Isaac Artenstein
USA 1984 | 27 Min. | BetaSP, OF

Pedro J. Gon­za­lez’ story, sym­bol­ic of the his­to­ry of people of Mex­i­can descent in the United States, begins in 1910 during the Mex­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion against the dic­ta­tor Por­firio Diaz. Pedro, a teenag­er, worked as a tele­graph oper­a­tor for the Gen­er­al Pancho Villa until 1922. After the rev­o­lu­tion ended, Gon­za­lez, his wife and chil­dren joined thou­sands of Mex­i­cans who migrat­ed north to the United States. In boom­ing Los Ange­les, Pedro even­tu­al­ly became a record­ing star and in 1928 one of the first Span­ish-speak­ing radio broad­cast­ers in the U.S. Through­out the South­west, thou­sands of Mex­i­cans, up at the crack of dawn to go to work in the can­ner­ies, fac­to­ries, and fields, tuned in their radios to hear their favorite announc­er and record­ing star. As the Great Depres­sion hit Los Ange­les, Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans increas­ing­ly became the target of racial fear and prej­u­dice. González believes his tremen­dous pop­u­lar­i­ty and his out­spo­ken protest against dis­crim­i­na­tion led to his arrest in 1934 on a trumped-up charge of rape. In spite of the recan­ta­tion of the »victim«, González was sen­tenced to 50 years in San Quentin. He was paroled after six years and deport­ed to Tijua­na, Mexico, where he was instru­men­tal in the devel­op­ment of radio in the border region. In 1971, González was allowed to re-enter the U.S. to be near his seven chil­dren. The old bal­ladeer and his wife Maria set­tled in San Diego. 

»Seeing how badly they treat­ed Mex­i­cans back in the days of my youth I could have start­ed a rebel­lion. But now there could be a cul­tur­al under­stand­ing, so that with­out firing one bullet, we might under­stand each other. We were here before they were, and we are not, as they still say, ‘unde­sir­ables’ or ‘wet­backs’. They say we come to this land and it’s not our home. Actu­al­ly, it’s the other way round.« (Pedro J. González)