Beto Rocha


I was a cut and paste man [a type setter] working for Cesar Chavez’ bi-monthly newspaper titled “El Malcriado”.

The workplace was a small building situated within the com- pound of the headquarters of the United Farmworkers Union  in La Paz, California, which is located slightly north and east of Delano at the foot of the Tehachapi Mountains. I volunteered to work part time during the summer months, which I did for about two years in the early 70s.

     I met Cesar Chavez, who is one of my hero’s. He was a great man, and I still burn with extreme dislike of a farm owner, when I remember what I was told that he had said of Cesar, and called him a ‘dirty little Mexican’. I guess that ignorant man doesn’t know his own history, in that, Europeans didn’t bathe during those times when they first invaded Turtle Island, and those who could afford it hid their stench with perfume. The native peoples of this land washed daily in the un polluted rivers, streams and lakes of Turtle Island, and steamed their bodies in sweat lodges.


 C.D.A., an artist associate of mine, introduced me into the world of the Farmworker’s Union. In those days TV newscasts showing the farmworkers on strike was daily fare, and I kept myself informed to all the events: the strike, the marches, the speeches that Cesar gave, and to the police repression by the sheriffs and the State Police backing the ranchers that the farmworkers endured. I recall that Ronald Reagan, the then governor of California, assisted the grape growers in having grapes shipped to the U.S. Armed Forces fighting to loot the Vietnamese of their rubber, zinc and oil, while we were boycot- ting the sale of grapes on the home front.


Working for about two months or less each summer, I pasted

up lines of typewritten material with hot wax onto large news-

paper size sheets, and once the entire publication was put toge- ther, my group, consisting of three or more L.A. Chicano city artists, got into a van or the old white Dodge, and transported the almost completed edition of the paper, and took it to a printing factory in Long Beach, California.

     Once, when on our way to La Paz, we were fueling up the old Dodge at a gas station, we all wore Chicano garb, I, in particu- lar was wearing a red or blue paisley bandana, for headgear, and at that time, I wore bell bottom blue jeans, much in fashion, and a tight fitting chamarra de mesclilla. In front of us and to the right a, bunch of white youngsters got out of a new, shiny bright auto, which was also being gassed up, and they began to jeer & and insult us. I was about to retaliate, but C.D.A. grabbed my arm, and stopped me from yelling back.  It was as though for the first time in my life, I had observed within myself, a vague yet physical understanding of having discretion, an abstract word to me at that time, which in concrete terms means ‘to be cool’. “A quick tempered man commits rash acts, the prudent man will be long suffering”. Proverbs 14:17. “To a man of discretion, wisdom means a watch on his own conduct” . . . Proverbs 14:8. “The equable man is full of discernment, the hasty is more than foolish.” Proverbs 14:29.


Upon returning to L.A. in a panel truck [it might have been Magu’s] from La Paz, and as we rode along we saw people working in the fields, and on seeing this, we all commented on the feeling of pride we felt of being advocates and doing our part for the farmworkers and their union. One winter, our group was called on by the staff of El Malcriado to help put out



a special edition. Some Mexicanos, and an Arab farmworker

had been murdered by contrincantes of the strike, they had

been killed on the picket line. But this time, owing to circumstances, I set out by myself in a little old 58 ‘beetle’, which had been designed and manufactured by the Nazis before WWII, so my ‘chiripupu’, [a bunch of little kids in Mazatlan Mexico, never having seen a VW in their lives, danced around the VW, singing the name I had given the latest rendition of the ‘bug’ I owned] even though it hadn’t been in the war, was battle weary. It had been made in Stuttgart Germany 15 or so years ago. Its ragtop was torn and flapped in the wind, and the auto had no heater. Nevertheless I took the back route through the Mohave Desert crossing the Tehachapi Mountains to La Paz. It was a mighty cold winter that year, and the desert was covered with snow, and bitter cold. I suppose I would have frozen to death should the beetle have broken down, but I made it through O.K. and reached La Paz in the dead of night. I found a place to sleep in the old Olive View tuberculosis hospital, and crashed on the bare floor, & slept in an ancient, threadbare sleeping bag I’d lugged along. Waking at mid-morning, and after breakfast I headed toward the small building which housed the Malcriado bi-monthly, and went to work.

     At some point during that winter session, the editor, whose name I don’t remember, and with good reason, got all the people to stop what they were doing, and held a meeting asking everyone to participate, and to criticize or otherwise give their opinion about the product they had embarked on. When it came my turn, throwing discretion and diplomacy to the wind, I spoke my mind saying all that I had stored up in regard to the literary content contained within each edition of El Malcriado I had worked on. I said that for me it was an excruciating experi-



ence reading the newspaper, in that I had to struggle and force my concentration in order to stay focused on what I was read-

ing. I said, that what was written was extremely dull, and unimaginative. Where was the excitement, the color; descrip- tion of the actors, and of the environment within which all these enormous historical events were taking place? And who were the writers anyway? On ending my critical diatribe, I was met by stone cold silence.

     I by nature am a loner, and I must have appeared aloof and distant from my co-workers. So I had little or no interaction with those outside of my own small group of artists. I worked, perhaps, some few days longer, but on getting out of the sack the last morning of my voluntary employment at El Malcriado, I found that I was sick with the flu. Nevertheless I must have crawled my way to the workplace, and as I vividly recall, for in my mind I have an image, like an out of the body experience, of seeing myself sitting, bedraggled, on a large rock beside the door of the building, the editor pushing open the door, striding over to where I was, and saying loudly to me, “You’re fired.” It had never occurred to me to find out who my co-workers were. I thought they were the persons who merely typed out the material given to them, who passed it on to us the paste up workers, and never did it occur to me until long afterwards that the people doing the typing, including the editor, were the actual writers of the colorless stuff they were putting out.


So, that ended my adventure as a farmworker news paper man. I dragged my self to the old carrucha, took the Tehachapi Mountain road east in my beat up Bug till I hit the highway going south through the Mohavi Desert, reaching Pasadena & finally my home destination of Lincoln Heights in North East L.A. Tun Tun!


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