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Voice Of Hispanic Community

Published: September 19, 2016

Ray Rodriquez isn’t exactly a household name, but the prolific writer and historian clearly was a force, particularly in the Hispanic community.

Rodriguez, a former Long Beach City College administrator and long-time columnist for the Press-Telegram, died in 2013 at the age of 87.

His works, too many to mention all, were too important to just leave sitting idly in the garage of his long-time Long Beach home. If that happened, they could possibly be innocently discarded years from now by someone unable to attach any historical significance to some dusty and tattered boxes.

But, thanks to the Rodriguez and Ayala families, a collection of his works was recently donated to the CSULB University Library’s Special Collections and Archives for access by future researchers.

University librarian Susan Luevano brought the collection to the attention of Chloe Pascual, CSULB’s librarian for Special Collections and Archives. Rodriquez’ widow Almira and nephew John Ayala, were interested in donating the materials to CSULB because he was an alum and had a deep connection to the local community.

Of course, before accepting the collection, Pascual had to do her due diligence and investigate who Rodriquez was. What was his connection to the university, to the Long Beach and Los Angeles areas and what were his scholarly contributions? And, maybe most importantly, she needed to determine if CSULB was the appropriate repository for his materials. Sometimes a person might have a very compelling resume and be important, she noted, but there might be another place that can better serve their materials.

That wasn’t the case for Rodriquez’s work.

“This was pretty much a slam dunk that we wanted to bring it here,” she said. “We just had to make sure that we could process it properly and give it the home that it needed.”

The collection included 16 boxes of materials amassed by Rodriquez and his writing partner, Francisco Balderrama, a professor emeritus of History and Chicano Studies at Cal State University Los Angeles. Together, they conducted years of research before writing their book titled Decade of Betrayal in 1995. The book focused on forced deportation and repatriation of Mexican-Americans and Mexicans during the Great Depression.

Pascual, who has a great appreciation for organization as one can imagine simply based on her position, admitted that even she was impressed with Rodriguez’s collection from the outset.

“He actually had his research files in beautiful order. He would have made a great librarian,” she said, noting it took about two months for her to go through the collection. “His research files and all the material he collected from the U.S. government, from the Mexican government and from various newspaper were all put together in this collection that led up to the writing of his book.”

Born in Long Beach in 1926, Rodriguez, dropped out of high school in his senior year and joined the Navy, serving in the Pacific during the war. Afterward, he went to college on the G.I. Bill, and earned a general education degree from Long Beach City College (LBCC) in 1951 before entering CSULB, where he received a bachelor’s in elementary education in 1953 and a master’s in education administration in 1957. In 1962, he earned a master’s in U.S. history from USC.

He went on to teach elementary and secondary students in the Long Beach Unified School District for nearly a dozen years. He then taught history and political science at LBCC and also served as its affirmative action officer and dean of personnel for two decades, retiring in 1988.

Part of the Ray Rodriquez Collection housed under glass in the University Library.
PHOTO BY SHAYNE SCHROEDER
Part of the Ray Rodriquez Collection housed under glass in the University Library.

But, Rodriguez was always writing. When not working on a book, he was a regular columnist for the Press-Telegram and also wrote a weekly column in Spanish for El Economico and for Impacto, USA. His focus ran a fairly wide gamut of Hispanic issues.

In addition, Rodriguez was the founder and president of the statewide California Community College Affirmative Action Consortium, and the founder and president of the Long Beach Chapter of the Association of Mexican American Educators.

“He was important to the City of Long Beach as a columnist for the Press-Telegram,” said Pascual. “He was an important voice in the Hispanic community and through his columns his words could be heard in the larger community. He talked about not only personal issues, but political issues as well, trying to increase Latino participation in government affairs and making sure voices that sometimes were marginalized were heard.”

Pascual’s hope for the collection is that professors in Chicano and Latino Studies (and other departments as well) promote it to their students to use, especially when they get into upper division and graduate students. His works not only can provide a rather hearty glimpse into Hispanic culture, but also a real understanding of what kind of primary research they can do and of the kind of deliberate work that goes into creating a book.

“His family was extremely generous in donating this material. This is an important piece for our library,” said Pascual. “I think it adds to the way we serve our students. We are a Hispanic-Serving Institution and have a diverse population of students, faculty, staff and community members, so it’s important that our collections reflect that. And we have a diversity of voices in what students can study when they get here and what voices they can hear from when they get here. This collection from Ray Rodriguez certainly provides one of those voices.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

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