Editor’s note: This Q&A with former El Tecolote contributor and current Accion Latina board member of Accion Latina, Ana Montes, was adapted from a July episode of Radio Teco series, “The Women of El Tecolote.” Due to space, this interview has been condensed. To listen to the podcast episode in its entirety, visit eltecolote.org/content/en/radio-teco, or wherever you get your podcasts.
ET: To get started, I wanted to learn about how you came across El Tecolote and what made you want to join?
So I had a very good friend who introduced me to Juan when I was in high school and getting to know him, I learned about some of the things that he wanted to accomplish. One of them was when he started thinking about creating El Tecolote, the community newspaper and I wanted to be a writer for years. So I wanted to join El Tecolote because I thought that that would give me a great opportunity to be able to do some writing as well as be involved in the community in San Francisco, the Latino community in particular, which is where I really wanted to play a role.
And so once I went to City College, I decided that I was going to become a journalism major. That was an area that I really wanted to be a part of because I felt that that was an opportunity to be able to write about the experiences of my community, not only as a Latina but also as a Latina woman. And so I majored at City College at the Delta College as a journalism major and as a la raza studies major. And then I went over to San Francisco State and I majored in journalism and la raza studies at State because I wanted to continue working in the area of journalism, and it was not a good experience.
At that time, I mean we’re talking mid early 70s. There was a lot of racism at San Francisco State and the editor, I had some particular issues with, and also an instructor who accused me of plagiarizing everything I wrote. I’d always gotten a lot of compliments on my writing. I even won an award for writing a short story. And so, having the teacher accuse me of plagiarism was a turn off. Having an editor that constantly made jokes about tequila drinking Mexicans was difficult for me, so I didn’t want to participate in the lab at San Francisco.
It was not a place for me to feel comfortable just as a student wanting to learn all those skills. And so I had an instructor who supported me and helped me to be able to fulfill my lab requirement and the requirements for graduation by getting approval for me to write for El Tecolote newspaper. So it was at that time where I started writing stories for El Tecolote and those stories were covering community type issues.
So talk to us a little bit about when you came to El Tecolote. I know you supported with typesetting and with some of the manual layout, and then of course as a columnist. What was the experience like working at El Tecolote?
I also served as an editor of the paper for at least a year, it might have been a little longer. It was a great experience. I mean, being a typesetter was really interesting because I developed a lot of skills. And we didn’t just write stories and lay out the paper and distribute the paper. But we also got involved in community activities. We also worked towards social change. A big part of it was making sure that the news that was important to our communities and that it was localized. And I had always been very, very involved on women’s issues. I was raised by a very traditional father. I didn’t date until I graduated from college. He was very traditional, and so I felt that there was a lot of things that we needed to do as people around Latinas and our role as women.
I think that the women’s movement was a total failure, when it came to working with women of color. I and I feel that in general the women’s movement was a failure. That’s a personal philosophy that I have because there’s still a lot of things wrong that’s going on. There was a lot of racism within the women’s movement, but I really felt strongly about women’s issues and I taught a la raza women’s class at State.
And so, and I used to do a lot of programs on campus and so one of the things I thought was hey, we should do a woman column. I enjoyed doing it. It led to us doing special inserts in the paper on International Working Women’s Day. We did special inserts and it was stories about women and issues that were important to women.
I think a lot of our listeners know that Juan Gonzales, founder of the paper, is your partner as well. I’m curious about that when I think back to that time period, about working together on building this paper, and also of having your family and moving on with your career interests and all of that. What was that time like?
So you know that’s a really good question and I’m and I’m really get glad you asked that, because I think there’s also a message here that we need to make sure gets out there, but I think that it’s something that we all know and that is that, one I chose to work part time.
I worked full time for a while after the kids were born, and then I chose to work part time because I felt that I just really didn’t want to have the kids in childcare all the time. And I was fortunate enough because we can’t all do this. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we also didn’t take extravagant vacations. But we took vacations. But I was fortunate enough to do that. I think the kids had started school when I was able to work part time, so I chose to work part time to be able to spend more time with them, but then when they were born, I actually cut back on my community activities. Mainly because I didn’t have the energy to do both. So I just decided that I was going to cut back on my activities and I would restart my career because I really supported El Tecolote. I shared the vision and I thought it was really important. I supported, at that time, Juan, continuing to do those other activities. I worked part time, but there were some times when it was really hard because him doing all of those activities meant he was doing all those activities. Lots of activities. And if you look back on what he’s been able to accomplish, it’s been a lot. But there’s sacrifice, and it’s hard on the partner.
I just would like to ask if there’s anything else that you would like to add?
One message in particular that I would like to share, is that I think there’s a lot of people that do look at the paper. I would ask people to encourage people to subscribe. I would ask people to encourage people to donate. The one thing about El Tecolote and Acción Latina is that the staff is a lean mean fighting machine, when it comes to doing the work. And nobody is getting rich doing this work. People do it because they’re so passionate about the work that they’re doing. The biggest thing is donating some financial resources to make sure that the quality of the reporting and the programming continue.