Jose L Rodriguez

Title

Jose L Rodriguez

Date

2022-10-29

Format

video

Interviewer

Tzetzangare Rosas-Perez

Interviewee

Jose Rodriguez

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Jose L Rodriguez Latino Lorain Fall 2022 Oberlin College Library Jose Rodriguez Tzetzangare Rosas-Perez 0 https://media.lib.oberlin.edu/media_objects/k0698750g Avalon https://media.lib.oberlin.edu/ video &lt ; iframe title=&quot ; Jose Rodriguez&quot ; src=&quot ; //media.lib.oberlin.edu:443/master_files/g158bh30q/embed&quot ; width=&quot ; 600&quot ; height=&quot ; 337&quot ; frameborder=&quot ; 0&quot ; webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen&gt ; &lt ; /iframe&gt ; 0 Introductions I'm Tzetzangare Rosas-Perez and I am interviewing Mr. Jose Rodriguez to talk about his life as part of the Latino Veterans Project. Mr. Jose Luis Rodriguez was born April 22, 1946. The interview was done on October 29th, 2022, in the Lorain Historical Society. 42 Early Life: Growing up in Puerto Rico Let’s begin with some questions about your early life. Can you just begin by telling me where you were born and where you grew up. Mr. Rodriguez was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico where he was raised for the first 12 years of his life. Both his parents and grandparents were born in Yabucoa meaning he had generational connections with his homeland. He discusses what it was like to attend school especially since he only had to go for half a day. Mr. Rodriguez explains that this was mainly because he had to return home and help out with chores around the house and the farm. One of the details he notes is not wearing shoes even though they lived on a hill and how he had to attend school with no running water or electricity but that just showing how much things change over time. Rural Living ; Yabucoa, Puerto Rico 114 Family Dynamics: Working on the Farm My dad had came to the United States in 1950. My mother and him had had three children. Mr. Rodriguez discusses the beginning of his family's move to the United States. His father had first moved to the United States in 1950 leaving him at home almost like the man of the house. Since his parent’s had three children, him being the oldest of two younger brothers, he felt a sense of responsibility. This came across by working on his family farm to help his grandfather and grandmother plow the fields with oxen. Even though his father left when he was six this did not impede him from helping his grandfather to work on the tobacco fields where he was given a jar to pick the insects off the tobacco plants. His own mother’s first job was working with his grandfather packing cigars. He notes that part of his job was also going around his neighborhood and selling the products his grandparent’s farm produced in addition to still going to school Family ; Farm Work ; Migration ; Tobacco 265 Connections to the Earth We lived outside mostly. After discussing just how much working on the farm meant to him, he reiterated that he lived mostly outside and enjoyed eating a lot of fruits. Everything that they had or used they grew, in other words he notes the self-sufficiency that he and his family practiced outside of the canned goods. As he said they had everything from tobacco to coffee. He also mentions that he had a dog that used to follow him around even to school which was 2 miles away. He had gotten this dog about two years before coming to the United States himself. Pets ; Self-Sufficiency 319 New Life: Coming to Ohio So, when I had to leave Puerto Rico it was hard. I didn’t want to come. Since Mr. Rodriguez had such a connection not just to the people in Puerto Rico but also the land and animals it was hard for him to leave when it came time. He migrated in February 1956 to Ohio where his father came to work in the Steel Mills in Youngstown. He had extended family spread around Ohio but ended up arriving in Lorain and not Youngstown with his father. His mother decided to go to Lorain because her brother was in Lorain as well as some other close family members. His father not only worked at the Steel Mill but also as a cook at the railroad. His father worked from Sunday evenings until Friday’s which made it difficult for their introduction and settling in the United States because his mother did not speak English. They had arrived in the East Side of Lorain but then moved to the West Side in 3rd grade (1958). Since getting to the United States his mother had four new siblings, three brothers and one sister. On the West Side they lived on 14th Street in an apartment building with other Puerto Rican families. He reminisces on the constant moving around that he experienced. Railroad ; Steel Mills ; Youngstown 532 Religion: Attending Catholic School My dad put us in Catholic School here. I remember we used to clean the church After coming to Lorain he was put into Catholic school by his father where he cleaned the church. The church and the school were in the same building and by cleaning the church they would help pay for their tuition. All three of his brothers, the older siblings, would partake in the cleaning. Catholic School ; Jobs 568 Father’s Job: Painter My father used to paint houses on the side. His father also used to paint houses on the side to maintain his family. It would not only be his father but also Mr. Rodriguez’s brothers and his uncle at times. They would start on Friday and by Sunday the house would be finished. Family ; Family and Labor 582 Religion: Early Involvement While we lived there, I was pretty much involved in the church Mr. Rodriguez reflects on his involvement with the church. He was a catechist at 18 years old to students that were only 13-15 years old at Old St. Peters on 17th Street. His father and mother were always close to the people and priests at church. His father didn’t drive so to get to church there would be a gentleman that would drive around in a Station Wagon or a Van to pick them up. Catechist ; Old St. Peters, Catholic Church 642 Friendships and Adolescence I had some really close friends. Jose Gonzalez, who used to live on 9th street, was one of many close friends in Lorain. He was the oldest of 13 and Mr. Rodriguez was the oldest of seven so they would always be watching kids. They became really close friends and to this day they are friends. He graduated from 8th grade from St. Josephs, the church school, he went to Lorain High. He was way ahead when he got into Lorain High so he breezed through with all A’s. He went there for another year, where he then decided to transfer to Admiral King because they had an electrical program. After deciding he didn’t like it he transferred back to Lorain High. He also did it for his girlfriend at the time, girlfriend since 8th grade until graduation where they broke up since she was going to college. Admiral King High ; Friendships ; Lorain High School ; St. Joseph Middle School 761 Getting Drafted That’s when I got drafted. When I graduated in 1966 in June, by September I had been drafted and I was on my way to Columbus, Georgia. Once he graduated in June 1966 he was quickly drafted by September. He was sent to Columbus, Georgia with a group of 90 more boys from Lorain County that were also going to Georgia for basic training. After going through several programs and training the military wanted him to go to OCS [Officer Candidate School] which he thought was good until he realized he needed to enlist for another 9 months. He was sent to Virginia in hopes he would be interested in OCS there. Columbus, Georgia ; Draft ; Officer Candidate School ; Virginia 855 Community and Mentorship It seems like the move from Puerto Rico to Lorain or Youngstown was a bit difficult because of the loss of community but the church served as that community built here. It sounds like you were a role model to the younger kids and the community, being the oldest. Were there some friends, mentors, or role models in your life you haven’t discussed yet His dad’s best friend, Alfonso Rodriguez, was thought to be his father’s brother because of the shared last name and since they spent so much time together. Alfonso and his wife had no children themselves but they were really close to his dad and his family. Since his father did not drive Alfonso would drive them around, everyone would be in the car. They would go to Youngstown quite a bit with them. Alfonso was a good man who Mr. Rodriguez never heard say any bad word. He would often give him consejos, or advice. His godfather lived in Youngstown, where he would often go, always had a room for him. His godfather would also give him a lot of consejos. His father was crude and rough with them since he ruled with an iron fist. He gave his kids a strict curfew where he would be forced to sleep outside if he was late. He also gave him a lot of girl advice although he was always working. This meant his mother did a lot of the policing because his father was not around too much. She was a great cook and there would always be people and friends over. One of those close friends was Celestino Rivera, his brother’s best friend. Celestino was very smart, everyone thought he would be a priest. Celestino Rivera ; Family Friend ; Mentorship 1101 Church: Building Programs and Defining Relationships I was really involved in the church. As a matter of fact, I was the vice president of the Parish Council when I was only 26. As a young adult, Mr. Rodriguez was once again very involved with the church, more specifically Sacred Heart. He became the vice president of the Parish Council at only 26 years old which is a position he held for 8 years. Mr. Rodriguez became close to Father Bruce and all of the other priests that moved through the church. Together with his wife, they became involved with the church by starting new programs that are still being used. One of those programs were godparent classes which godparents, especially for baptism, needed to take before becoming godparents. Another program that he created was the Crusillo Essay for the Sacred Heart Church which is an intense three week retreat at the age of 23. His development allowed for the Crusillo movement to expand across the country. Marriage Encounters, another weekend retreat for couples, was one other program that he helped create to help build communication between relationships. The main thing that he did was making sure that talks for Marriage Encounters were translated from English to Spanish. He also talks about the impact that COVID had on his interactions and even his celebration of 50 years of marriage. Cursillo Program ; Marriage ; Parish Council ; Sacred Heart Catholic Chapel 1594 Dealing with Health The thing with that is that while all that was going on, I was dealing with depression and anxiety. Mr. Rodriguez discusses that while he was the program coordinator and such a critical part of the church community, he was also dealing with depression and PTSD. At the time, he did not know about PTSD and in fact was not diagnosed with it until 1998.He notes that in 1970 he had gone to the VA Medical Center but instead of getting a diagnosis he was just given the runaround. As a coping mechanism he became a workaholic, while working at the Steel Mills as an electrician he was also working as an exterminator on the side. He was a people person which was aided by his jobs which moved him all over Ohio to do work. Mr. Rodriguez shares that in 1999 and 2001 he had two major back surgeries which put him out of work for a year. He had been advised by his doctor to not go back to work and instead ask for disability pension in 2002. He left his Steel Mill job but kept his small business going since his brothers also relied on it as their sustenance. He is reminiscent of the period of time he would go on walks with an old friend for 6 years. Disability ; Mental Health ; PTSD ; Steel Mill ; Surgeries 1795 Family: Father Figure and Marriage After a while, I had to quit the walks. We did it for about 6 years. Because I had to deal with the kids. Mr. Rodriguez discusses what it was like helping his daughter raise her three children after and even before she divorced her husband. He explains that he had become a father figure to his grandchildren, especially his granddaughter Sofia. He then goes on to explain his connection with his wife even as children. He explains that he knew his wife from their First Communion especially because she was his friend’s little sister . He is three years older than her, meaning that they met when he was 13 and she was 10. He remembers that she was his brother’s girlfriend first, before he was drafted to Vietnam. One of his memories is picking up girls after coming up from Vietnam. He later became engaged to his wife in 1969 and they were married by 1970. Father Figure ; Spouse 1983 Back from Vietnam and Thoughts I came back...When I came from Vietnam, instead of going home, I went to Puerto Rico. Mr. Rodriguez explains that after he came back from Vietnam he went to Puerto Rico to visit his grandparents instead of coming home. He wasn’t aware at the time, but when he came back from Vietnam his brother was drafted which caused his mother to have a nervous breakdown. It was a highly tense time in Lorain, his neighbor’s husband had actually passed away in Vietnam. His mother’s godson was also killed in Vietnam. He went back to Fort Bragg since he still had four months of service to finish and then went to New York to visit his aunt and uncle for a month before finally returning to Lorain. This is when he found out that his mother had been put in a psychiatric ward after the news about his brother’s draft. He describes his feelings after serving as being rattled and having to deal with the anxiety of post war life. Through all of this he explains that the person that should be getting the recognition or a purple heart should be his wife that stood by him. Mr. Rodriguez had always thought that he would be going to college or at least a form of school after highschool. What actually happened was that he was so used to working he didn’t enroll and was suddenly drafted into the Vietnam war. He hadn’t even thought of the military until then since he didn’t think he would be drafted. Having no preconceived notions other than the handful of people in his family and friends that had served. He remembers once going to Fort Knox to visit his uncle that worked as an instructor on tanks for 30 years. Draft ; Fort Bragg ; Fort Knox ; New York ; Puerto Rico ; Purple Heart ; Vietnam 2237 Getting Help I think what happened was I wanted to forget it all. Mr. Rodriguez talks about all Vietnam Veterans that he knew would try to forget their service just like he did. He mentioned that he had been going to group counseling with other veterans which was interrupted by the pandemic. One of the things he discovered was that the same kids that he went to school with and grew up with went to Vietnam and served but it was never discussed afterwards. Mr. Rodriguez didn’t even know who had gone and who hadn’t and it wasn’t until group counseling that he was beginning to have answers. Edwin Lopez, his godson, was the one who encouraged and ultimately convinced him to go to these meetings and it was after discovering that he had also been to Vietnam. Mr. Rodriguez also discusses that divorce was a huge side effect from veterans. Almost everyone that he knew got divorced, and he feels like one of the lucky ones because his wife hung in there with him. From his observations, veterans often turned to drugs and alcohol, they had anger issues, became unhoused, and would find themselves in trouble with the law. He confesses that he was also drinking while working and program coordinating to lessen the anxiety that he felt, in his words a functioning drinker. He sympathizes, and explains that these veterans were simply looking for relief because it seemed like no one wanted to deal with them. The counseling group was actually started by Vietnam Veterans for Vietnam Veterans. He explains that he didn’t wear his hat for over 45 years because of how Vietnam Veterans were viewed and received. The only thing they had has to rely on each other since they were the only ones to understand their experiences. For a long time he didn’t think he needed any help since he was already going to therapy. He emphasizes that the Vet Center in Cleveland became a resource to him and that after so many years he was finally able to talk about Vietnam without getting worked up. Group Counseling ; Pandemic ; Substances ; Veterans Helping Veterans 2767 Experiences and Lessons So I think it would be really interesting, and I know that you were saying it's been difficult to talk about your service. Would you want to speak more about any connections or challenges with the service? Mr. Rodriguez compares his experiences to that of his younger brother. He talks about how his brother went to service and came back worse than Mr. Rodriguez. He explains that unfortunately he recently passed and he never had the chance or opportunity to talk with him about his service. Mainly because his brother did not want to talk about it. He explains that trauma plays a big role in how they feel and act. Since divorce is a huge symptom of veterans the creation of broken homes was inevitable. He explains that broken homes and divorces can also lead to affecting the kids. Personally he found that navigating life with religion was a way to find comfort. He reveals that he found serving one another was the purpose of life. He questions how people can live without faith. He also shares that he learned that the people that you know are the people that can hurt you the most. Divorce ; Family ; Trauma ; Vietnam 3159 Thoughts Towards the Military and Message for the Future Has your service, with the military and connections with other veterans, impacted your feelings about war or military in general? Mr. Rodriguez discusses how serving has given him an insight into politics and the government. He sees what is going on in the government and the country and how Democrats and Republicans are enemies that just want power. He mentions that some of the ways they do this is by preventing voting through so many measures. After serving it is easier to deal with and notice knowing what war is and what it is fought for. Contrary to what history writes, he doesn’t think that Vietnam is a useless war because he knows they were fighting communism. He mentions the idea of American Amnesia since not much is said about what happened to the Vietnamese people after the US left. He explains that unfortunately in order to kill it was encouraged to see them as not human, but he never saw them as anything other than humans. Mr. Rodriguez wants anyone watching to understand that the people who are fighting the wars are being trained to kill and learning to survive. They are taught that the people who they are fighting against want to hurt them, want to hurt your community, or want to take something away from them. At the end of the day it is people killing people. He believes that this is a situation of the worst in us trying to protect the best in us. He also wishes Vietnam never happened and that there would be no wars. He does understand that the United States has more freedoms than any other country and they were gained because of the wars. He finishes his story by reiterating that the spouses need much more recognition. Government ; Spousal Recognition ; Vietnam In copyright. video All rights reserved. 0 https://oberlincollegelibrary.org/ohms-viewer/render.php?cachefile=LL_Rodriguez_Jose.xml LL_Rodriguez_Jose.xml

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“Jose L Rodriguez,” Latino Lorain , accessed July 19, 2024, https://latinolorain.oberlincollegelibrary.org/items/show/137.