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Finding Aid for the Pedro J. Gonzalez Papers [1915 - 1978]
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A telegraph operator for Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution; a radio personality and popular recording artist in Los Angeles; an immigration activist framed for political purposes and sent to San Quentin prison; and finally, a man fighting for the rights of his fellow veterans of the Division Del Norte in Mexico for plots of land (ejidos) that they could call their own. Pedro Gonzalez played all these roles and this collection consists of his papers, correspondence, music, serialized fiction about him, and many photographs and photo montages documenting his interests and those who participated in his active life. Researchers who would like to indicate errors of fact or omissions in this finding aid can contact the archivist at archivist@chicano.ucla.edu **Please note that accents have been eliminated in order to accommodate and facilitate the use of all types of web browsers.
Pedro Jose Gonzalez Ramos was born on April 28, 1895 in Carrizal, Chihuahua, Mexico. In his youth, his schoolteacher mother emphasized the importance of education and sent him to school in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas. In 1909, at the age of 14, Pedro became a telegraph operator with the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico (Mexican National Railroads). One year later, the Mexican Revolution erupted, but Pedro continued his work with the railroads until 1914 when he was drafted into Francisco Pancho Villa's Division del Norte (the Northern Division). Pedro served as Villa's telegraph operator under the command of Raul Madero (brother of former Mexican president Francisco Madero). In 1916 the United States recognized Venustiano Carranza instead of Pancho Villa as the legitimate leader of Mexico. Villa and his troops fell out of favor in both the U.S. and Mexico. Pedro found work loading mail at the train station in El Paso, Texas and later across the border as a telegraph operator in Ciudad Juarez. In 1921 he returned to work as a telegraph operator with the Ferrocariles Nacionales de Mexico in Tampico, Taumalipas, Mexico, and then in Chico, Chihuahua, Mexico. In 1924 he was working as a telegraph operator with the Mexican and Northwest Railroad in El Paso, Texas. Three years later he left his job in El Paso to take his family to Los Angeles, California. They settled in Wilmington, Ca. where Pedro worked as a longshoreman on the docks in San Pedro. Shortly after, he began to exploit his musical talent and recorded Spanish language songs for the Columbia, Okey, and Maya record companies on the 78rpm record format. Pedro's experience as a telegraph operator along with his fascination with new technologies led him into the early years of radio broadcasting in Los Angeles. Working at KMTR, KFBD, KMPC and KELW in Los Angeles, he broadcast and recorded commercials in Spanish for U.S. companies and products. Soon Pedro sought out commercial accounts and formed his own radio show, becoming one of the first Spanish speaking radio announcers in the United States. By 1930 his immensely popular show was broadcast daily between 4 and 6 a.m. and featured his own musical group, Los Madrugadores (The Early Risers). Pedro was lead singer and composed many of their songs which were recorded on Columbia, Maya, and Okey. In Los Angeles in the 1930s many new Spanish speaking singers and musicians made their debuts on Pedro's radio program. Pedro J. Gonzalez fan clubs sprung up over the Southwest and thousands of radio listeners clamored to attend the show. By the mid 1930s the Great Depression intensified anti immigrant attitudes in Los Angeles. Pedro's immense popularity made some Los Angeles city officials fearful of Pedro's potential influence among the Mexican and Spanish speaking population. They feared Pedro might rally his listeners against the Anglos in the city. After unsuccessfully trying to revoke his broadcasting license, city officials found a young woman who had had problems with the law and pressured her into accusing Pedro of rape. The trial drew the immediate attention of the media. The key witness perjured herself, but in 1934 the all Anglo jury sent the Mexican community's most popular recording star to San Quentin prison for 50 years. Novels and plays were written about his case. In Los Angeles, the young victim said she had lied because the city officials had promised to keep her out of reform school if she accused Pedro. The judge refused to admit her affidavit. In prison, Pedro served as a translator and de facto liaison helping fellow Spanish speaking inmates and was instrumental in a hunger strike that led to the reforms in the California penal system. Pedro J. Gonzalez defense committees sprung up throughout the Southwest and northern Mexico. Pedro's family, fans, and the Mexican consul in Los Angeles worked tirelessly on his behalf until finally in 1940, he was released from prison on the condition that he be deported from the United States. Pedro and his family settled in Tijuana where Pedro was instrumental in the development of the radio broadcasting industry. He formed a new group of Madrugadores and broadcast daily. While living in Tijuana Pedro became active in forming a national organization to recognize and defend the rights of the Veterans of the Mexican Revolution. The organization was able to get land grants for veterans as well as health and pension benefits. The land grants were given in the form of ejidos, and Pedro kept detailed records of their activities and of the owners of each of the land parcels. His activities frequently put him at odds with the ambitions of local politicians and land speculators. In 1973 Pedro and his wife moved to San Ysidro, California to escape the opposition against Pedro in Tijuana and to be near their children, all U.S. citizens who had settled in southern California. He continued his activities in support of the Mexican Veterans and of the civil rights of people of Mexican heritage in the U.S. until his death sometime in 1991.
15 linear feet
For students and faculty researchers of UCLA, all others by permission only. Copyright has not been assigned to the Chicano Studies Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist and/or the Librarian at the Chicano Studies Research Center Library. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Access is available by appointment for UCLA student and faculty researchers as well as independent researchers. To view the collection or any part of it, please contact the archivist at archivist@chicano.ucla.edu or the librarian at yretter@chicano.ucla.edu