Gonzalo Barrientos

As Interviewed By Luke Foster, March 30, 2018

Gonzalo Barrientos: In His Own Words

My name is Gonzalo Barrientos. I was born in Galveston. We had to do farm work every year. We would go out to South Texas and West Texas and pick cotton, which I didnít like at all because it was hard work and the sun was a hundred degrees.

And going out there, I started noticing when I was five or six years old, the differences in people. I asked why we couldnít go into the restaurants or the cafes -- as we called them then -- and they said that it was because they didnít serve Mexicans. I didnít know anything about that. ďWhat? What? youíre a human being!Ē

The three schools in Bastrop were one for whites, one for blacks, and one for Mexicans (Not from Mexico, us, here). And so I went to the Mexican school for one year, and in that one year, we had a lawsuit filed against the Bastrop schools. It was called Delgado versus Bastrop. The next year we started, we Mexican-American kids, started going to school with the white kids. That was interesting -- there were a lot of kids who were very friendly, and I was six, seven years old by then. They were very friendly white kids, Anglo kids, and then there were kids that would call me names like pepperbelly, greaser, wetback, ďgo back to MexicoĒ kind of thing.

And so you just try to get through those things, and Iíd come home and tell my grandpa that some of the kids didnít like me. He asked why, and I would tell him. There was a lot of prejudice, and I didnít understand why. I guess people have different cultures -- we all look a little different, I donít care what color you are. And, it hurts, especially when youíre young and people donít like you for something you cannot do anything about, like what color you are or the fact that you speak two languages.

And so, you grow up with that, and you gotta learn to handle it, to try to understand the other personís inadequacies, prejudices, and try to educate them on what matters. In other words, it was harder to make it in almost everything. Through school, I had to try to do the best I could. So, it was kind of like running up a hill. You get tired, but you gotta keep going.

So I served ten years in the House, I was chairman of the Mexican-American House Caucus, then after that, I ran for the Senate, got in a runoff, and won that and served twenty years in the Senate.

The most important issues that we dealt with; we thought it would be a good idea to have bilingual education for individuals who might have a problem in learning English, so that you would help them learn English and get education in two languages. So, we passed bilingual education.

What happened in the past, you cannot do anything about -- what happens in the future, you can do a lot about. And so, there it is.