I have been asked if I encountered much racism throughout my sports writing career. Yes, I have.
I was born in a hotel on South El Paso Street. I had blond hair and nearly white skin. Something about a Frenchman having a relationship with one of my ancestors when Maximilian ruled Mexico.
My father got a job with Southern Pacific where the pay was $50 a week – a fabulous sum in those days.
My mother, a thin and frail woman who handled the money, bought a two-story house at 813 N. Campbell for $4,000 (real estate prices weren’t so high then).
The monthly payments were only $40, but with my dad bringing in $200 a month that was no problem.
We suddenly became rich beyond our wildest dreams.
My dad made a terrible mistake.
He was offered a job at Phelps Dodge for higher pay. He quit his job at Southern Pacific and went for the interview at Phelps Dodge.
He was turned down because of high blood pressure. But we survived. In addition to renting the upper floor of our home to very nice people, my mother took in laundry.
That’s when I encountered racism.
The people who took laundry to my mother were so abusive. I was in bed one day where she did the ironing. I got up and told the one person off.
The first incident of racism I can recall was when I was a little kid.
In those days we made beer in the bathtub for a party as the anti-beer law was in full force.
To prepare me for the party, my oldest sister, Lupita, took me to a barber shop around the corner on Montana Street.
I’ll never forget what the barbers said: “We don’t cut hair for Mexicans.”
After that insult, most Mexican Americans found we had to make the long trek to either Alameda Avenue or to Juárez to get our haircuts.
Not all Anglos were anti-Mexican, of course, but some incidents will forever remain in my memory.
I encountered another kind of racism. The wife of a reporter swore that white people were smarter than Mexicans. I’ll dispute that assertion until my dying days.
I had just returned from serving in World War II, where I had a higher IQ compared to other white soldiers.
And thank goodness for Ed Pooley, the editor of The El Paso Herald-Post, who was white.
He wanted to go against the grain all the time. So when he called UTEP (formerly Texas Western College) looking for a sports writer, he hired me, and
I eventually became the first Mexican-American sports editor in El Paso.