Sometimes we blame on anything our own inability to solve our own problems.: Becoming Minnesotan

Ramón León.  Minnesota Historical Society, Oral History Office files.
  • Name - Ramón León
  • Age at interview - 46
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.23.2010
  • Ramón Léon with Senator Paul Wellstone, 1999. Minnesota Historical Society.

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    Essential Question

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

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many members of immigrant communities have founded organizations to help fellow community members, socially and economically. These organizations help remove obstacles, like language barriers, to get other immigrants on their feet, moving forward, and even starting businesses of their own!

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Ramón Léon 2
    2:54 Minutes | 2.78Mb


    Narrator: Ramón Léon (RL)

    RL: First of all, when we formed the organization [Latino Economic Development Center], the people that came to us, the first community that came was the Latino communities that live in East St. Paul. And they said, “Can you help us access the same opportunities you have, but do it in East St. Paul?”

    Other communities or another people also came to Mercado Central asking for the same opportunities. I always referred them to the local organizations that provided technical assistance in Spanish. But those CDCs [Community Development Corporations] are geographically based, so if you came from a different geographic area, you won’t be served.

    So I always told them, “There’s a local CDC in your neighborhood. Go there and argue for their assistance.” And they will always claim, “They are racist.” “They don’t understand my issues.” “They don’t speak Spanish.” “They don’t…,” many things, okay?

    But we also have to recall that sometimes we blame on anything our own inability to solve our own problems, okay? So one of the challenges of the organization is to hold our own people accountable. Okay, they don’t speak Spanish. After all, we are all in the United States. So, when I started providing technical assistance, I recall many people coming to me and bringing me every single letter they got in the mail for me to read it to them.

    And I said, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I already helped you register your business. I already gave you technical assistance. I already got your licenses, permits, and everything else. You aren’t really doing your job. You want me to read a letter here? You want me to be a translator of your letters?” Can you imagine that? I can’t do that. “I'm gonna read these letters for you today, but I expect you to enroll in English as a Second Language class. Because do you know what you are costing me? You are taking from me time that someone else needs for a more important…” Not that this is not important. Sometimes, it was letters from the license department saying, “We’re going to shut the business down.” They would recognize that, “Oh, yeah, he’s right. I should read it.”

    Sometimes I drove them somewhere, because they didn’t drive. I told them, “I’m going to be your driver today, but I expect you to drive your own car in a couple weeks, in a month,” whenever they did. “But do it as soon as possible, because I need to do something else. And I am not responsible for that; you are.”

    That’s why I made a lot of enemies, too. But, after all, those enemies are not enemies any longer. They are the ones that support my work the most when they understood what I meant.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective: Being answerable or responsible for something.


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Noun:  A chance for advancement, progress, or profit.


    Noun:  One who changes written text from one language 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: 2190