version of that sign?
14:43
There are so many of those signs around.
14:45
You turn on the radio and you have all these right wing commentators
14:50
day in day out castigating the Latino community for everything
14:55
that is wrong with America.
14:57
A few years ago, we had this immigration push.
14:59
You will remember that.
15:01
And we had the huge demonstration and we also had the opposition
15:05
come in and they were shrill and they were ugly and they wanted
15:09
us out.
15:10
Ok.
15:12
The same thing even when more shrillness is happening right
15:16
now.
15:17
Now you have a Republican party that has gone completely to
15:21
the right.
15:22
They won't work on immigration reform, comprehensive immigration
15:27
reform because it is against their party's wishes because
15:32
they are graveling to an extreme right wing that is more racist
15:37
and bigoted than anything we've seen in this nation in years
15:41
in generations.
15:42
It hasn't been since mccarthy and everything that he brought
15:47
to this nation, the confusion, the dissension, the suspicion
15:53
the wanting to toss anybody out who didn't agree with him
15:58
and his point of view.
15:59
And that's what we have right now.
16:00
But you know, whenever there is chaos as there is right now
16:05
there's also a great opportunity and we must never lose sight
16:09
of that because just as those people are coming after us and
16:13
so forth, there's always going to be the openings where we
16:17
can get in where we can do better, where we can raise our people
16:21
up because there's always gonna be white people, black people
16:25
and other people that will see this for what it is and become
16:29
even more sympathetic and supportive of our position.
16:33
And that's beginning to happen.
16:35
More people, our conscience are saying precisely that.
16:39
This is nonsense.
16:40
This is crazy.
16:40
Why are we doing this?
16:42
You know, the same thing happened with mccarthy at a certain
16:46
point.
16:46
A very famous individual said, sir, aren't you ashamed of
16:52
yourself?
16:53
And that is what people are beginning to say, aren't you ashamed
16:57
of yourself?
16:58
We're Americans all and you're, you're stooping to that terrible
17:03
position.
17:06
Yeah.
17:07
And it isn't, you know, this view that emanated from radio
17:13
at the beginning went into television and now the politicians
17:17
have it.
17:17
I mean, look at Arizona 10 70.
17:20
That law is so biased.
17:22
It is so discriminatory.
17:24
It's not even funny and I submit to you that didn't just happen
17:29
It happened because of the perception of the Latino in this
17:33
country.
17:34
And that perception was formed by media.
17:36
It wasn't formed by this little over here who was teaching
17:40
school.
17:40
It wasn't formed there.
17:42
It was formed by all those pundits, right wing pundits who
17:46
decided that the undocumented were draining this country
17:50
of its resources and its democracy and everything else that
17:54
we were criminals, all of us and that we shouldn't be here.
17:59
Now, who the hell can tell an undocumented individual from
18:02
an uh documented one.
18:05
So look at what has happened.
18:06
Crimes against Latinos have risen by 40% by, from the year
18:11
2003 and 2007.
18:14
Those numbers have exceeded in the last several years.
18:18
Anecdotally.
18:19
We know that more people have gotten hurt, assaulted, they
18:23
have gotten robbed and killed.
18:26
And it is by nice white kids who are listening to their elders
18:30
who are listening to the tube saying that these people are
18:34
intruders into our way of life that they're easy money.
18:39
They call it Mexican shopping, they go Mexican shopping against
18:44
those individuals that they think are undocumented.
18:47
Ok?
18:47
They can't defend themselves.
18:49
Number one, number two, they will not go to the authorities
18:52
to complain because they're afraid of being deported back
18:56
into their countries of origin.
18:58
So you have these young kids banding like animals, ok?
19:01
Six and seven at a time going up to one or even two, assaulting
19:07
them and sometimes killing them.
19:10
That's what is happening in this country and it is happening
19:13
because media, our media allowed it to happen.
19:17
People that owned those media outlets permitted it because
19:22
it was higher earnings because they had a loyal core of listeners
19:28
This is what has happened here.
19:32
So what responsibility do you feel the media has in offering
19:37
a counter to that message?
19:39
You know, they must do what is called balanced reporting,
19:43
balanced interviews if you're gonna have the extreme, right
19:46
Wing on your show have the other side as well.
19:50
And if they're known to be racist as many of these organizations
19:54
are, say that that's what they are or that, that is what legitimate
20:00
other groups have called them because of the evidence.
20:04
I mean, if you're out in Kentucky or wherever, with a white
20:08
sheep burning crosses and you belong to this organization
20:12
let's call it what it is.
20:13
Let's not make out that there's nice white citizens who, you
20:17
know, believe in country and have joined the army and, and
20:21
killed the people, the enemies of the state and whatever,
20:24
let's call them what they are because we also shed our blood
20:28
Latinos have gone into the armed forces from the very beginning
20:32
in huge numbers and because of lack of education and so forth
20:36
we landed in the infantry, you know, and we were the ones in
20:40
the front lines getting killed during World War two, Korea
20:43
Vietnam and now in the Middle East, how do you think a project
20:53
like this one can be used to balance the conversation?
20:59
You know, this is a nation of immigrants.
21:03
The Irish were immigrants, the pilgrims themselves were
21:08
immigrants.
21:10
You had this incredible number of immigrants coming in at
21:15
different times in our history.
21:18
You had the Irish, like I said, you had the Jews, you had the
21:22
Italians, you had all these groups coming in and they all brought
21:29
these immigrant stories.
21:30
And when you listen to them, they're the same stories as we
21:34
have identical.
21:36
They came for the same reasons, a better life, a better way
21:41
of supporting their families of giving them an education
21:45
that they couldn't do in their own countries.
21:47
OK.
21:48
So we have a common experience when people hear the experiences
21:54
that we have, they're not so far removed from the roots of their
21:59
own immigrant experience through their fathers or grandfathers
22:03
where they will not relate, they relate, they see the same
22:06
humanity, the same dreams and aspirations.
22:10
Of course they do.
22:11
And when they see something that is positive that is not hitting
22:14
at the system that is not doing other than telling our story
22:19
that parallels theirs, they become sympathetic.
22:23
They see us as more human, more like them with the same values
22:29
with the same aspiration and dreams.
22:31
So once you have something as positive as all that, of course
22:36
they're going to accept you.
22:38
Do you remember when we were in school?
22:40
Um I remember this very well, I'd have these white friends
22:45
who were very good to me and I would say, yeah, but these other
22:49
kids over here, they're, they're also, you know, they're
22:52
they're also good kids.
22:53
They're like, they're Mexican too say yeah, but you're not
22:55
like them, you know, you're not like them.
23:00
How can I not be like them?
23:02
We went, we grew up together, we had the same playmates, we
23:06
played the same things and thought the same ways but for whatever
23:10
the reason, maybe I was better looking or dress better, who
23:13
knows?
23:14
I was good friends with them but I was not like them when, in
23:18
fact I was exactly them.
23:20
You know, so when you are like them in experience in your history
23:27
you're accepted.
23:29
That's so true.
23:31
That is so, so true.
23:33
That is so true when they view you as one of them as opposed to
23:37
to the other, to the other 111 question I struggle with all
23:43
the time.
23:43
You know, you see our which you so eloquently stated, what
23:47
we're going through is just history repeating itself.
23:50
You know, the original signs that predated, the ones you saw
23:54
in windows throughout New York read Nina.
23:56
No, Irish need apply.
23:59
The largest mass lynching in the history of the country were
24:03
18 Italian immigrants in New Orleans.
24:06
Um So it's like wave after wave meets this amazing resistance
24:10
And the question I struggle with is at what point do the sons
24:14
and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of immigrants
24:17
become the oppressors of immigrants?
24:22
When do they lose that touch with humanity?
24:26
I think when the stories of their immigrant parents stop being
24:29
told at the dinner table when they're more influenced by outside
24:36
factors than their families, when they start hearing their
24:40
peers who are bigoted, prejudicial, when they start hearing
24:46
the news and it disposes them to a certain point of view when
24:51
they go to movies and bring back the crap that we sometimes
24:56
see that's when it starts when they get away from that family
25:00
unit and what it brought because how can you be against people
25:07
who went through the same thing as your parents, grandparents
25:10
or great grandparents?
25:12
And it happens and it happens to every group.
25:14
OK?
25:14
It isn't just limited to whites.
25:16
It's also blacks.
25:18
It is also browns, Latinos who within one or two or three generations
25:24
start being prejudicial against the new immigrant Latino
25:28
who just came in last week.
25:30
You know, the one who doesn't know how to, how to drive the one
25:34
who cuts you off all the time.
25:35
The one that has a big thick, you see the stereotypes, they
25:39
stop believing the stereotypes that people are like that
25:43
that they're not like you hold the same principles, the same
25:46
values or want the same thing as you want the moment they become
25:51
others.
25:52
That's when it gets bad.
25:57
That's so true.
26:02
What are you the proudest of today?
26:11
The father to my girls.
26:12
I have four girls and that gives me a great deal of pride, the
26:17
work that I do.
26:18
Um Yes, of course, it does.
26:21
It gives me great satisfaction.
26:23
The, the victories that we have converted to have our people
26:29
get ahead.
26:31
You know, the leverage that we've been able to gain on this
26:35
or that negotiation that is gonna open doors for others to
26:40
have the opportunities that we didn't have that I personally
26:44
did not have.
26:45
So it is, I, I put myself in there.
26:47
OK?
26:48
The opportunities that were not offered to me and to my generation
26:54
I went to UCL, a film school.
26:56
There was about 15 Latinos, Chicanos.
26:58
The majority of us, they were in film school.
27:01
At the same time, only two of us stayed in the business for more
27:05
than two years.
27:06
Everybody else had to go look for a job and get a job at the gas
27:10
company, Southern California Edison, one of the banks, nothing
27:15
wrong with those jobs.
27:16
OK?
27:16
The problem is that, that's not what they wanted, that's not
27:19
what they dreamt about.
27:20
I mean, I started dreaming about being in telecommunications
27:25
when I was four or five.
27:26
I saw myself first of all as a Mexican with the big, you know
27:30
that's the way I saw myself.
27:32
Well, that wasn't gonna be, that was kind of unrealistic.
27:35
OK.
27:35
So I became a writer and then later I became a producer.
27:40
But if you don't have the opportunity to even compete, you
27:45
you're done, you know, your dreams have been cut off and we
27:50
become our dreams.
27:52
We dream at first before we become, we want to be this kind of
27:58
a man.
27:59
We want to be this kind of a professional.
28:01
We dream it and once we dream it, we can go forward, we can start
28:07
doing those things that are necessary to get to where our dream
28:11
is.
28:13
All these kids had those dreams and they were good.
28:15
The vast majority of those kids were really good, but they
28:19
were never offered the opportunity.
28:22
They didn't know where to go, how to network, you know, basic
28:25
things that get you ahead.
28:27
They didn't know how to do and nobody was there to help them
28:30
So I love mentoring.
28:32
I love mentoring because when I see the talent, I wanna make
28:36
sure that that talent has every exposure that that talent
28:39
is before casting directors, before directors who want to
28:44
mentor others.
28:45
I'm good at facilitating that, putting people together with
28:49
other people so that they can reach out for their dreams.
28:53
I love it.
28:55
If you could offer advice to uh to an immigrant just coming
29:00
into the country today, what what would you say?
29:06
You know, many immigrants come and they feel I'm only gonna
29:09
work here for three years and then I'm gonna go back to Mexico
29:14
I'm just taking that as an example because it's such a wonderful
29:17
life over there.
29:18
They come 30 years past and they're still working.
29:22
OK?
29:25
If you see that at a certain point, you're gonna stay here,
29:28
you have to integrate into the culture of this country.
29:31
You live here, you're not living in Mexico anymore.
29:34
Your Children are being born here, not in Mexico, you have
29:39
to integrate as quickly as you can into this society.
29:43
Other than that, you're going to be regulated to the lower
29:47
paying jobs to a lower status and that cannot be, you've gotta
29:53
be reaching for more and for more and for more because your
29:57
Children will follow you.
29:59
If you don't offer them that they'll stay down at the bottom
30:04
And now conversely, if you can speak to middle America directly
30:09
who may not have contact with any immigrants on a daily basis
30:14
what would you like them to know about us?
30:18
Well, I think everybody knows that we're very hard working
30:21
OK, that we do the job that nobody else wants to do.
30:24
Who wants to go out to the fields and break their asses, you
30:28
know, picking fruit of season.
30:29
Nobody, nobody, the farmers are suffering because they don't
30:33
have enough help out there.
30:34
Construction industry the same way.
30:36
Many of time, they can't get the people with the training,
30:39
with the expertise and so forth.
30:42
We're hard working.
30:43
I think a lot of people understand and know that but many of
30:48
them feel that we're taking away their jobs in some cases.
30:52
Perhaps we are, but the majority of us are doing the work that
30:56
they don't wanna do.
30:58
You speak to the farmers and they will tell you exactly that
31:01
I can't get any Americans, any non Latino Americans to do this
31:06
job.
31:07
I think we, we need for the majority to know that we are like
31:13
them, that we have the same dreams, the same aspirations that
31:19
we want to support our families, that we want to have a better
31:22
life as they had a better life that we don't want to be at the
31:26
bottom all the time that we want to get educated, that we want
31:31
to have the best that we can possibly do worked for.
31:37
That's what my family did.
31:39
I mean, a mother with a first grade education, a father with
31:42
a third grade education.
31:44
And in one generation, four of us go to a major university and
31:49
we're all professionals.
31:50
I have two sisters who are teachers, a brother who is an attorney
31:54
a very wealthy attorney.
31:56
OK.
31:58
And then I who don't make the money, but I get great satisfaction
32:03
in what I do.
32:04
And that is success as well.
32:08
There's a lot that the country can learn from us isn't there
32:12
Of course, we're, we're continuing the work ethic that every
32:19
immigrant that came to this country had.
32:23
We're also bringing another piece of culture.
32:27
It isn't just tacos and burritos.
32:30
We're showing them something else.
32:32
The beauty of our art, of our dance, of our music, of our drama
32:37
a language that is necessary for business that this country
32:43
is reluctant to embrace any language, not just Spanish, but
32:48
look, we're in North America.
32:50
There's more people in central and South America than there
32:53
are here and tell me, are we not good business for these folks
32:58
Of course, we are.
32:59
So how are you gonna get that business if you don't speak the
33:02
language?
33:02
If you don't understand the culture.
33:04
If you can't manage to get the right contact, you've got to
33:10
know another language.
33:11
The smartest people that I know that are doing business internationally
33:15
Are those that speak the language or have someone right there
33:18
with them at a very high position that understands the culture
33:23
the language and is right there representing his interests
33:28
So what do we bring?
33:31
We bring also another way of looking at the world.
33:35
It isn't as materialistic as what we find here.
33:39
It is simpler in many ways.
33:43
It is not as complex.
33:45
There is right and there is wrong and it doesn't sound like
33:51
a lot of people here don't know that many people here that are
33:55
non Latino, you know, follow the same max and the, the same
34:00
idea.
34:01
But this is a very fast paced culture and they forget it sometimes
34:06
and make mistakes that they should never make because it compromises
34:10
their integrity.
34:12
So we bring this other thing as well.
34:15
Um a cleaner, more moral perhaps way of looking at life.
34:21
Do we have problems?
34:22
Of course, we have problems.
34:24
But what do we bring?
34:25
We bring substantial, substantial things that you can measure
34:30
to this country?
34:31
A work ethic, another language, another culture, another
34:35
way of looking at life.
34:39
And those are valuable lessons particularly now as we're
34:42
going through a very tough economic moment in our history
34:45
I feel like we may not have gotten to this point.
34:49
Had more of the sort of immigrant mentality, permeated society
34:56
no less, going out on a limb and buying homes with no money down
35:01
and overextending yourself and maxing out your credit cards
35:04
instead of the, the blocking and tackling.
35:06
Let's educate our kids, let's have savings in the bank and
35:09
you know, let's live with our feet firmly on the ground, which
35:12
is what I think that immigrant sort of, you know, ethic is all
35:16
about, you know, the immigrant is always going to be more conservative
35:20
more real and, and as a consequence of that, they're not the
35:25
ones that are going down the drain, the ones going down the
35:28
drain is, and I did this too.
35:30
Ok, where I maxed out cards has no rhyme and no reason how can
35:35
you do that and still be firm.
35:37
I was fortunate that other things occurred that I, you know
35:40
was able to manage the whole situation.
35:43
But yes, we come with a more liberal free wheeling, you know
35:49
uh, spending money type of attitude.
35:52
The immigrant is much more conservative.
35:54
He says, ok, we're gonna buy a home, it's gonna cost us this
35:58
and they want 10%.
36:00
I'm gonna give them 20%.
36:02
So that in fact, my payment is not as high.
36:07
Look at the way they think my grandmother was that way.
36:11
She was a, and my grandmother, when my grandfather died, she
36:15
became the matriarch of the family.
36:18
You know, it's often thought that we are patriotic or, uh,
36:22
um patriarchal society, maybe to a degree we are OK.
36:29
But the fact of the matter is, it is a women that have run their
36:33
families.
36:34
It is a women that have brought order out of chaos.
36:37
The women that have nurtured their Children, the women who
36:41
are general, you know, the forces to make you grow up.
36:44
My grandmother became a matri art and everybody depended
36:48
upon her.
36:49
She was a, so people used to pay her with chickens and eggs and
36:53
bull balls, you know, and, and she would loan money to her sons
36:59
She would loan money to her sons who couldn't quite meet all
37:02
their financial obligations.
37:05
So she was conservative with her money.
37:08
She didn't buy herself new clothes.
37:10
She was content in being this helpful woman who helped the
37:18
families around her.
37:20
Amazing, you know, she would give them herbs when they were
37:25
ill.
37:25
She would uh fix their bones when they broke a leg or sprained
37:30
their ankles.
37:31
She did all she knew how to do all of these things.
37:34
So she was a servant in many ways of her community and was rewarded
37:40
because I am rewarded by that community and being called Mr
37:44
Nogales as my grandmother was lola, you know, a title that
37:50
is not easily given to anyone.
37:54
So she did what she had to do to have her family survive, had
38:02
17 Children of which seven only survive because of plagues
38:07
because of different reasons that occurred in Mexico seven
38:11
survived into adulthood.
38:13
And, you know, a parent never stops being a parent.
38:16
I mean, our Children may be 30 or 40 or even 50 we're still the
38:20
parent certain point that dynamic switches, you know, the
38:24
parent becomes a child and vice versa.
38:26
But as long as that parent is still here, you know, they can
38:31
still general their forces their Children.
38:37
At what point did I transition from being a producer, being
38:42
part of the entertainment industry um to doing what I do, it
38:49
became very evident where Latinos and other people of color
38:54
fit into this whole thing of entertainment.
38:57
And that was that we didn't fit in all that well, that it was
39:01
rare for a person of color to be given the opportunity to direct
39:06
to write, to star and so forth to be a producer.
39:11
Anything.
39:14
And because of what my experience was growing up, I was very
39:19
sensitive to it.
39:21
You know, I saw who got the jobs and the reasons why they got
39:25
the jobs and it had very little to do with work ethic with how
39:29
hard you work, had very little to do with how talented you were
39:32
It had more to do with, were you friends with this guy over here
39:37
And they were all connected?
39:38
It was really interesting.
39:39
They were all connected in one way or another.
39:41
They knew each other from childhood or they went to the same
39:44
school.
39:44
Sometimes they even dated the same girls, you know, it was
39:47
like that.
39:48
So there was a commonality that they had, television is a do
39:53
or die type of industry.
39:55
In other words, you get successful by the overnights every
39:59
night, the overnights come out and it tells you what your show
40:03
was rated at.
40:05
So if your ratings were not good, I mean, you were out, your
40:10
ratings were good, you know, you were on top of the world.
40:15
So you brought in people that thought as you did, you brought
40:18
in people that black was black, white was white.
40:21
Well, for us as a Latino and we have another language and another
40:25
culture, you know, sometimes we pick the gray but gray was
40:28
never good enough because these guys wanted to act in absolute
40:31
terms that they understood black was black, white was white
40:35
and there was no gray in between.
40:37
So they would say bring me to this and I had to hesitate for one
40:41
second and the hesitation was no good.
40:43
They wanted the thing instantaneous.
40:46
You wanted to communicate that fast and then none of them knew
40:50
Latinos.
40:51
You know what I mean?
40:52
If you're raised in an area where you don't have that are Latinos
40:56
How are you gonna understand them?
40:58
How are you gonna bring them into the business, mentor them
41:01
or whatever if you don't know any, you know.
41:04
So I started seeing all of those things and over a period of
41:09
time, I became disenchanted with the way that society function
41:18
and the opportunity occurred that enough was enough.
41:21
I joined one organization, I became the president of that
41:24
organization and we started opening doors and then this organization
41:29
was born, that was even more militant, more determined that
41:34
had people with resources to really be able to do substantial
41:38
things.
41:39
So I was the vice chair of uh two other individuals with three
41:44
years terms, each one.
41:46
So it was an evolution.
41:49
It wasn't like one day I woke up and said, this is the way I'm
41:53
gonna do this.
41:54
You know, it was a, it was a gradual evolution to where all of
41:59
a sudden this is what I wanted to do more than anything in the
42:02
world.
42:02
I quit television in 1989.
42:05
My wife, a psychologist at that point.
42:08
Well, my ex-wife who was a psychologist still continues to
42:14
be a psychologist.
42:15
Had a wonderful business.
42:17
And, you know, when you are inside of entertainment, you gather
42:21
a lot of skills.
42:21
I knew how to market.
42:23
I knew how to produce.
42:24
I knew how to persuade.
42:25
I knew I knew all those things.
42:27
So I went in and we built a five person office that she had into
42:31
a 50 person office and it wasn't because I was brilliant.
42:36
I just had those skills.
42:37
I knew how to talk to other people.
42:38
I knew how to add, I could see what needed to be done for it to
42:42
be more successful that occurred.
42:45
But in the meantime, I was doing this other work and that was
42:49
more attractive to me.
42:50
So I even put this to one side so I could do this full time.
42:55
So it was an evolution.
42:56
It never, it never happened like that.
42:59
And if you look at the lives of other men that love what they
43:04
do that are successful in what they do, they will tell you the
43:06
same thing.
43:07
It was like one day you woke up and said, oh, you know, it's a
43:11
it's a an evolutionary type of road that you're on a journey
43:16
You know, they talk about a spiritual journey.
43:18
It is a spiritual journey to some degree until all of a sudden
43:21
you realize that this is what you were meant to do that this
43:25
is what you were supposed to do from the very beginning.
43:29
Interesting.
43:32
It's a combination of many experiences, at least, you know
43:36
So when I go into a room with network executives, it's very
43:41
difficult for them to bullshit me into thinking that getting
43:47
this wonderful job as a producer is because they have this
43:51
mysterious element to them that makes them ultra creative
43:56
That's nonsense.
43:57
It's hard work is what it is.
43:59
You know what I mean?
44:00
So when you're inside and you know, all of that and somebody
44:04
tells me that or implies that the Latinos don't have, you know
44:10
and I'm very, very open and frank with my language when I see
44:15
those kinds of things.
44:16
I, you know, I immediately jump all over them.
44:19
It's like the, I don't know any, we, we couldn't find a, a competitive
44:25
um, person that could do this job.
44:28
Well, if you don't have any friends or you don't know any Latinos
44:32
how are you gonna find anybody?
44:38
What has surprised you the most since taking on these responsibilities
44:44
is your one experience that comes to, you know, there came
44:50
a time 10 years ago that I was very disheartened and I was very
44:58
disheartened because the changes that I knew had to come about
45:02
were not coming about locally.
45:06
We had the stations doing what they needed to do, practicing
45:11
diversity in all this form, employment first and foremost
45:14
in programming as well.
45:16
But that we weren't touching the national and I didn't know
45:19
how to get to the national.
45:21
I took meetings with this one or that one, but it wasn't going
45:23
anywhere.
45:25
And then Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times wrote an article
45:29
of how out of the 26 new shows they were debuting in September
45:36
from ABC, NBC CBS and Fox.
45:39
There was not one single person of color in a regular role.
45:44
Now think of it.
45:45
There's like 6 to 8 people in every show multiply that by the
45:50
number of shows, not one person of color, not one black, not
45:55
one Latino, not one Asian Pacific American or Native American
45:59
How, how do you get there.
46:01
Well, tell me if that isn't very biased, if something isn't
46:05
wrong with the system, that article changed everything that
46:09
we knew about show business and diversity.
46:13
Its part the Latino organizations to get together a National
46:16
Council of La Raza headquarters under Raul is, and we decided
46:21
that this was something that we as organizations were gonna
46:25
take on Mami of the NAACP was doing.
46:30
The same thing.
46:32
I got acceptance from everybody that I was gonna call him and
46:36
get a meeting together.
46:37
We got a meeting together with him.
46:39
I brought in our Asian Pacific American allies or Native American
46:43
allies.
46:43
And we decided that these four groups were going to join together
46:48
to change that dynamic short order.
46:52
We had meetings with ABC NBC CBS and Fox.
46:56
And in one year's time, we have memorandums of understanding
46:59
with each one of those networks and each one of those networks
47:03
had initiatives that they had to diversify, not only their
47:07
program but their employment, they had to defer their procurement
47:11
they had to diversify their philanthropy, they had to diversify
47:15
And so the world changed completely.
47:18
Do you know what I mean?
47:21
There was chaos.
47:22
We weren't accepted and out of that chaos, we found the opportunity
47:28
Corporations of America have a responsibility and they have
47:33
a responsibility born not just of it's the right thing to do
47:38
And many a time I hate that answer because the right thing to
47:41
do.
47:41
What does that mean?
47:42
You know, but if they want to grow their business, they have
47:47
to be very smart.
47:49
If you add up the minorities in this country, not all of them
47:52
Asian Pacific Americans, uh Native Americans make only
47:57
a percentage of 1% black Americans and Latinos.
48:01
You got over 33% of the US population being minority stands
48:07
to reason then that these organizations that want to make
48:11
money, they want to have business with all these different
48:15
groups should incorporate us into their employment ranks
48:20
They should spend money to make sure that they're supporting
48:25
us at all times.
48:25
Because why am I going to buy from our RC A?
48:29
If in fact RC A does nothing for our community, you know, it
48:32
just stands to reason.
48:34
Give me something and I'll give you something too.
48:37
So the entertainment industry particularly understands
48:41
this at this point, but they're not moving fast enough.
48:43
They understand that the audience right now the eyeballs
48:47
that are watching television are way beyond the 33% because
48:52
unfortunately, minorities watch more television than we
48:54
should.
48:55
Ok.
48:55
There is 37 39% eyeballs.
48:59
So tell me, I had one guy from NBC, tell all the people out in
49:04
the audience, all of the show runners, the executive producers
49:08
saying if you don't start including diversifying your, your
49:12
uh um your roles, your regular roles.
49:15
If you don't start diversifying your workforce, we're not
49:18
gonna need you.
49:19
We're not gonna need you five years from now because there's
49:22
nothing there that reflects our audience.
49:25
Look how smart that is.
49:26
This guy actually said this to them.
49:28
And we have seen the difference, something like what you are
49:34
doing with this project has the ability to do the same thing
49:39
Corporations need to get behind you.
49:42
So that in fact, we are better accepted and perceived by the
49:46
society as a whole.
49:48
Why?
49:49
Because then we will be their friends.
49:54
You know, if any corporation says we are being presented or
49:58
we are presenting this because it is a very valuable part of
50:05
our business minority that is important to us.
50:09
That's what they're saying.
50:10
You support me is because I'm important to you, you know, so
50:14
this project is important to corporations.
50:18
They want to cultivate the Latino consumer.
50:22
They want to be on the right side of the Latino community with
50:26
something that is positive, something that is tugging at
50:32
the heartstrings of every American in this country because
50:36
we all have an immigrant past.
50:39
You, you see where I'm going with this.
50:41
It is this thing.
50:42
It's good business, we're good business.
50:47
You know, many a time, we think that we were the first ones to
50:52
come about and give leadership to this community of ours.
50:56
That's not.
50:57
So there were leaders from the very beginning, leaders that
51:01
kept cropping up with education.
51:04
And without that lifted us to another place, if you are waiting
51:12
for accolades from our community for the work that you have
51:15
done, you'll wait forever.
51:17
You can't do it for that reason.
51:19
You gotta do it for the real reason that you're making a difference
51:23
You know, we're, we're here for a short period of time.
51:26
It sounds like a lot.
51:27
75 years.
51:28
Oh, it goes like that.
51:31
So, while you're here you can amass money, you can amass property
51:37
you can amass all these things.
51:38
But at the end of the day, what, what is it all for?
51:44
What did you give back?
51:46
And so for many of us, it is about what are we gonna give back
51:52
How are we going to make our community better?
51:55
How are we going to make our community, our kids, grandchildren
52:00
and great, great Children better.
52:03
How are we going to give them something that is going to be substantial
52:08
for them to make their own lives?
52:15
I don't need the accolades and I don't think any leader really
52:18
thinks along those lines.
52:20
We do it because maybe it's our destiny.
52:25
Ok.
52:25
Maybe everything that we ever did propelled us into what we
52:30
do.
52:32
But our Children have to know that it didn't just start with
52:35
them that it was through the hard work of our great, great grandfathers
52:41
and grandmothers and it followed up and we always had that
52:46
leadership and not to pick one and say he was greater than the
52:49
rest.
52:50
No, but to know that that's what happened, that people opened
52:54
doors for them that never would have been open or if they were
52:59
to be open very slowly that they got the reward of the work of
53:07
others, of our parents and grandparents.
53:12
They gotta know that they can never have a sense of entitlement
53:18
that it just kind of happened.
53:20
Nothing just happens.
53:22
It happens because people worked it and worked it and worked
53:25
it.
53:25
And here it is my son.
53:28
Here it is.
53:29
Now you do the best that you can and you do the same thing, you
53:34
mentor others, you bring others to the table, you give them
53:39
the opportunities that your great grandfather didn't have
53:42
You know, there's a beauty to that.
53:45
And so why would I want my dissensus to know exactly that, that
53:51
it wasn't just me that there was a lot of leadership out there
53:55
and that they shouldn't have a sense of entitlement that it
54:01
was something that occurred to make sure that our community
54:06
was going to be in a better place.