Edward Delgado worked most of his life to protect and serve carpenters, and to make sure they were treated the way they are supposed to in a time when that was a rare experience. Edward Delgado was born in Meoqui, Chihuahua, Mexico. He was born to Nacha Delgado who was a single parent. They both moved to California right after the Mexican Revolution when Nacha thought it was a good time to start a new life in the United States. To help provide for her family, Nacha worked at Stokley Van Camp Cannery. Later, when Edward was ten years old, he joined his mother and worked in the frozen foods department. Edward Delgado went to Santa Clara High School where he met and married his high school sweetheart, Mary Delgado. After graduating from high school, Edward attempted to join the Air Force but was rejected because of his citizenship. He continued to look for an organization to be a part of that would give him work to help him provide for his family. The Carpenters Union was that place, a place of refuge for him. Edward worked his way up from apprententice to a labor representative. Later, he becomes a representative for the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This paper tells the struggle against racism of a young Mexican American in the work force and how the Carpenters Union provided help for this Mexican American men in his time of need.
November 24, 2013
Jesus Eduardo Naverette Delgado would consider himself, like many other Mexican- Americans here in California, blessed. His rough times in Santa Clara and in Gilroy are minor in comparison to the many blessings that he feels has been showered upon him. He has had many opportunities here in California and would consider himself to be living a more than comfortable life style.
Jesus now goes by the name of Edward Delgado; he has lived in Gilroy, California for thirty-five years. He originally came from Meoqui, Chuayaya in Mexico where he lived with his mother Nacha Delgado. Edward’s family dynamic was unlike most families, as his mother raised him alone and his father was never a part of his upbringing in Mexico. Edward and his mother Nacha lived in Meoqui until nineteen-fifty when Nacha’s two eldest brothers sent for them to come live with them in Santa Clara, California. The two brothers had moved to California in hope of jobs and success right after the Mexican Revolution in the 1930’s. ”As early as 1960 the Santa Clara County Planning department estimated that each industrial job brought eight new residents into the county while providing another 1.5 non-manufacturing jobs.” (Payne, 175) After securing themselves jobs, one as a janitor at Santa Clara University and one at a Cannery, they thought it wise to bring over their younger sister Nacha and her son Edward. When in California, Nacha secured a job at the Stokley Van Camp Cannery with her brother in Santa Clara. Meanwhile, Edward stayed with his cousins until he was old enough to go to school. When Edward was ten years old, he obtained his first job at the cannery doing what his mother was doing. At the cannery there were multiple tasks to be done such as, freezing foods and packaging them, canning pork, and canning beans. Having this job made him feel important and happy to help contribute to his mother’s efforts of being a single parent.
Edward Delgado continued his education at Santa Clara High School and graduated in 1968. He wasn’t really sure what he was interested in doing after school or what he was good at. He enjoyed mathematics and history. Edward had the talent of being bilingual and used that ability to his advantage in school and later at the workplace. The demographic of Santa Clara in this time was mostly Hispanic. He did not feel much different from his peers in school, they all were taking the same classes. His high school had plenty of electives that pushed many of the minority students to pursue trades. Wood shop was his favorite and the most popular among all of his friends and the other electives. In high school, he met and married his high school sweetheart, Mary Garcia.
As soon as Edward graduated from high school, he attempted to join the Air Force like the rest of his buddies but was denied because he was not officially a citizen of the United States. He never felt more alienated and disconnected from where he thought he belonged. This was his first real awakening that he was not like the rest of his friends and that he was not accepted everywhere. After his rejection from the Air Force, he got a summertime job at the cannery near his house, Stokley Van Camp Cannery, where he got paid two dollars and sixty-five cents an hour. He did very well in this job and was highly favored because he could speak English and Spanish, which helped the workers and managers communicate. He found that he had a lot more advantages because of his ability to speak bilingually.
After getting married, Edward and his wife Mary decided it was time to move to a different location and start a family of their own. They were attracted to the city of Gilroy because it was a quiet and inexpensive town which offered them just what they needed. In Gilroy, Mary bore and they raised their two children, Nicole and Christopher. As part of this transition, Edward thought it was a good time for a new job. Edward’s Godfather suggested that he should put his woodshop classes to good use and start by making cabinets. That one suggestion lit the flame, and Edward began applying to every carpenters union in San Jose. The unions were racially segregated and had their own ideas of who they wanted in their unions. “Many of these unions had more of a homogeneous membership than a country club, churches, or trade associations. Even though these members differ in age, skill levels, job classifications, and sex” (Bok and Dunlop, 111). After applying everywhere he tried a few more options, until he came to the Carpenters Union #405 and a man of the name Bill Tracy hired him right on the spot. This seemed to be just a job at the moment, but later Edward would realize that Bill’s confidence in him would set up his whole career in the union.
Preparing for his first day at the carpenters union, he did not know what to expect. He did not know if he should bring tools, what to wear, or even if he was supposed to know what to do, because he didn’t. He went to his first day full of doubt and grateful that he got the job in the first place. On his first day he did labor for other carpenters. He continued with the job as an apprentice for the next four years there. Slowly he built himself up in the office. He became a labor representative who went to job sites to make sure that the owners were paying their employees what they should be. After his promotion, he also started to work in the office in charge of the Carpenter’s Trust Fund. He helped distribute pension money to the retired carpenters and help them with retirement needs. In 1997, Edward became a representative for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This organization was founded in 1929; it was created to defend the rights of Hispanics when they were denied basic civil and human rights. According to the LULAC information website, “LULAC has fought for full access to the political process and equal educational opportunity for all Hispanics. LULAC councils across the United States hold voter registration drives, citizenship awareness sessions, sponsor health fairs, tutorial programs, and raise scholarship money.” (“LULAC History”)This organization inspired and drove Edward to help other young Hispanics who may have been in the same place he was at one point. From his first job as an apprentice at carpenters union, he was able to create a stable job for forty five years until he retired from the Carpenters Union.
Edward accomplished all of this during turbulent times for Mexican American workers. “The relatively small Latino immigrant population in Northern California had a greater need to propagate higher education, occupational focus and increased income potential for first and second generation Mexican immigrants living in the Bay Area hoping to earn a fair wage”(Milkman,17). The union acted like a hub for many minorities desiring to make a decent living in the Bay area. Many minorities sought representation from the union to keep well financed employers from exploitation. According to Derick Bok and John Dunlop, “A union has greater power over individuals and minoriti9es than most other private associates, since the contract it negotiates bind all of the employees to the union. (Bok and Dunlop, 93)
Being of Mexican descent, Edward struggled speaking only broken Spanish with an American accent. Many Mexicans from Mexico labeled him as Americanized, and many Americans had fought stereo types depicting Mexican Americans as un-educated and less capable. When Edward first became a labor representative, he had a lot of trouble going to Santa Cruz and Marina County where there was primarily white employers to deal with. Most of the time he would experience harsh words and threats of violence because they did not like having a young Hispanic man telling them what to do. With stereo typing by both cultures made Edward even more determined to secure a position with in his career that would show him to be as educated and well informed as he was. The Carpenters Union afforded him the ability to provide for his family and gave him a sense of security that was unprecedented in that era. For Edward, discriminatory practices only fueled his passion to be a voice for those who could speak for themselves, and to advocate for Mexican Americans who were struggling.
Researching deeper into Edward Delgado’s life here in California has truly opened my eyes into what one can accomplish with hard work and by fighting the odds that are against you. I am privileged and honored to be able to say this man a part of my history. As my grandfather, he shows that hard work really does pay off and he has passed that life lesson to his children, and they to their children. I am full Mexican American and never held the knowledge of what it was really like to be someone wholooked like me fifty years ago. Now, I have the pride and knowledge to see what my ancestors went through and their fight to have what they wanted here in California. I now, aspire to be even half of what my Great grandmother Nacha and Papa Edward were in their own California dream. I hope to continue into my dream of graduating from college and becoming a children psychologist and a living testament of what a Mexican American is capable of now in two thousand and thirteen in California.
Bok, Derek C. and Dunlop, John T. Labor and the American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1970. Print.
“LULAC History- All for One and One for All.” History (2013): page 34. LULAC. Web. 4 Dec 2013.
Payne, Stephen M. Santa Clara County: Harvest of Change. Northridge, Ca: Windsor Publications, 1987. Print.
Milkman, Ruth. Organizing Immigrants: The Challenge for Unions in Contemporary California. New York: Cornell University Press, 2000. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.