Alan Goycochea

Alan Goycochea (b. 1936 in Calexico) served in Korea and Vietnam. He returned to the South Bay and became the principal of Sweetwater Union High School. Alan’s father was Alfredo Goycochea (born 1898 in Huatabampo, Sonora) and his mother was Trinidad Quintana. She was probably of indigenous heritage, but she died when Alfredo was only a few weeks old. Because Huatabampo was a small town where everybody took care of everybody, Alfredo (the youngest of five siblings) was raised by the mother of future Mexican President Obregon. (Obregon was also from Huatabampo.)

Alfredo’s father was Alejo Goycochea, a fairly well-to-do farmer who sold garbanzo beans to Spain for a time. He sent Alfredo to study agronomy at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana. Upon Alfredo’s return from the United States, he joined the Pancho Villa forces.

Pancho Villa Fighter

According to Alan, the United States was backing Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution against the federal government. The US was training Villa’s forces in Bliss, Texas. Since Alfredo spoke English, he became a liaison. When the training was done, they loaded Villa’s forces on railroad cars and took them through El Paso, then across the border to Mexico. Their weapons and ammunition were placed in baggage cars and an American Major locked them up and kept the keys. Once the train crossed the border into Mexico, the Major gave the keys to Villa. Villa then unlocked the baggage cars and the recruits were armed.

Alfredo’s stay with Villa was short lived. Apparently, Villa’s forces came into a village and accused the villagers of collaborating with the government. The Mexican army had come in and said, “We want these horses. We want these supplies from your warehouses.” The villagers gave the items to the federales because the Mexican forces had guns and the villagers didn’t. Villa, in an act of retribution, came into the town and slaughtered the people. Alfredo subsequently quit the revolution and went back to Sonora where he joined up as a federales under Obregon.

Police Commissioner and Presidente Municipal

After the revolution, Obregón became president. Alfredo was named police commissioner of one of the districts where the University of Mexico is located in Mexico City. He served in that position for some time and then Alfredo became the Mayor, or Presidente Municipal after going back to Hautabampo. One of his siblings had also been Presidente Municipal.

While back in Hautabampo, according to Alan, there were 12 autonomous villages who celebrated the Dia de Santa Trinidad. These villagers asked Alfredo for firearms in order to keep the peace during the celebrations. Alfredo agreed and when officials within the federal government found out about it, they said Alfred was supporting Catholicism, which had been outlawed. Alferdo’s life was on the line and he had to escape. It was the indigenous people in Sonora who helped him, getting him through to Bisbee, Arizona.

Mining in Arizona, Cashier at Mexicali’s ABW club and Liquor Store Owner in Tijuana

Because he was fluent in English, Alfredo was able to get a job in one of the mines. The work took its toll, since in the mines they often detonated dynamite. Because of the work, Alfredo became hard of hearing.

From there, he found a job as a head cashier in Mexicali at the ABW club. There he met his wife, Mary Helbert (Alan’s mother). Mary was born in Oklahoma City. While Mary’s father died young, Mary’s mother worked as a cook on the railroads. At times they lived in a railroad car. One way or another, Mary Helbert became an Errol Carol showgirl who worked in musical productions and she performed at the ABW club.

Mary and Alfredo got married. When Alan was to be born, Mary insisted he be born in the United States and so she crossed the border into Calexico to give birth. Alan was young when they moved to Tijuana where Alfredo next owned a liquor store. It was during the Prohibition days and Alfredo would buy 55 gallon barrels of scotch whisky. The barrels came from Europe and large amounts were in the back room. Alfredo would divide the liquor into bottles and sell them to American clientele coming across the border. Then, during the late 1930’s a great fire burned out the central section of Tijuana and gutted the whole downtown area. Alfredo and Mary moved to San Ysidro. They lived at 155 Olive Street.

Alfredo then worked at all sorts of jobs, including bartender at the US Grant Hotel and a clerk in liquor stores. Mary worked as a cosmetics buyer. Alfred and Mary lived in San Ysidro until 1958 when they moved to 531 Anita Street, Chula Vista.

Alan Goycochea in Military Service

Alan’s mother insisted he be educated in the United States, so he attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In second grade he transferred to San Ysidro Elementary school. He went on to Southwest Junior High School where he was President of his class in 1951. He attended Mar Vista High School, but left in 1953 to join the Army.

Alan served in the Korean war in 1953. He injured his back and shoulder during combat and was flown to the Air Force Base in the Philippines. He wanted to stay in, so he signed up with a unit in Japan where he lived for about three and a half years.

When he returned to the United States, he attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was commissioned as second lieutenant of the infantry in June 1958. He went to Korea again as well as Panama where he was an instructor at the general warfare school. From 1962 to 1966 he was a Captain fighting in Vietnam until he lost an eye.

Principal of Sweetwater Union High School

In June 1966 Alan was medically retired from the United States Army in the grade of Captain. He went back to San Diego and got a teaching credential. He became a teacher, a counselor and an administrator with the original staff of Montgomery Junior High in South San Diego. He received a promotion to assistant principal and then principal at Sweetwater High School.

At the time, Sweetwater High School was considered an ‘underdog’ in education. Within a decade, the school received recognition for placing many students in college. His high expectation alongside innovative programs made this happen.


(Interview July 25, 2016.)