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SGV Connect 121 Interview Transcript: Chris Greenspon interviews Pedro Mariano Gonzalez

CG: What's your name? Where are you from?
PG: My name is Pedro Mariano Gonzalez. I was born in El Monte and raised in Covina.
CG: Okay, and you are the librarian and archivist for Libras monte Lending Library, which is part of Casa Zamora at Zamora Park. What is Libros Monte, exactly? I know I just said it's a lending library. But most people are just used to, you know, county libraries, city libraries.
PG: So a community lending library, I would describe it as very grassroots based, sometimes more in the social justice trajectory of libraries, we take in donations. All our books, our 500-ish books are all donated to support Casa Zamora and the SEMAP project. And our lending out process is a little looser, more lax than maybe a public library would, you don't have to really register and things like that, you know, we have some library cards, but really, we provide our books, donated books, and we kind of just allow folks to come in, lend them out. And we entrust in people that it'll be returned for others to also use and circulate.
CG: So no fines, more time. Okay, so tell us a little bit about your own history with literacy. And why were you drawn to this?
PG: Ah, well, I would begin with actually not being like the best student, I guess. I went to South Hills High School, I was kicked off the soccer team more than once for not making grades. In my senior year, I remember, it was like halfway through the semester, and our teachers like, okay, like your grades are posted up on the board, like, we'll check your student ID and it has your grade. And it was like a D in my English senior class that I had to pass, right. So the last couple months, I had to like really cram all high school years into like the last couple of months who like graduate, I feel like I just barely got by graduating. And so I started Mount SAC later that fall with not the sharpest mindset about school, or really what college was, I was just kind of attending, just to continue school, I don't really have anything else to do, right. Fast forward, um, my family and I were going through like different personal situations, issues. And so I kind of stopped taking classes on Mount SAC here and there. But at the same time, I was organizing with MEChA, a historically, let the next student political organization, and we were campaigning for the institutionalization of a Latino Student Resource Center, and support program, which Mount SAC lacked at the time. And so even though I wasn't taking classes, for even a whole semester, at times, I was still coming back to campus to support MEChA. And I played an active role in that. And so, I guess in like, this was a period where I was kind of like, wandering around a lot, you know, I didn't have a job, my housing situation wasn't the best. I wasn't going to classes, I was just kind of straying around. And so the library is always there, right to welcome people to if they're going to study or they're just gonna rest, right. And so I spent a lot of time in the library. So eventually, I would wander the aisles. And I came across really cool books. And the first one that actually like read and completed was the autobiography of Malcolm X. And that book, I guess, I kind of resonated in some areas. And I started to pick up a lot of books, I started to just read a lot. Malcolm X really inspired me to read a lot. So I think that was really the seed of what developed an interest and a really passionate one about literature and libraries, right and community spaces. At the same time, because we were organizing this whole movement really, we had a really good advisor, our friend, Fabian Pagan. He's currently a PhD student in the Chicano Studies Department at UC Santa Barbara. And he was our advisor for MEChA. And he would always just mentor us throughout the day and really just help and support us about being a student at Mount SAC, the transfer process etc. And mostly our movement to institutionalize the resource center and so he explained to us how archives are so important. So in this case, we had a pretty vigorous movement here, Mount SAC to institutionalize this space. And he shared with us that one day the school is going to try to absorb El Centro, and kind of make it their own right. But with our archives by preserving our own historical materials, our own archival materials and making our own rebel archive, if you will, we will have the power and the control to narrate our own history right or write our own history. So all this like Library and Archive stuff really started as like, in the process of a political student movement to acquire resources and support for Latino students at Mount SAC. And it was all anchored in social justice or a higher level of political consciousness that really brought me to Library and Archives. I think that's when I first really planted the seed in my interest in libraries and archives.
CG: What's the common thread then between El Centro, and Libros Monte? Is it the same thing for a different age group?
PG: Well, short answer, they're not the same thing for different age groups. But I do see how they are both part of a process of marginalized communities in the SGV, greater SGV, who are snatching back their history, finding the tools and power to collectively preserve their own history and tell their own history. So I really see Libros Monte as part of that in El Monte, and I also see it in Mount SAC and more Eastern area of the SGV, at a college right by students, multicultural students as well. So I see them as the same process, but distinct according to each respective conditions.
CG: And what's your plan to keep it going with momentum, so it doesn't just become something that only the homies visit?
PG: Well, I think we are growing our capacity in establishing or hosting more events. Since we just opened to the public in December at our launch, we've planned to make at least two big events every month. So every other week, we're growing our capacity to promote our community hours and events across the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, the surrounding communities. And we're seeing a growing interest as well in folks who are stopping by maybe for the first time or from the local high school students and youth and children as well. I'm hoping that my new position, at El Centro, a Mount SAC, I can really create a bridge to, in a way bring Mount SAC students to Casa Zamora, but also bring Libros Monte and some other to Mount SAC. So I think that because folks are Casa Zamora, play a variety of roles in the community will be able to expand pretty broadly.
CG: And use your own homegrown experience to tie in soccer to literacy. Get them when they're young.
PG: Yeah, yeah. So that's a that's actually a really important component of customer data, that the park is already a very futbol Park. And in turn, Casa Zamora are also big futbol fans, right? I know that our co-director Romeo Guzman, grew up playing football. And I also grew up playing futbol around the SGV. And I see it as not an accident, right, I think because we're both in different ways from El Monte and we're both from the SGV. I mean, it's kind of natural to grow up playing football in some capacity. And so because Casa Zamora being a park in El Monte, of course is going to have a lot of soccer, not a futbol activity. And so we really try to resemble that., right? And I think it demonstrates that Zamora Park and Casa Zamora are kind of two in the same right and so we do lend our soccer goals and our soccer balls in a way to engage with the community to right, and not just link the community to futbol but also to the community to Libros Monte, whether that's literature, political consciousness, but also Art and Writing and creativity, right?
CG: And to wrap it all up, what are the hours and what's the next event?
PG: So our community hours are Fridays, from three to seven. Sometimes it pushes back a little after seven. Our upcoming event is March 2. We're having a day of futbol, poetry, and popular education workshops about the history of soccer. We're going to have screenings of Maradona's Legs, a soccer documentary, and we're going to screen our recent short film that we created, right, and it's called La Pelota. It's about kids playing soccer at a park and they get their ball stuck up in the tree.
CG: Pedro Gonzales, thank you so much for coming on SGV Connect.
PG: Thank you so much.