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Maria Casas interview, June 12, 2019: transcript






Interviewed by Maribel Estrada Calderón. Farmersville is described as a small town between, Exeter and Visalia, California populated by Mexican American farm workers. It is in this small town, where UNLV History Professor Maria Raquél Casas spent her childhood raised along with her sisters and brothers. In her interview, Dr. Casas describes how growing up in this small town with her traditional Mexican family influenced the person she is today. While working alongside her family in the fields, Dr. Casas decided that she would strive to obtain an education. Through hard work and constant support from her sister, Dr. Casas attended Fresno State, where she discovered her love for history. Upon completing her undergraduate program, Dr. Casas made the decision to further her education by pursuing a master's at Cornell University. At Cornell, she faced discouraging professors who believed she would not be able to complete the master's program let alone pursue a PhD program. Despite these demoralizing professors, Dr. Casas completed her program and was admitted into University of California Santa Barbara's history program. Dr. Casas never forgot her roots or the significance of her presence in the majority white academic spaces she attended during her academic journey. When she arrived at UNLV, she continued to strive for more Latino representation in both the student population and in the school faculty. During her tenure at UNLV, Dr. Casas has served as an advisor for multiple Latino student organizations including MEChA and SoL. Dr. Casas has witnessed much progress in Latino representation at UNLV, but she believes there is still much work left to be accomplished.

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Casas, Maria Interview, 2019 June 12. OH-03682. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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i AN INTERVIEW WITH MARIA RAQUÉL CASAS An Oral History Conducted by Maribel Estrada Calderón and Rodrigo Vasquez Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2018 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV – University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcribers: Kristin Hicks, Maribel Estrada Calderón, Nathalie Martinez, Rodrigo Vazquez, Elsa Lopez Editors and Project Assistants: Laurents Bañuelos-Benitez, Maribel Estrada Calderón, Monserrath Hernández, Elsa Lopez, Nathalie Martinez, Marcela Rodriquez-Campo, Rodrigo Vazquez iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iv PREFACE Farmersville is described as a small town between, Exeter and Visalia, California populated by Mexican American farm workers. It is in this small town, where UNLV History Professor Maria Raquél Casas spent her childhood raised along with her sisters and brothers. In her interview, Dr. Casas describes how growing up in this small town with her traditional Mexican family influenced the person she is today. While working alongside her family in the fields, Dr. Casas decided that she would strive to obtain an education. Through hard work and constant support from her sister, Dr. Casas attended Fresno State, where she discovered her love for history. Upon completing her undergraduate program, Dr. Casas made the decision to further her education by pursuing a master’s at Cornell University. At Cornell, she faced discouraging professors who believed she would not be able to complete the master’s program let alone pursue a PhD program. Despite these demoralizing professors, Dr. Casas completed her program and was admitted into University of California Santa Barbara’s history program. Dr. Casas never forgot her roots or the significance of her presence in the majority white academic spaces she attended during her academic journey. When she arrived at UNLV, she continued to strive for more Latino representation in both the student population and in the school faculty. During her tenure at UNLV, Dr. Casas has served as an advisor for multiple Latino student organizations including MEChA and SoL. Dr. Casas has witnessed much progress in Latino representation at UNLV, but she believes there is still much work left to be accomplished. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Maria Raquél Casas June 12th, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Maribel Estrada Calderón and Rodrigo Vasquez Preface…………………………………………………………………………………………..iv Explains the terms she uses to define herself; what it means to be Chicana and origins of the word; what it means to be Mexican and what the Spanish language means to the community. Elaborates on family history including the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression; describes life on Farmersville, recalls what her early education, and her family’s involvement with the Bracero program…………………………………………………………………...….1-6 Talks about her favorite television programs growing up; her family’s parenting techniques; what it was like living with extended family in the same home. Shares what a typical day working a field was like; how working in the fields influenced her desire for an education; how her sister was an advocate for her education. Describes her high school career and her college career………………………………….…………………………………………………...…..7-12 Explains her decision to go by Raquél instead of Rachel. Speaks about being the only Chicana in grad school and about being able to blend in among her rich peers; how her clothing and meeting professional standards serves as her armor. Talks about her dissertation which is centered around interethnic marriages; colorism in her parents’ community and how that influenced her dissertation. Mentions the professional success she and her siblings have had……………...13-20 Describes her extended family; the demographics and segregation of her hometown Farmersville. Remembers her first time in New York City; how she got her job at UNLV; what the history department was like at first; what she believes her role as Latina historian is……..……...…21-26 Describes her responsibility as a Latina professor at UNLV. Compares the Las Vegas housing market to the Los Angeles housing market; about buying her first home in Las Vegas. Remembers the first time she saw the Las Vegas Strip. Discusses how the Latino culture views a women’s role in society; her mother passing her cooking knowledge down to her; how she had to share clothes with her sisters while growing up………..…………………………………….27-33 Speaks about her roles as the family cook; her experience with cooking and eating pozole; the differences between her sisters’ cooking styles. Describes her sister’s wedding day; her visit to her parents’ childhood homes when she was young; what crossing the border was like when she was a kid. Talks about the different organizations she helped form………………………...34-40 vi Explains the origins of MEChA; about being an advisor for a sorority and fraternity at UNLV; about the dangers of putting all Latinos in one box. Her thoughts about why it is difficult to convince Latino students to pursue a career in academia; elitism in the Latino community; what her hopes for UNLV are…………………………………………………………………...…41-47 Describes her first day as a professor; shares her favorite part of Las Vegas and a message for students……………………………………………..……………………………………...…48-51 vii 1 Today is June 12, 2019. I am at UNLV’s Wright Hall. My name is Maribel Estrada Calderon. With me are… Rodrigo Vasquez. And.. Maria Raquél Casas. Dr. Casas, can you please spell out your name for us? M-A-R-I-A, R-A-Q-U-E-L, C-A-S-A-S. Let’s begin with your identity. What terms do you use to define yourself? Woman, Mexicana, Chicana, historian. What does it mean to be a Chicana? Well, having been raised in the United States, and having that bicultural knowledge that you need to find your foot in someplace because you’re being told that you’re Mexican by some people, American by others, so you become Chicana because you’re not like your parents in the sense of being immigrants or really Mexican, authentic Mexican, it’s a way to claim the space that is only allowed you; that between and betwixt, that idea that you’re not fully one or the other, so Chicana becomes the most holistic term for especially kids in my generation. That it becomes a more authentic and holistic way of belonging. Americans won’t allow us to claim whiteness and to be fully American, and Mexicans know that we’re not fully Mexican; that we’re not authentic Mexican, so Chicana becomes the default and it’s a way to claim America on our terms. But growing up, because my parents were Mexican and they didn’t like the word Chicano, we didn’t claim it as a child and growing up we couldn’t claim it because it was so offensive to our parents. They as Mexicans wanted us to be Mexican. But as we went out into the world, we were treated like Chicanos. 2 What does it mean to be Mexican? According to my parents it means trying to keep up the culture and attitudes, of the village they grew up in, in the United States. Mexican to them is speaking Spanish, working hard, really working hard, and being decent people; that’s what Mexican meant to them. We were poor, but you had to have honor and humility and you had to work hard; for them that’s what Mexican meant. We were bilingual and my parents never learned English. They understood it, but they were never fluent in it. For them, they didn’t want us to lose Spanish, and so they made sure that we didn’t lose Spanish. We could speak English outside the home, but in the home—we spoke English in the home as well—but then they dropped the hammer and said, “No more. Speak Spanish,” especially when we started talking about risqué, taboo topics…which is why we knew they understood English—when we started talking on topics that they didn’t want us to talk about. Then, all of a sudden, “Talk in Spanish.” In other words, we know what you’re doing. For them that is what it meant to be Mexican. Our family and the community I grew up in, which was largely the replication of the villages in the area of Mexico that they came from, to them that was Mexico, and that’s what we always had in our home. We knew we were in the United States, but they were Mexican. Let’s talk about your family history and your childhood. I was born in Mexico. It was a one-room adobe in a little village in La Colonia Miguel Hildalgo, which was outside of Jerez, Zacatecas. My parents grew up there. My mother was actually born in the United States. Her parents had come escaping the Mexican Revolution, so they met in the United States, her parents, and they started a family. During the Great Depression her parents came back to Mexico, but they came back with a car and a bunch of goods from the United States, so they were one of the wealthiest people in the village, to the point that they would 3 eventually open up a little store across the street from their house. They were rich by the village standards. My father, the classic Mexican story, his father, through the Cardenas administration, lands were made available in that village. My grandfather, his father, bought land. They grew up in the same village, but, again, she was born in the United States. He was born there. They grew up and got married, obviously. They had four of us in the space of five years. When she was pregnant with me, things were really getting bad, and because my mother was a citizen, she said, “We have choices. We have alternatives.” All her older brothers and sisters were already in the United States. She had cousins in the United States. She said, “We need to go and try to make a life there.” Because of her, we did and wound up in Farmersville, California, largely because that’s where her parents had worked. She was born in Delano and her brothers and sisters had settled in Fresno. Then on my father’s side, his father’s best friend and his best friend’s uncle had settled in Farmersville. Tomás, my father’s best friend, was already in Farmersville, so he said, “Juan, there’s work. Come here.” That’s where we settled, Farmersville, California. I grew up in a place called Farmersville, California, right between Exeter and Visalia, near Fresno. My home, for me, if I really said where my heart is, is the Central Valley. It’s a godawful place because it was for farmworkers. Exeter was where the farm owners lived. Farmersville, Lindsay; those were towns where the farmworkers were. When I was growing up, it was probably about seven thousand people, but everybody was poor. If you were Mexican, if you were immigrants, farmworkers, if you were American-born, cholos—growing up in the 1970s or 1980s, the cholo culture was heavily represented and that’s pretty much the alternative you had; you were either going to be a cholo or farmworker. When we got here and my mother, because she had grown up thinking she had status in the village, she was more aspirational than 4 my father. She was the one that really didn’t want us to stay in the fields. She knew because she couldn’t speak English, she didn’t have the opportunities and that she was going to be a farmworker, and she could live with that. But she didn’t want that for her children. Because we worked alongside with them, we quickly realized, if this is what we wanted, then we didn’t have to do anything. But growing up and being a farmworker, seeing how hard they work, we said, “No, I think we’re going to try.” My oldest sister, she always wanted to be a teacher. When she went to school, she was seven years old when she went into kindergarten and she had such a hard time. She couldn’t speak English. She didn’t know what the teacher was saying. And then Arthur was always being put in the corner. He hated school. Why don’t you want to go to school? “Porque me ponen in el corner.” (Spanish/9:45). Because he couldn’t talk, so he wanted to play. He would just take the toys away from the kids and that got him sent to the corner. But my sister learned and loved to teach. She would come home—I can’t remember—but she taught me how to read. I cannot remember a time in my life when I couldn’t read because she would play school. She taught me my ABCs. She taught me how to read. Because she was good at school, Arthur eventually also learned. Henry was actually the brightest one in our family. Then I followed Henry. By the time I got to school and started understanding that education is actually fun compared to working in the fields…What would you rather do, go to school where you get to have recess, or get up at five in the morning to follow your parents and work all day? That’s what we were doing. What little we could, we were there with them, helping them. I remember collecting boxes of cherries—you get four—and making a little bed for my youngest sister Anna so she could sleep because she was probably about three or four, so I was about five or six. But 5 you had to help, little things: go get the water. We learned what hard work was, which was the best thing that could have happened. What were your parents’ occupations in Mexico? They were farmers. Was it their own land? My grandfather’s land. My father was a Bracero three times, but it was always, again, to help. The classic Mexican setup, the father owned the land and all of his children lived in the compound. Classically it starts off with one room and then as the children marry and bring in the family, you add another room. But my mother never got along with my father’s sisters, so she made my father build her room away from the main house. When you go into the ranch, it’s right there by the gate and the rest of the family house is at a distance…Yes. Also, she and my grandfather never got along, my father’s father, because my mother wasn’t respectful. The tradition in my fathers’ family was that the wives had to address their husbands as usted, and my mother was like, oh hell no. My grandfather didn’t care for how opinionated and how strong my mother was. For us, that was probably the reason why my parents made it so well. On his own, my father would have been happy where he was. My mother was the one that said, “No, we’ve got to try.” He had been a Bracero and he had worked for his family. He was helping. The land was providing enough but by the early sixties the land wasn’t, so that’s why he left and came over. As a Bracero he had done farm work, so that’s what they also started doing. That was their occupation. But it was the 1960s and they got lucky in that the self-help program started up. It was this program you would put sweat equity, but you could get a new house. I think it was like a thirteen-hundred-square-foot home. But it was brand-new and it was the only way that a 6 farmworker could afford a new house. My father, again on his own, probably would have said, “Eh, we could keep renting; it’s cheaper.” And my mother said, “No. For a chance to own a home we’ll work for it.” My father put in all the electrical work in that; it was a block of houses on the edge of Farmersville. I remember going and seeing my parents putting in their sweat equity, but that’s how we got our home. It grounded us. It meant we were going to stay in Farmersville forever. But it was a stability that a lot of other farmworkers couldn’t have. That’s where we made the stand. Imelda was really good at school, and Arthur not so good, but he went. Henry was great at school. When I came through—and it was a classic small town. Everybody knows everybody. Because we were good in school, we got that reputation; we were the smart kids, and especially Henry. I had to compete with him. Every time going into a classroom, “Oh, your Henry’s sister; you’re Imelda’s sister; you’re Arthur’s sister.” For me it created the habit of learning and competing to be the best student—I was already bookish. I loved to read. I was already inclined towards education. But collectively what happened is we all recognized the choice was either working in the fields, if we got lucky we might find a job in an office, but maybe education would be the way to get out of Farmersville. I loved to read and I loved to watch television; those were my escapes. Television gave me illusions of life outside Farmersville…There was a big world out there. What if? What if? What shows did you like to watch? Taxi. I loved Taxi. Soap. M.A.S.H. The Wide, Wide World of Sports. But on Spanish, oh, I hated it, because they would run bullfights and boxing on Sunday. I hated it because my grandmother was fixated on it. Watching those bullfights, especially as an animal lover, (Spanish/16:55). The novelas, my mother and father, Spanish soap operas come out at night 7 because working class people; that’s when they can watch them. After dinner they would get the television for a couple of hours, but then they had to go to sleep early because they had to get up early. About eight o’clock then we got the TV back and that’s when I would watch. I remember I would stay up until eleven o’clock because my parents were asleep. I would stay up until eleven o’clock watching television and reading. In so many ways it was liberating because we had to come home and help. Not only did we help in the fields, we also had to help out in the house. My role in the house was I had to help my mother clean and cook. But after eight o’clock, I was free. Because they were asleep, I got to do what I wanted in my imagination and my fantasies. It was this really bifurcated life. My parents were very strict. My mother was very strict. That’s one of the reasons my brothers never joined gangs, because it was like, no. It would have been easier to be in a gang than to live up to my mother’s standards, but my brothers becoming cholos…no, no, no. We were strictly Mexican Catholic. We were good girls. My mother let us know the minute we stepped out that house, her reputation was on the line. If we did anything to hurt her reputation, we were going to hear about it. Again, we got the reputation of being the good family and being well behaved. My mother, one look, and you knew what was going to happen if you misbehaved. Many times, she’d say “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Very strict. But, at the same time, I could read anything I wanted. They couldn’t read English. I started reading and I was reading at an advanced level since the very beginning. I started exploring the world through literature and I could read anything I wanted and they couldn’t say anything. Again, that was my escape. It was either that or work. As children we learned the rewards of being in education was escaping hard physical labor, but we also knew exactly how our parents made their living. We never had an allowance. 8 We never asked for money. Because if we asked for a dress that costs twenty-five dollars, it’s like, okay, that’s three bins of oranges, twelve boxes of cherries, fifteen buckets of cucumbers. We always calculated how much labor would it take—which is what every child should learn—how much labor does take it for you to have that item? There were times when it wasn’t just us, it was cousins who would come over, legally and illegally, that would stay at the house. My grandmother and my uncle and aunt would live with us for months on end, so at times there was thirteen, fourteen people in a three-bedroom house. We were two to a twin bed, on the floor, but that’s family. My mother cooked and cleaned for all of them. When my male cousins came over as solos, there’s the couch; there’s the floor. But she would wash and cook for all of them. My mother not only worked in the fields, but then came home and she lived up to the standard of Mexican housewife. The house was always immaculate. She would not accept a dirty house. With four girls, why should she have a dirty house? For us, again the divisions as a girl, I had to work like a man and like my brothers in the field, but then I had to come home and be a good woman and learn all the skills of being a woman. Can you describe a day working in the fields? My mother would get up and often make tortillas. She would get up first and make breakfast. Once the breakfast was ready, then she would wake us up. At what time? It depended on how far the fields were. Sometimes if we had to drive forty-five minutes, then we could get up at four in the morning. You wanted to be in the fields as light is breaking, especially in the summer, because that’s the coolest time of the day and that’s where you’re more refreshed 9 and you get the most done. You’re trying to time daylight. Again, for her, if we were up by four, she was up by three. But again, she would get breakfast and wake us up. One time my younger sister Analicia, she came down the hallway, threw herself on the couch. “I want to be a dog.” Por qué? “They don’t have to go to work.” But once we got fed, packed a lunch, the water, made sure we had whatever tools, if we were picking orange or lemon, we would have all the sacks, if we’re picking cherries…make sure everything is ready. We all piled in, often in a car. No belt seats were used, no, no, no. Everybody, you pack in and you go. We get there and, come on, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. We would work and then probably take (Spanish/23:48), maybe a cup of avena about eight or nine in the morning to get us through to lunch. Lunch, usually tacos. I hated when she wouldn’t make tacos because then it would be sandwiches. Your hands are so dirty and you’re not going to waste the drinking water. It will be with me until the day I die. Imagine having filthy hands on white bread. You’re trying to touch it as little as possible. Then you eat it. You leave the dirty fingerprints on the white bread. White bread versus a taco, we preferred the tacos. Have lunch and then you pick until four, five. Sometimes when the picking was really good, my father wouldn’t let us go until the sun is going down if the picking is good because you just never know. For them it’s in season. Once the harvest is over and you don’t know when the next job was, for them it’s like, no, we’ve got to work. During the school year, we were working the weekends. The weekends when there was work that’s what we were doing. My father would try to get as much out of us as possible. You can get a lot of work out of a kid with a lot of nalgadas (spanking) (Spanish/25:23). I don’t care if you’re crying. I don’t care if you’re tired. Collectively, how can you complain when you see your brother and sister working just as hard? In fact, they worked harder than my parents. My parents didn’t have to scold us because it was 10 my brother and sister, “Come on.” We learned how to work well together, but it was to work hard. Again, the idea that we had the choice: if you want to stay there or get an education. We all did very well because we had the reputation and it was a small town. Farmersville was so poor it didn’t have a high school, so we had to go to the next town, Exeter. Exeter is the rich town. We had to take a bus. You would get off that bus as a kid from Farmersville, and the Exeter kids always looked down on us because we were farmworkers. Imelda, Arthur, Henry and I all graduated as the best students in Farmersville in that we got the top honors. When I got to Exeter I’m put in remedial classes, and my sister, they had done that to her and she said, “No, no, she’s going to the university prep classes.” My parents didn’t know the difference, but it was my sister who said, “No, she’s going to university prep classes.” I and Gil Martinez were the only Mexicans in there, and he was from Exeter and I was from Farmersville. High School for me was difficult in the sense that I never—by that point I had fallen away from the kids that I had hung out in eighth grade, and then high school became this very social place, and I was a fish out of water. I hated high school. For me it was actually the reverse. In the eighth grade I used television and literature to escape, and now I didn’t want to go out into the world because I hated high school. My junior year I ditched so much school because my parents didn’t know. I could forge their handwriting. I would stay home sometimes a week or two at a stretch and then sign a note and my parents didn’t know; they were working. And Ana didn’t tell, thank God, because at that point my other brothers and sisters were in community college, so they would leave and they didn’t know if I went to school or not. But high school was this awful, awful time. The only good thing is I just got to read more. The teachers were very supportive because they saw that I was smart. The teachers were encouraging. 11 Imelda, Arthur and Henry were in community college. There was a great community college called COS and they went there. It was like, okay, I’ll just do exactly what my brothers and sister are doing; I’ll go to COS. Imelda wanted to be a teacher, so she knew she was going to have to transfer to Fresno State. But Henry was finishing up and Arthur was finishing up, so she waited another year. By that point I graduated high school and they said, “Why go to COS?” They had gone a year ahead. “Go to Fresno State.” Okay. So the four of us go to Fresno State. I really don’t leave home, which was great because I still got to go off to college. I got to finally be an adult, but it was with the security of still being at home. But, like high school, I made no friends in college. My best friend in college was a mother of three, she was forty-two years old, and she was really the only friend I made in college. I did exactly what I did at home; I would come back, clean house, cook, study and then still be able to do whatever I wanted in terms of reading and going to class. I was happy. I was a good student. I excelled in history. It was my sophomore year when I was in a history class and the professor walked in, white male, and I looked at him and I said, “Why can’t I do that?” I was like, wow, to read history for the rest of my life and get a job at it? I had a professor the year before, he was my favorite, Dr. Bjerk. I went to him and I said, “Dr. Bjerk, I want to be a professor.” To his credit, he said “Okay, this is what you do. You’re going to have to go to grad school.” He encouraged me and I took the courses with the intent of knowing…but he never explained what grad school was. It was just, you just have to go and basically you’ve got to be good enough. I did my four years at Fresno State. I applied to graduate programs. The year before my brother had actually—my two brothers are geologists—Henry had gotten a full ride to SUNY Binghamton, which is in Upstate New York, and so he had been there a year. I applied to a bunch of places, and I got into Cornell with a full ride. Binghamton and Cornell by bus was 12 about an hour and a half away. That’s the only reason my mother let me go, because Henry was nearby, because I know she wouldn’t have let me go by myself, but she did. I went off to grad school and I found out what grad school was about and it was awful. It was the first time where I was not the smartest kid in the class, where I was way in over my head. My writing was awful. For the first time in my life I was told I wasn’t good enough and that was one of the hardest moments of my life because I had always been the best at history. To be told I didn’t really have the talent or intelligence to complete a PhD—because I went into the master’s program. Again, that first year was awful. But I thought I had improved enough the second year and other students said, “You should stay; you should stay.” When I asked the professor I would have worked with, “Can I stay and do a PhD?” he’s the one that told me I wasn’t smart enough and did not have the talent to finish a PhD at Cornell, and I believed him. I had gotten into UC Santa Barbara and Mario Garcia had actually written a personal letter to me. I wrote to him and said, “Would you still accept me into the program at UCSB?” Oh, yes. So I went back and started the program at UCSB and that was a lot better because I was back in California. I could visit my family and I was on the beach in Santa Barbara. It was like, oh, okay, okay. Actually that’s where I started TAing and that’s where I really thought, yes, this is what I want; this is what I want. When I first imagined what it was to be a professor, I didn’t know. After TAing, after being in front of a classroom, and Mario Garcia and another student, Jeffrey Garcelaso, who actually made me Raquél Casas (Spanish pronunciation) because growing up I had become Rachel (English pronunciation). It was still that generation where—I remember going to kindergarten and seeing the teacher who was the first blond and blue-eyed person I had ever seen in my life. She looked like an alien. I had never seen a blond. I mean, on TV. But Mrs. Palman and she was a platinum 13 blond. I was like, wow. “What’s your name?” Rachel. “That’s Raquél. Your name is Rachel.” From that moment on I was Rachel Casas. Enrique had become Henry and Arturo had become Arthur. They couldn’t do anything with Imelda or Noelia. Analicia was Ana. From kindergarten to college I was Rachel (English pronunciation). Even my mother and father called me, Rachel, Rachel. “Rachel, Rachel.” When I went to Santa Barbara, here was Jeffrey Garcilazo, proud, proud Chicano historian. He had gone the other route: gone to high school, worked, and then come back to school. He was a Chicano. I remember he said, “Do you know what it’s like to be a Chicano named Jeffrey?” But one day he asked me, “Why do you call yourself Rachel?” At that point I was working with Mario and he said, “You’re doing Mexican American history, you’re doing Chicano history. Why are you calling yourself Rachel?” I was like, oh God, he’s right. There was also that delayed realization of, who am I? I could call myself Rachel all day long, but I was treated like a Mexican especially in Santa Barbara to go into a store, I got such great service in Santa Barbara. I would go in and I would be asked, “Can I help you?” And then it hit me. They think I’m going to steal something. To be Rachel, this American name…I was like, “You’re right.” That’s when I started becoming Raquél (Spanish pronunciation). There are the people when I go back to the central valley who say, “Who is Raquél?” (Spanish) “It’s me.” “No, you’re Rachel.” (English) Now the problem is with my full name, Maria Raquél Casas. When I came to Vegas and I get this job, Maria Raquél Casas, and even after twenty-something years some people know me as Maria and some people know me as Raquél. I’ve become very accustomed to being divided, but using it as my protection. Whoever calls me Raquél (Spanish), I know they probably know me a little bit better than if they call me Maria. If I want to stay Maria, it means you ain’t never 14 going to get close to me. Now the only ones that call me Rachel (English) are my family. But it taught me how to divide myself, but also keep myself whole; that I needed to show parts of myself when I wanted to. But I always had to come back to, who am I really? The good news is I’m my parents’ daughter and a sister. Who am I? Daughter and sister, those are the most important things. As long as I have my family, I’m okay. So whoever I become, Rachel (English), Raquél (Spanish), Maria, that’s all that matters. They were very, very supportive. My brother got a PhD before I did because it took me a long time. History is not as quick