Other Voices: Judithe Hernández

Judithe Hernández 

Hernández first met Almaraz in 1972, two years before she joined Los Four as its only female member. In 1977, she and Almaraz collaborated on the mural La Mujer in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. This story is excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck, and had been edited and condensed for clarity.

One of the best stories I have of Carlos is when he was doing the Gallo boycott mural on Soto and Michigan. He was working with the local gang, and these guys were tough, some of them had done things that aren’t very nice. But they loved him and they would show up and they would work with him. One day we had to go see our lawyer, a pro bono lawyer for Los Four. I picked Carlos up at the mural and he said “some of the guys are coming with us.” So these four or five really tough vato locos [crazy dudes] got in the car, and as we got closer to Century City and these beautiful neighborhoods—it was very upscale shopping and business buildings—they were quiet. Before that they had been chatterboxes, talking, laughing, and they had stopped talking. We went into this beautiful lobby, elevators— very intimidating, with the granite floors and gold doors—and we went up to this [upper] floor, and they all went and sat down and they were like little rabbits huddled together suddenly in the lair of the wolf, they had just become children, these bad guys. Afterward, they finally said, “what were you talking about? I couldn’t understand what you were saying.” Carlos responded: “That’s because you haven’t gone to school, it’s not a code, it’s not another language, it’s just English.”

Fast-forward forty years into the future. My daughter was going to East L.A. College to finish her general education requirements. One of her professors who taught a political science class she was in was trying to design a program in revolutionary trends. So he invited us to a couple of his meetings, and at one of the meetings there was a man who was the dean who oversaw the campus. I could see there was some trepidation in his face.

He said, “you know, my colleagues don’t know this about me, but I don’t want to miss this opportunity to tell you that you and I met before. The last time you saw me I was fourteen, I was one of the guys who went with you and Carlos Almaraz on that trip to Century City to meet your attorney. Knowing Carlos was one of the most important things that ever hap­pened to my life. I got out of the gang, I didn’t ever want to be in it but I felt I had no choice. And I finally was able to get away and I went to school, and my life has been different because I knew you guys.”

 

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