Juan Medina

Juan Medina came to San Ysidro at the age of seven. The year was 1957. His mother was from Mexicali and his biological father was from Nogales, Arizona.

Juan’s mother re-married to Joe Valverde and they both went to live with him in San Ysidro.

Juan became part of the Brown Beret’s after the school walk out at Mar Vista High School in 1968. He also graduated high school and married that same year. The students from San Ysidro who went to Mar Vista started the walk-out in the same vein as the “Brown Pride” Chicana/o rights activists in East Los Angeles when hundreds of Mexican American students walked out of class the first week of March to protest the inferior educational conditions.

As a young man, Juan found odd-jobs doing mostly roofing. However, when the movement settled in, he began to hold private meetings at his house organizing Brown Berets, patterning his group on what was going on in Los Angeles.

Juan explained that “a Chicano” was a person who believed in the ideology of helping his or her own people out of oppression. The Brown Berets didn’t pick up arms or have weapons. Instead, Juan said, “There was a need for Chicano students to have identity. The oppression was just too much. We wanted bilingual education. Free medical clinics. There was a 10 point program.”

What happened shortly after Juan’s Brown Beret organizing was that the first director of the MAAC Project, Larry Montoya, hired Juan to be the first Director of the San Ysidro Team Post. He was 19 years old. The MAAC Team Post was located next to Mt. Carmel Church. About 15-20 people would meet together and the San Ysidro Team Post remained very aligned with the movement happening at San Diego State University.

In addition, the Brown Berets would bring speakers and would serve as the security detail for Cesar Chavez, Corky Gonzalez and others. According to Juan, after trouble arose in San Francisco where a Brown Beret’s were accused of shooting police officers, the FBI targeted the Brown Berets in San Ysidro. In particular, Larry Montoya sent Juan to the Chicano Conference held in Denver, Colorado with Corky Gonzalez. When he returned, he said FBI busted into his house and took all his reading material. The FBI also would follow him to work and bug his phone.

In 1969 Juan was selected for a scholarship at Sacramento State University and he took it, leaving the South Bay.

(Interview: July 30, 2014)