There were very, very few Hispanics going to school.: Becoming Minnesotan

Female silhouette.
  • Name - Martha Castaňon
  • Age at interview - 50
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - Second Generation American
  • Date of Interview - 02.15.2010
  • The Castaňon children on the Sillers farm, Moorhead, Minnesota, 1969.


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    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Minnesota, and especially rural areas of the state, can be a difficult place for an immigrant to move to, because the state is very homogenous. Until recently, few members of ethnic minorities have lived outside of the Twin Cities. It can be a challenge to be the only one around with different looks or an accent, especially for children!

    To learn more about Latino history and culture, visit our Latino Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Martha Castaňon (MC)

    Interviewer: Abner Arauza (AA)

    MC: What I remember about going to school in Texas is I loved school down there. Even though I knew the schools were poor - they didn’t have the nice gym equipment or the books or all that kind of stuff – but I felt like I fit in.

    AA: So what was it that you liked so much?

    MC: Because everyone was brown like me, spoke Spanish like me. They were poor like me. And I could relate to that because my parents were the same way and their parents were the same way. So when I went back to Crystal when I was in fourth grade, and I saw that my teacher, Mr. Calamantes, was Mexicano, had been a migrant farm worker, I was so in awe of him. Because he was the first Latino or Hispanic teacher that I had seen in my whole life, first one. He was somebody who had worked the fields as a kid, went to college, and got his teaching license. And I was very in awe of him. I was so impressed with him.

    It was hard for me to adjust back up here because, because the schools were so advanced up here, I would fall behind. But I managed to pass the classes. Trying to learn English when I was just a little kid was really hard. I started first grade knowing “Hi,” “Bye,” and “Okay,” and that was it. But it was hard for me to adjust, getting used to all white surroundings. Knowing that I had fallen behind and trying to catch up was always a struggle for me - trying and to switch into speaking all English every day instead of the English and Spanish that my friends in Texas would go back and forth on.

    You know, I knew that in high school, I was kind of a loner. I had friends but I still felt like a loner and I always felt like somehow there was a part of me that just didn’t fit in here. Because back then, there were very, very few Hispanics going to school. And the few that there were, we would kind of latch onto each other.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun: Traveler or worker who moves from one region or country to another.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 2180