Geronimo Blanco came to live in San Ysidro in 1964 when he was about fourteen years old. His father and mother — Geronimo and Maria Blanco — were originally from Durango, Mexico. They lived for a time in Juarez, Chihuahua and then immigrated to Hemet, California in the United States. There, Geronimo started the eighth grade and recalls being only one of five or six students who came from Mexico attending a pre-dominantly white anglo school. He explained that because of the color of his skin, he couldn’t pass for being a white student and as soon as they heard him talk and knew his name, Geronimo would be bullied.
Geronimo, however, was born in the United States. His mother and some of his siblings, however, here not legal residents so after a short time in Hemet, they moved to Tijuana. Because Geronimo was a U.S. citizen, he attended Southwest Junior High and then Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach. He recalled that Mar Vista High School consisted of about 45% white anglo students, 45% students with Mexican descent and about 10% other ethnicities. As a consequence, discrimination was intense. Geronimo recalled that the discrimination towards students with Mexican descent came from both faculty and students.
In one instance, the students of Mexican descent were congregating in the hallways and fights would break out between the white anglo kids and Mexican descent kids. The teachers would break it up and Gernomino remembers that an Assistant Principal called him and his group of friends ‘a bunch of cattle.’ Geronimo explained that white anglo kids often picked fights with the students of Mexican descent and the Mexican students usually would be the ones to get punished.
In particular, Mar Vista had several “gangs,” including one called “The Second Confederacy,” consisting of white anglo students who wore jackets with the confederate flag. By the time Geronimo was a senior in high school, he became a Brown Beret at Mar Vista. The year was 1968. The Second Confederacy started to pick fights with Brown Berets.
Another time, Geronimo was waiting for the bus to take him back to San Ysidro when a white anglo student started to tell a Brown Beret student, “If I ever see one of you Mexicans touch another white man…” At that point, Geronimo remembers stepping in and a big fight started. A student from the confederate gang was stabbed. In order to calm the situation, the Chief of Police began mediation between the two groups.
After Geronimo graduated, he continued to be a Brown Beret, attending weekly meetings at the San Ysidro Post located on Hall Avenue. The San Diego Brown Berets still exist today and Geronimo continues to be part of the group.
(Interview July 30, 2014)