Ray Juarez

Raymond Juarez was born 1955 in Logan Heights, San Diego. He lived at 1030 Delta Street on the north side of National City, also known as “Shell Town.”

Ray’s father was Raymond Zapata Juarez (b. 1919 in San Diego) and Ray’s grandfather was Aristeo Juarez who was born 1889 in Cuanajo, Michoacán. He and his family in Mexico were well-known tailors. According to the family legend, Aristeo came to the States in the early 1900’s because one of his sisters had married a well-off-gentleman who abused her. Aristeo and his brother Trinidad retaliated against her husband and then the husband put a contract out them both. As a consequence, Aristeo’s mother told the boys to escape to the U.S.

By then, Aristeo was married to Dolores, who was also from Michoacán. She went with him to the United States. They first settled in Logan Heights and then in Old Town National City. Aristeo became a carpenter, building homes and also creating high quality retaining walls for various projects.

Raymond Zapata Juarez Supported His Family Starting at the Age of Thirteen

Aristeo, however, passed away when Raymond was only thirteen years old. As a consequence, Raymond had to stop his schooling in 7th grade (he attended Kimball Elementary and then National City Junior High) and immediately went to work in order to support his mother and siblings. He found jobs working at the slaughter houses in National City. He also worked at the fish canneries. During World War II he served as a guard in the army in France. (He died in 2001 and is buried at Fort Rosecrans.)

Raymond met Estella Irtucstigi Juarez (b. 1923 in Texas and raised in Mazatlán, Sinaloa and Mexico City) and they married. She was a housewife, but also became known in National City for being a very good seamstress. She created clothes for all the neighbors, including for their weddings and quinceañeras.

Ray recalls, “If somebody wanted a dress, they would take my mom to Walker Scott. A person would show them the dress in the window, she would come home and without a pattern she would start cutting and making the dress.”

Raymond and Estella had five children.

From MeChA Activist to Elementary School Teacher: Ray Jr.

Ray was the oldest and the only boy. He went to Balboa Elementary in Shell Town. In the 6th grade he attended El Toyon, then went on to National City Junior High and Sweetwater High School where he graduated in 1972. He attended Southwestern College for a year and became active in MeChA, the Chicano organization. Thereafter, he spent many years working in construction, at the shipyards and in sales. He was in the Air Force from 1975-77, stationed in San Antonio, Texas and Tuscon, Arizona. From 1980-1985 he worked for NASCO as a tank cleaner for the navy ships.

He later got his B.A. in Chicano Studies from SDSU and also graduated with a teaching credential in 1999. For nine years he taught as an elementary school teacher at Kimball Elementary for the 5th and 6th grades.

Ray spoke Spanish with his mother Estella and English with his father Raymond. As a consequence, Ray became thoroughly bilingual, which helped him at the many places he worked in San Diego because so many who were employed spoke only Spanish and Ray could act as translator.

(Interview: June 26, 2016.)