Tala DeWynter

Tala DeWynter

Interviewer:  Sandra Nichols
Interview Date: 7/9/2007

SANDRA NICHOLS: I’m pleased to welcome Tala DeWynter, whom I will be interviewing on behalf of the St. Helena Historical Society’s Oral History Program, Voices of St. Helena. We’re conducting this interview at about 2:30 on the afternoon of July 19th, 2007 at the home of Tala DeWynter, here in Napa, California.

Welcome, Tala. And can you begin by telling us your full name and when and where you were born and the names of your parents?

TALA DEWYNTER: OK. My name is Tala Griali Estaluca?. I was born with the name Tala, and my grandmother’s name, Talalca Estela DeWynter. My maiden name was Tello.



SANDRA NICHOLS: As in Julio Tello?

TALA DEWYNTER: Yes. And it’s a good thing I changed it, because the American says Tello, they don’t say “tay-yo”. So, when I met my husband, I was Tala Tello. Tala DeWynter sounded much better. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: (laughter) OK, good. And so, when and where were you born?

TALA DEWYNTER: I was born in Lima on August 14th, 1920. And it’s a long time. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: (laughter) Good times.

TALA DEWYNTER: My parents’ name—my mother was Grace Camaron De Tello. My father was Miguel Santiago Tello. I had a sister that passed away last year. Her name was Ester Casos—Tello de Casos. My husband’s name is Gaston DeWynter. He was born in Belgium. We have two children, Abilene, married to Jordy Canter, and Michael DeWynter, married to Marina Tavarez. We have three children.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Grandchildren?

TALA DEWYNTER: Grandchildren, yes. (laughter) I have three grandchildren. Actually four—my daughter had a stepson that she raised since he was little, so we consider him a grandson too. His name is Jaron. My older grandson well, is not the oldest anymore—he’s Justin Joseph, and my son, Michael, and his wife have a daughter. Her name is Marcela.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Great, OK. So, tell us a little bit, just a little bit—about your life in Lima before you left.

TALA DEWYNTER: All right. I lived in Lima most of my life, but my father had a sumil in the jungle (inaudible) jungle in Satipo. What they call seja de montagne. And occasionally I went and stay with them during vacation time, but most of my life I had lived in Lima until I came to United States—Lima and Bella Vista, a small town between Lima and Callao.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Where did you go to school?

TALA DEWYNTER: I went to school in—oh! During my very early years, my father was the representative of Singer Sewing Machines and then we lived in Huancayo.  Huancayo is a little town in—it’s not little anymore—in the Andes. And we lived there until I was about ten, eleven years old. And then we came back to Lima.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And whereabouts in Lima were you living and then where did you go to school?

TALA DEWYNTER: In Lima—most of the time we lived in Lima and then I lived in Bella Vista when my father left to start his business in the sewing business. And from Bella Vista I came to United States.

SANDRA NICHOLS: When you were in Lima, which neighborhood?

TALA DEWYNTER: There was in a square, the Plaza Polomiasi. Lots of buildings, big buildings. We’ve got an apartment in one of those buildings.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And school, you went to school in Lima?

TALA DEWYNTER: When we were in Huancay we went to the parochial school and we had nuns. And then in Lima we attended the Colegio Rodo, that was one of the oldest schools in Lima. It doesn’t exist anymore.


TALA DEWYNTER: Colegio Rodo. One of the oldest and—from there—when I finished there, I went to a commercial school. And then I had some—I had a passion for archeology so I took courses of archeology at the San Marcos University, the oldest university in America.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Wow. 1532 was when it was founded? .


SANDRA NICHOLS: And then what led to you to leave Lima?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, one of my jobs was I was the secretary of the manager of a factory that made shoes. And that company was bought by General Shoe Corporation based in Nashville, Tennessee.

SANDRA NICHOLS: General which?

TALA DEWYNTER: General Shoe Corporation. So, then my bosses changed, all my bosses were American. And then I decided—I had been already going to school to learn English, and when I started working with them, I got more interested in learning English. And I thought after trying for years without any success I thought well, the best thing is to go to United States and stay there two years and come back and make a lot of money speaking English. (laughter) And I talked to my bosses in Lima and they were willing to give me a job in Nashville. But they didn’t want to get involved with any immigration. But I had an uncle that lived in New Jersey, so my aunt wrote to him.  He was married to a German lady and he was delighted to have somebody from the family…

And in six months all my papers—at that time uncles could bring nieces. Gaston, my husband, he was also brought by an uncle. But my uncle says, “I am responsible for you, so you cannot go to Nashville, you are going to come to New Jersey.” (laughter). And I was about—that was in May, I arrived in May. In September I went to learn English in high school evening classes and that’s where I met Gaston. And two years later we were married.


TALA DEWYNTER: 1951. 1951.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Just one question. The shoe factory in Lima—was it [Rimag?]?

TALA DEWYNTER: No, was in la Avenida Progreso. And [Rimag?] was the Avenida Americana?  I did work in Avenida Americana and my boss decided to build his own factory.

And he built a factory that was a model in Peru. It had a cleaning for the workers and it was built especially with all the facilities for the workers. My boss was (unintelliable)—he was a man with tremendous vision. And very involved in the welfare of the people which, at the end, didn’t work out very good because he wasn’t making that much money. (laughter) And so then he had to sell it to General Shoe Corporation.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Oh, that’s interesting, because this, then, has relevance later on, yes?


SANDRA NICHOLS: But continuing, then, so you and Gaston get married in 1950.


SANDRA NICHOLS: 1951. What brings you—go on.

TALA DEWYNTER: We lived in New Jersey, we bought a home, and we became citizens. We had the children, Abilene and Michael, but my husband was not happy with the weather. He worked for the public service and he had to work outside. And the weather there is so bad. And summer is terrible, hot. And winter is terrible, cold. There’s no middle. So, we decided we’re going to leave New Jersey. And we didn’t know whether to go to Florida or to California, so then we find out that Greyhound had a deal. You could take a bus in New York, go anywhere in United States, come back to New York for $99.

So, we left the kids with my in-laws and we took the bus (laughter) and I had some friends in Vallejo, so we first came to visit them. And they took us to San Francisco. We went and that was a beautiful night full of stars. We fell in love with San Francisco. And then they brought us to Napa Valley, but we didn’t know it was Napa Valley. And then we continued our trip and I had a cousin that lived in Merced, her husband was in the Air Force. So, we went to Merced—we hated it. (laughter) It was not as nice as this area. Then we went to Los Angeles and I had a friend there that lived there for three years. She was waiting for me to show her Los Angeles because she didn’t (laughter). And we were overwhelmed in Los Angeles, so we decided to move to the north part of Napa.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What year was the bus tour?

TALA DEWYNTER: That was ’65.

SANDRA NICHOLS: 1965. Wow. And so, then you…

TALA DEWYNTER: And it may be ’64 because we didn’t come right away. We had to make our minds. We brought everything we had in big trucks. We paid for everything—it was fairly expensive but not as now. My daughter just moved to Kentucky and to move them, they were charging $15,000. And when we came, we thought that we were spending so much money. I don’t think we spent $2,000. But at that time, $2,000 was $15,000,

SANDRA NICHOLS: Sure, sure. So, you come to Vallejo?

TALA DEWYNTER: So, we came to Vallejo. And I had to learn to say Vallejo. (laughter) And then I was looking for a job, but not really. So, my husband came to work with a friend—the husband of my friend. She was Peruvian, married to a retired Air Force guy, and they both decided—they both were in electronics—they both decided to open a store for electronics. It didn’t work. It was on Sacramento Street. We didn’t know there were a lot of other stores.

And they list the store in my husband’s name and they left. They had RCA make him an offer to work in Lima and they left. So, my husband, fortunately, we will stay for a while, but we were spending all our money. And we were really looking for a house because we wanted to spend the money before we spent it—no, invest it. And we didn’t like any of the houses they show us. So, in order to collect unemployment, it took me forever because my money came from New Jersey. I had to be available for work so one time they said there is a job that you have to go and look—they said Napa. Where is Napa? So, I start looking on the map and I came to Napa. I didn’t get the job but I came home and says I discovered a beautiful little town! So, on the weekend, my in-laws came with us because Gaston was an only child. So, we came to Napa and immediately we went to a realtor to look for a house.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And that was 1965?

TALA DEWYNTER: The end of 1965, we moved to Napa at the beginning of 1966.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And then tell us what happened after that and how you wound up getting the job in St. Helena.

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, I used to work as an executive secretary in New Jersey for the chemical company that did a lot of business in Latin America. A funny thing happened. The Brazilians did business with us, so I go to them in Spanish. I figure Spanish is closer to Portuguese than English , and I need to protect my job. Well, in Brazil there was a girl that want to protect her job in English. So, they were writing in English and I was writing in Spanish. So finally, they ask us to write in English and they were going to write in English also. So, when I came to California, I decided I didn’t want to be a secretary anymore. So, I learned real estate and I got my license and I worked in real estate for about a year. Didn’t like it.

SANDRA NICHOLS: You were in Napa?

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, in Napa. I was the first Latino in real estate. But I know. Lost my spot.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Well, you didn’t like it and when —

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, I didn’t like it. And one of my clients that I was helping her to buy an apartment house she says you know, Mrs. DeWynter, there is a job—they needed a director for an organization that worked with farm workers and they need somebody that speaks Spanish and English. I think you would be ideal for that. I don’t think that you like this job. (laughter) I applied. There were five people applying for the job and I got it. And that changed my whole life. I went to work there in January, 1968.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Now who were you actually working for?

TALA DEWYNTER: That was the War on Poverty, really, NCCEO. But that time they had another name that I forgot. And they were funding farm workers group headed by Lou Flores and Orelio Tado. And they had this group, California Human Development Corporation, at that time was North Bay Human Development Corporation. But I wasn’t working for them yet. I was working in Napa for real estate. And then when I got then job with them, I went to work in Yountville. The church had given them a room to work there, so I went there as a director. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: That’s really important because, yes—so, yes, Tala, could you now tell us more about your work there at the community center. What was it actually called?

TALA DEWYNTER: The organization that hired me was a subsidiary of the NCCEO. The poverty program. And the group that I was hired for were all farm workers. The board of directors were all farm workers. And it was really nice. I haven’t been practicing my Spanish before. My husband says that since I started with the Hispanics, my English went down. But we worked there and then we moved to St. Helena. There was a market in St. Helena—I can’t remember. The Tiger?
Something like that?

SANDRA NICHOLS: I’ll think of it in a minute. Not wares?


SANDRA NICHOLS: What were you doing? What did your job consist of?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, when I started working there were about six employees and one of them had been promised the job. So, when I got it, I didn’t have a joyous welcome. (laughter) And then they saw that I was wrong person for the job. In the first place, I wasn’t Mexican. Second place, I was in real estate. (laughter) What real estate people knows about the needs of the people? So, they made my life very, very rough at the beginning. And one of the projects they were working is to get the credit union.

SANDRA NICHOLS: A credit union?

TALA DEWYNTER: A credit union, yes. And Senator Dunlop help us to get the charter for a credit union. That was very, very difficult because they were farm workers. And the day that they were going to go to Napa to complain that I was not the right person for the job, because of the reasons I said, a cable came from Washington saying that we had a charter for the credit union. (laughter) They decided not to go to Napa. (laughter) And we got a credit union for ten years, was [el poramir?]. And it was a dream to have that credit union because people that had no credit, they could borrow money to down payment for a car. The problem was that they put the money in the credit union and in December they took it out to go to Mexico. So, the credit union didn’t grow because it was used almost as a bank—a saving bank, you know? And we needed to have at least $100,000 in order to be able to have our own employees. All the employees I had—one of the jobs I did in the center was a program for work experience and on-the-job training. So, I get put in those trainings and the credit union working and it didn’t cost us anything. And it was being run. So eventually, after ten years the federal government said you are not growing. And our rate of delinquency was very low, that was very low. We would have people who was earning more money, but at that time they were making $1.98 an hour. When I started working, that’s what I made.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Where was the credit union located?

TALA DEWYNTER: Inside of our office. We fix a room and we put them there. We did the same thing with [Lina Cole?], made her a room.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, when you finished telling us about the credit union, tell us about the other jobs that you had there with the center.

TALA DEWYNTER: When the center had a lot of programs, we had a program for teaching people how to drive. We had a program that we arranged with the police department that we’d look for thirty people, bilingual people, and each one was assigned one day of the month.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Thirty people each?

TALA DEWYNTER: Thirty people. So, when the police needed an interpreter, they would call the person that was on that day and it worked very well, but not for long. People got tired of dealing—or they wouldn’t call, and they got tired because they wouldn’t call. So, it didn’t last too long. It lasted about six months. But it was a model that I think I’ll still use it. At that time, we didn’t have that many people bilingual. The offices, they didn’t have any people anybody bilingual. The few of us that were bilingual, we made it. (laughter) And so another program that we had is English as a second language. We had teachers, we paid teachers that teach them, and the schools gave us room, classrooms, to teach but that was our program. We had -­ then the employment and training.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What was that ?

TALA DEWYNTER: We placed a lot of—work experience is the person that you place in a job for about six months and we pay the salary and the employer teaches that person how to work and if that person works, then they hire them. And that is when our rate went up for the ones that were hired. Of course, it didn’t work with credit union. (laughter) But we had a lot of people at the Veteran’s Home, St. Helena Hospital. I used to once a—weekly at St. Helena Hospital veteran’s home to get the time sheets and get them the paychecks. And then the other program was on-the-job training. On-the-job training, we pay part and the employer paid the other part—half and half. So, the employer had somebody subsidizing the training, which was very good, and a lot of them were hired. successful program. It was a very…

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, you were really setting up a doorway for people to get into better jobs.

TALA DEWYNTER: Yes. At the beginning when I first started working at the information center, all that we did is services. We took people to the hospitals, we took people to the doctors, to the lawyers, to San Francisco for immigration—that’s when I start with immigration. But it’s like teaching somebody—giving somebody a fish. And then we got the training program and that is when we start teaching them how to fish. And that is when they had the work experience and the on-the-job training, and that was when I was with California Human Development Corporation. They apply for the grant for farm workers and I was involved in that. And California Human Development Corporation won the grant, so I was involved with that and I was the—continued being the director. But I responded to Santa Rosa because the office was in Santa Rosa with George Ortez.

SANDRA NICHOLS: George Ortez was president or…

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, he was my boss. He was the president, CEO. He made it. (laughter) He, Orelio, and Luis Flores were the three people that started California Human Development Corporation.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Now where they the board of directors too, or…

TALA DEWYNTER: No. Orelio worked for California Human Development Corporation. When I went to work in St. Helena, he had a corner that was his office, his desk, and everything, but it was separate from us at that time. And then when they got a grant and we all became one. And one—I like the little story I have about the credit union. I was invited to attend the meeting of credit unions in San Francisco and I thought that would be to learn more about credit unions, because we had the (indeciferable) for our credit union, so I went. There were credit unions of the carpenters, the steelworkers. They were talking about 30 million, 40 million, 50 million. They were (inaudible) and they were saying all the money that they have. At that time, we got $75,000. So, it came my turn. They asked me so I told them that we had $100 million. They didn’t ask how much. (laughter).

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, can you talk a little bit about that shift from Yountville to St. Helena? Why did that happen and then what was the office like in St. Helena?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well the office, Father Cleary was very good in making that. But I think he was getting tired because it was too much commotion and all the farm workers coming around. I was so amicable decided that we were going to look for another place

TALA DEWYNTER: St. Joan of Arc.

SANDRA NICHOLS: St. Joan of Arc in Yountville?

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, and then he was changed to St. Apollinaris and he passed away about two years ago. But he was the one that opened his doors at the beginning of when we first needed.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Father Cleary?

TALA DEWYNTER: Father Cleary, yeah.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So then maybe we’ll wait to get to St. Helena.

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, going back to the credit union, one of the reasons we got the charter was that Orelia heard that Senator Dunlop was going to come to a big dinner at the El Real that was a restaurant that burned down in Rutherford.  So, we both went to the dinner, not as invitees, just to talk to him. So, we call him and we mention about the credit union and he get on our side. And about a month or two later, we get the charter. It was a miracle, actually, because nobody could understand how come the federal government gave a charter to a bunch of farm workers.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Were there any other credit unions for farm workers in the United States?

TALA DEWYNTER: I don’t know. (laughter)

I think that—ran by farm workers I doubt that there was any other one.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, if you could talk

TALA DEWYNTER: So, then they were all—the president of the credit -­ they had their own board. And the person that was the oversight of the loans and everything was—it had to be done exactly like a credit union should function.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Do you remember who was on the board?

TALA DEWYNTER: I know that Seja was there and Emilio’s father—I can’t remember his father’s name at this moment.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Enrique Segura?

TALA DEWYNTER: No. I think Enrique Segura was—all that group was there.

SANDRA NICHOLS: OK, we’ll come back to that. So, yes, tell us about the shift to St. Helena and where you set up office.

TALA DEWYNTER: So then from there, we moved to a house that belonged to Mary Tilden—I don’t know if you’ve heard of Mary Tilden.


TALA DEWYNTER: Mary Tilden. She had another last name but when she got divorced her maiden name was Tilden. In Berkeley there is a park, the Tilden Park, that was her family—they donated the park to them. She was a lady with a lot of money. One time she was going through St. Helena -­ Rutherford—and saw a beautiful home. And she says I want that home. The home wasn’t for sale. She got it. (laughter) And she helped us a lot. And then she rent us this little two-story house. So, we had our offices in the bottom, in the first floor. And then the second floor was just an attic.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And where was the house?

TALA DEWYNTER: In—what is the name of the town—in Rutherford Road, where the winery on the corner is a restaurant now. And then there was a house—I think they tore it down—and the post office used to be there. I don’t know if it’s still there. And that was Mary Tilden’s house—or she rented to us. And so, we went there and when we decided to have the credit union oh, no! We had a credit union in one of the rooms and was working there. And then we had the great idea of having a clinic.

So, we moved the credit union to the attic. And we cleaned the room, we painted, we put window—curtains. St. Helena Hospital donated some furniture—it was a doctor that was going out of business. He gave us the table—the examining table and some tools and like that. And we had a little examining room. And then we talked to Father—to Dr. Neil. Dr. Richard Neil. He went to work for the clinic on a voluntary basis, twice a week, after his hours. And he did it for a long time. So, people knew that twice a week there was a doctor there that would then see them without charging anything. That is the way the clinic start.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Tell us a little bit about the origins for the clinic and why you decided to do it.

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, we had a meeting one time and—for the farm workers, you know, the board of directors were the farm workers—and I was given my report. And we were just talking. And there was Placido—the one that Garcia -­ the one that said you know, in Hillsboro they have a clinic. How come we don’t have a clinic? So, everyone says yeah, how come, how come? So, then the board of directors says Tala, try to get a clinic. So that was one of the jobs they trusted me with. And so, we—I had to give my reports to NCCEO because at that time we still were part of the NCCEO. And in the report, it said we had been discussing the possibility of having a clinic. It was a Dr. Darter, I believe—I don’t know if—maybe I shouldn’t say names—but Dr. read about the possibility of having a clinic and what an idea. And he wrote a long letter saying that he didn’t believe in second-class care for people, that he didn’t think that we could have a good service, and he was against the idea of the clinic. Well, that is what make us wanted the clinic! (laughter) And we started like that. And we had several doctors—Dr. Block—in order to get more doctors, he put a letter in the -­ he was the president of the Medical Association…


TALA DEWYNTER: Dr. Alvin Block.


TALA DEWYNTER: Alvin Block. Alvin Lee Block. He was my doctor. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: Yes, Tala, just a couple of things we wanted to pick up. Could you mention what were the wages of the farm workers at the time that you were starting Clinic Olé?

TALA DEWYNTER: Yes, when I started working, I heard what they were making was $1.98 an hour. But then we had some activity in the labor movement and especially due to Cesar Chavez. And that really helped to have higher salaries because even if the growers were not a workers’ union that you knew, in order to prevent the workers going to the union they started raising the salary the same that the union was paying. So indirectly, the union was also benefiting the people that were not in the union, and that make a change. Napa was one of the places where the workers came because they said that here, they had the best salaries and better working conditions.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Maybe we could talk just a little bit about, at that time, this was the late ‘60s, where were most of the farm workers living, who were working in the valley? Do you know?

TALA DEWYNTER: A lot of them in their cars or with relatives. I think there was one of the growers that they had camps. And I can’t remember the name, but that was practically the only one that had camps for the workers.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Franciscan ? Was it Franciscan?

TALA DEWYNTER: No. It was—I can’t remember the name—but there was no one where (inaudible).

SANDRA NICHOLS: Where people concentrated around a particular town in the valley?

TALA DEWYNTER: I think that St. Helena and Calistoga were the places where you find the most. And they had more friends or they had more people that they could communicate, so it was easier for them to live. Besides most of the vineyards were in the upper valley.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, the concentration of the Latino community in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s would have been up-valley?

TALA DEWYNTER: Up-valley, definitely.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Do you have any idea how many Latinos were in the valley in those days?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, I think that at that time we were talking about a percentage of maybe 10-15%, now it’s over 30%.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Any sense of where they were coming from?

TALA DEWYNTER: Michoacan. At that time, the information center was providing immigration services free. They didn’t have to pay. So, we were swamped with people that asked for services. And that’s what involved me in the immigration. There was a lady in Oakland, Matilda Rement, that was an expert on immigration, and we invite her one time to come and talk to us about immigration. And she and I became very good friends and that was my mentor. She told her office workers in Oakland that when I call, no matter who was talking to her, I was going to put people through. (laughter) And she used to come often to Napa —

SANDRA NICHOLS: What was her name again? How do you…

TALA DEWYNTER: Matilda Rement.


TALA DEWYNTER: Rement. She was a daughter of Basque people and she was born in United States, but she was raised by her grandmother. And she spoke like she just came from Spain. Very, very strong Spanish accent.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, it was—just from your immigration work, you knew that most of the people were coming from Michoacan.

TALA DEWYNTER: Michoacan, yes.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Any particular



TALA DEWYNTER: I had so many people from La Piedad. And then I said La Piedad, I know somebody from La Piedad, do you know them? No. Nobody knew anybody. That is because they all live in little ranchitos and they didn’t know each other. great majority were La Piedad, Michoacan.

SANDRA NICHOLS: OK, well let’s go back to the really wonderful, important story of Clinic Ole and getting going. You said that this opposition by this one doctor —

TALA DEWYNTER: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) that was that later that he wrote an opposition to the clinic because he didn’t feel that that would provide good services to the community. I think it was his way of looking after the farm workers. But we took it as a challenge. And there was another doctor that helped us and that is Carlee Leftwich.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What’s the name?

TALA DEWYNTER: I think it was William Leftwich.


TALA DEWYNTER: Leftwich. Yeah, she’s very involved with the Lincoln Theater. She was one of the movers. She was a nurse and she was the head of the nurses and the health department. And when she started helping us, she had a big job. Also Dr. [Olijack?]. She is still around—in her ‘90s, I imagine. Certain people that remained at this time would be Clinic Olé was the result of a lot of people working together.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What was is, you think, that drew folks who were not themselves part of the Latino community to want to help in those days?

TALA DEWYNTER: I think that people are good, basically good. And they saw the need for Clinic Olé because what happens is that if somebody from Mexican community gets sick, unless it was greatly sick, they thought that they could cure it by themselves. So, then it came worse. Clinic Olé was preventative medicine. So the main object of help them to cure the disease from getting worse. And without money you cannot have preventative medicine. You don’t have the money and you really need it to survive. So, it helped. But mostly because people needed these services and they were available. And they were very small. We heard that there was a state program that was at the end of the year and they had some surplus money and they didn’t know what to do with it. So, we applied for it. (laughter) And there was the first money clinic got that was, I think, three or four thousand dollars, but we thought it was a fortune. We went to Oakland to present our—one of the workers went with me and we presented our proposal that we wrote in two days. And they were desperate to give the money, so I don’t know. So maybe the proposal wasn’t that good.

SANDRA NICHOLS: It worked! And what year was that?

TALA DEWYNTER: That was in 1973. Because the clinic was started in 1972.  Actually, we started in 1971, we opened it in 1972.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, can you talk a little bit about some of the other people from the Latino community that you were working with?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well my main commander was Hope Lugo.


TALA DEWYNTER: Yes. She and I were together. Sometimes with California Human Development and her program, we had programs that were competing against each other. But we always managed to do it for the good of the people, and not trying to get credits of anything.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Who was Hope working for at that time?

TALA DEWYNTER: The NCCEO, Napa County for Economic Opportunity. That was funny because when I told my friends in New Jersey that we were moving to California and giving up my job—my husband was giving up his job—they say how are you going to live? And so, I say well, Lyndon Johnson has this program, the War on Poverty. (laughter) And I did work for the War on Poverty. Hope Lugo eventually became director of it and she worked there for 30 years.


TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah. Napa County for Economic Opportunity.

SANDRA NICHOLS: OK. So, tell me about some of the things you and Hope did together.

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, one of the things we did is we had a big convention in Southern California. And we went and then we heard about the town near Los Angeles that they had a clinic. So, she and I went there and we talked to the director and they show us all the clinic to give us an idea of how they did it. And that was one of the neat things that we did.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, what kept you in this kind of work? Because there were a lot of challenges.

TALA DEWYNTER: I don’t know. I put so many long hours. My daughter used to say my mother’s clinic. So, the people, I get so attached to the people. I said I am Peruvian, but I have a Mexican heart.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, who were some of the people you remember, that stand out, in those years?

TALA DEWYNTER: Oh, Pedro—I have such a bad memory putting names -­ [Acensio?]—people that—[Segura?]



SANDRA NICHOLS: Acensio? What was his…

TALA DEWYNTER: Acensio is a man that had eight daughters. And he just passed away about a month ago or two months ago.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What was his last name, do you remember?

TALA DEWYNTER: That’s his last name. De Acensio. And one of his daughters work for me in the credit union and then she went to work for Clinic Olé, from the beginning, and she’s still working for Clinic Olé. And Clinic Olé, now, is huge.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So Acensio and then Enrique Segura?

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, Enrique Segura was the [Ortados, Deados?] –

SANDRA NICHOLS: Who of the Deados?

TALA DEWYNTER: Deado. I don’t—Juanita, I think, was the name of Oscar

SANDRA NICHOLS: Oscar’s mother?

TALA DEWYNTER: Oscar Deado parents and uncles. The whole Ortado and Deado family is huge. And they are all interrelated.

SANDRA NICHOLS: But you lived in Napa so you had to commute?

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, everybody thought I lived in St. Helena. (laughter) Yeah, I commute every day and I love it because the way between Napa and St. Helena is so beautiful and it changes with the seasons. And sometimes I did it four times, because I had to come back for a meeting and then I had to go back to the office. So sometimes three, four times I was on that road. And then I had to go to Windsor for meetings when I became a part of California Human Development Corporate—CHDC.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What memories do you have of St. Helena in those days? What was it like in those days?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well I remember that I was sorry I didn’t know St. Helena first so I would have bought a house in St. Helena instead of Napa. And then I found out about the prices. (laughter) But I love St. Helena. I spent so much time—bought my clothes, a lot of things I bought over on 73. St. Helena and Calistoga—I used to love to go to St. Helena, to Calistoga, where there was a jewelry store—I love jewelry. (laughter) And I used to go and eat over there.

And then we had—the Weekly Calistogan was the first paper that had the two-page in Spanish. And we were all contributing until somebody there was only Spanish.

They accepted every single (inaudible). So, somebody told the editor you’re taking a big chance here, you don’t know what those people are writing, you could get in a lot of trouble. So, then he says OK, everything has to be in English and in Spanish. And half the people couldn’t speak English. (laughter) . So it finished.

SANDRA NICHOLS: When was that?

TALA DEWYNTER: That was in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What sorts of things were you writing about for the paper?

TALA DEWYNTER: We just write news from El Centro mostly. And then I worked for the Napa Register for nine years with the bilingual page. I was one of the co-editors.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Yes, I do want you to tell us about that, because it sounds like you started with your journalistic career with the Calistogan? The weekly Calistogan. So do you want to shift now to telling us about working with the Napa Valley Register or is there some more that you want to talk about working in St. Helena and with the Latino organizations?

TALA DEWYNTER: One thing I like to say about the people I work in St. Helena I miss a lot of people complain sometimes that things don’t move, there is no progress, there’s so much to do yet. And it’s true, there’s so much to do yet. But when I look back at the people, I knew in the 60s and 70s, they were farm workers with no homes, very poor. And I see their children. They all have an education, they’re professionals, they have their own business, they work in offices. When I started working there were no bilingual in any office or doctors or anybody else. Now you go to a doctor’s office and you find two, three people who speak Spanish there. I remember that the telephone company, they didn’t have anybody that answered in Spanish. So, we at El Centro decided, we got together about five people and we started calling the phone company and we only spoke Spanish. We drove them crazy! (laughter) And then we became very good friends with the manager of the telephone company. And he started a program of tutors and his employees decided to be English tutors. And they went to the houses and taught. Beautiful friendships start with that. And there were about five or six people that donated their time to teach English. And that was the telephone company. And they started hiring people in Spanish. The world was changing.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Do you remember Mayor Ericson in St. Helena?


SANDRA NICHOLS: Tell us about her.

TALA DEWYNTER: I remember her very well. And I used to buy clothes in her store too. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: Yes. She had a clothes store, as well as being mayor?

TALA DEWYNTER: I don’t know if she was mayor already or I think she had her clothes store first.Yeah, I think it was first.

SANDRA NICHOLS: 1972. Apparently, she was the first woman mayor of St. Helena.

TALA DEWYNTER: Oh, yes. I didn’t know that.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, what kind of dealings did you have with her as mayor, or did you?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, one of the things I have to say about Clinic Olé is that we had a lot of support from the community, from the hospitals:  St. Helena Hospital, Queen of the Valley Hospital. Queen of the Valley Hospital, for a time, paid the director. And Sister Anne was a member of our board of directors. And he signed one of his employees because there was a vice president. Dave Evans—no, Dave Johnson became a very strong member of the board of directors and he became a president. And then we had a Sister—I can’t remember her name—that she was a director paid by the Queen of the Valley. They say that because we didn’t have a Napa County hospital, the Clinic Olé was filling that void.

SANDRA NICHOLS: I’ve also heard from other people, though—you talk about how supportive the community was, but I’ve also heard that sometimes it wasn’t quite so supportive. And I’m thinking of trying to get the houses on Kennedy Court.

TALA DEWYNTER: Oh, yes. I remember that. When they were building them, the neighbors around there, they were furious because they figured that the value of their houses was coming down.
And one man ran as a write-in because of his opposition to the houses.

SANDRA NICHOLS: As a write-in candidate for?

TALA DEWYNTER: Candidate for mayor.


TALA DEWYNTER: For mayor or city council, I can’t remember. But he ran for office and he decided to run just because of his opposition to the houses. He lost. He lost. And I remember one realtor saying that he was very, very much against Mexicans moving next to him because they put him to shame with the gardens. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: So how long did you work for CHDC?

TALA DEWYNTER: I worked from 1968 until 1974 or something like that. I work for NCCEO—or was part of NCCEO. And then from that time until 1983 I worked for CHDC. After I work in—my office was in St. Helena but when I was promoted and they changed my office to Napa as director of the whole county. For the training programs.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Oh, this was the farm worker training programs?

TALA DEWYNTER: Farm workers and regular on-the-job training. We had a program with three partners, the Napa College, CHDC, and the Napa State Hospital. And the three of us founded the class for psychiatrics.


TALA DEWYNTER: Psychiatric technicians.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Oh, psychiatric technicians.

TALA DEWYNTER: And we graduated about 12 or 13. We only did it once. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, then what did you do after 1983?

TALA DEWYNTER: 1983, I did—the county lost a lot of money, the money that they had assigned for these programs—work experience, the training programs,  and then they decided that that was money that came to them. And we were getting all the credit. Because we were doing all the work. And so, they decided that they were going to do the work and they were going to get it. Besides it was less money, so they took the money, the program, away from us. We fought like crazy for it but we lost it.

So then [York Ortiz?] offered me another job in another county. But I didn’t feel like commuting. Besides, I had already working for six or seven years with immigration. And I help about 200 people to get legal papers free. Because it was part of my job.

So, then I thought maybe I can do just—I would be really happy doing just immigration. And so, I quit and then I went to San Francisco to find out what were the requirements for me to open an immigration office. And I couldn’t find anybody. So, then I saw a door that said director, so I knock. (laughter) I get in and I told him what I want. So, he says—I work already six years and I have a very fancy signature with brown, all my papers were brown—so he said I know your signature. (laughter) He says you have worked a lot and your work is good. He says go ahead and open your office, nobody’s going to bother you.

So, I put a typewriter, I get a telephone, I put a desk, and I send letters to all the people that I help in immigration and I told them I know you don’t need me anymore, but maybe you know somebody that needs me. And I never had to advertise nothing. And I start getting  clients. I remember the first money I got I said what will I do with this? The woman said it’s yours, you spend it. Can I spend it? It was such a feeling. And that was in 1983-84. And 1986 Reagan signed—no Carter, I think, signed the immigration—the amnesty.

But before that I wrote a lot of letters to the mayors or the big people that counted. One of them was for Judge Konsgaard.  He is a legend in Napa. He passed away. And he wrote the most beautiful letter commending me to the government to make me part of the Amnesty program. And he said that I was better than the lawyers. (laughter) I have the letter. I think I want to put it in a frame because it’s such a beautiful letter. And I got letters from the mayors, from everybody. So, I was only—two entities were awarded this the other were organizations, but individuals only. I was the one. And I was a QDE, qualified designated entity. (laughter) And they send me boxes with material with all the forms and everything. I had a direct contact with them. And all the information about the changes and everything. It was great. And then I start working with Amnesty and I remember that the first day I opened the doors for Amnesty the paper hadn’t come because there was so many people outside. The other tenants complain about us because we had so many people—they use the bathroom.

But we fix 2000 people. And California Human Development Corporation had an office also in Santa Rosa with more people. And I bet you they didn’t have that many. I had a girl that worked for me, Anita—she was a El Salvadorian, from El Salvador. She was a dynamo. So well-organized and so fast and so accurate in her work. That’s one of the reasons I could fix so many papers.

SANDRA NICHOLS:  Yes, tell us, just handing the beautiful commendation. California State Society of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. And at their 97th annual conference and (inaudible) events luncheon—is that the occasion you were awarded this medal?

TALA DEWYNTER: On that occasion that was for my work with immigration.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And she… oh, yes, it was on this date here, March 18th 2005, at that luncheon they awarded the NSDAR Americanism to Tala DeWynter. And there’s a beautiful medal with three color ribbon, red, white and blue; and with a gold medallion hanging below it that says DAR and Americanism. So, Tala’s been awarded…

TALA DEWYNTER: National level.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Yes, it’s a national level award and I hope you wear it on special occasions.

TALA DEWYNTER: I just look at it once in a while. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: It’s really special. Congratulations, Tala. You were telling us about your immigration work and that that was you felt a really important part of what you had done. Could you talk a little bit about that, but also how you feel it changed conditions for the Latino community here in Napa? You did the immigration work as well as the 1986 Immigration Reform Act.

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, the Amnesty, really helped a lot of people to come out of the shadows and to go back and forth to Mexico without help. No hiding, no paying coyotes and everything. And it was amazing because people that I knew for years, they came and said you know, Mrs. DeWynter, I don’t have any papers. Something that I never thought because they have been living here for such a long time, with such a normal life with kids, and schools, and everything. So, it was a pleasure to help them to get their papers.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And did you notice any change overall in the Latino community?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, yes, because in the first place, at that time very few owned their own homes because of the instability of the situation. Ones that were legal residents, they could bring in their families, then they got together and then they start buying homes. And I think we have about 10 or 15 realtors that are Hispanic because there is such a demand. Another thing that I had is that when I was working for the information center, Lou Flores asked me to run for the School Board and I said uh-uh, I don’t qualify, no way. So, Senator Dunlop was having a big affair in Yountville.  And they asked the Clinic Ole to give him a plaque. And so, we went and Placido Garcia was going to give the plaque. All of a sudden Placido said to me I feel sick. Tala, will you give them the plaque? I said me, yeah. Would you please, I don’t feel good. I got to leave. I was introduced as the candidate for School Board.  (laughter)

And I could have said no, they’re lying, it’s not true. So that’s how I ran for the School Board. And I won the first time. I had a very, very nice campaign. A lot of pictures, a lot of ads, and everything. It was very nice. And I won, but a really little margin. But I won.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And that was the Napa Unified School District? And what year was that?

TALA DEWYNTER: That was in 1972, ‘73, I think. Yeah, elected to the Board of Education, 1973 to 1975.                              

SANDRA NICHOLS: Now in your work with the immigration…

TALA DEWYNTER: I was the first Latino elected to public office. The woman. The man was Rodriguez in St. Helena. He was the first man Latino. But Latina!

SANDRA NICHOLS: The people that you helped in your immigration office, were there people from other places besides Michoacan or in…

TALA DEWYNTER: Yes. Well, at the beginning when I had to fill out the forms, I asked which place. I automatically wait for them to say Mexico, especially Michoacan. All of a sudden no, yo no soy Mexicano. I am from Honduras. I’m from Guatemala. I’m from El Salvador. It changed completely.  From now on I had to ask which country do you come because it had changed. And a lot of Latin Americans from other countries, Central America especially. And that little office that I had, I only had two employees. That little office, the paper asked me to write an article about immigration in Napa. So, I added up all the people I provide services nationalities. Would you believe that here were 35, 35 nationalities. I had Canadians, I had a Palestinian, Syrians. 35 nationalities. I should have written down all the nationalities.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Now were the other people from other Latin American countries—were they also doing farm work or doing other kinds of work?

TALA DEWYNTER: Central American, most of them did but also, they went to work in the wineries with the manual labor. But a lot of them were also farm workers.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Do you want to tell us a little bit about your journalism work?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, there was a paper that the Napa Register started with the bilingual page. And it was an American fellow that knew Spanish, but not that well. So, I started helping a little bit. And then he changed—he moved to another place. So, then they named Juan Tavara.  Juan Tavara was the editor. But Juantavara did not like accents and he grew up—since 13 years old—he grew up in the United States. So, all his education was in English, so his Spanish was a little rusty. So, I start coming to the Register to help him and I wind up being the co-editor.  And we work for many years. I had the Rincon Latino, the Latino Corner. And now I am doing the same thing for the Hispanics Unidos.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Right, Hispanos Unidos.

TALA DEWYNTER: Hispano Unidos.

SANDRA NICHOLS: You also worked on the…

TALA DEWYNTER: A Tiempo Latino. At Tiempo Latino I was the editor, the only one. And we had that for about three or four years. And that, we loved that newspaper. But that was all in Spanish. It was such a beautiful little magazine. It was 24 pages. We had all kinds of histories, we had good collaborators. With the bilingual page I had eight contributors. I had [Monellas?] the police chief, I had the director of the Social Security, all of the big bosses contributed a page. They had a staff that new Spanish. If not, I said we’ll interpret for you. So, eight. But everything had to be in English and in Spanish. So, there was a page—only one page—and there weren’t ads and there was everything in both languages. Sometimes if we had nice ads, we didn’t have space for our articles. And most of the time we didn’t have that many ads. So, they thought they were losing money, so that’s why they closed it.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Tiempo Latino was so special.

TALA DEWYNTER: Oh, yes. I still miss it.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Did you write about the changing nature of the Latinos in Napa in that, the community?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, one thing that is for sure is the education. The level of education is so much higher. Now you talk to high school kids who can talk about anything. And they have big goals about becoming a teacher or becoming a doctor or whatever. And they are doing it. And that’s what makes me sad—that the general opinion about Latino kids is so bad because of the gangs. It’s a group of kids that spoil it for everything. Hispanic network, we give scholarships once a year. And we had to interview about 100 kids in order to give it. And there’s the people that think that a few of these students, they have such a hard time to whom to give the scholarship. Because there are many that—4.0 average, community work, and those are the ones that don’t make the newspaper. Only the little bunch of troublemakers and that give a bad name to everybody else.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What would you say are some of the major challenges facing the Latino community in Napa now?

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, I always thought is if a family comes from Mexico with teenage kids. Those kids don’t have a match program because they have an identity. They were in Mexico; they didn’t have to fight who they were. They had an identity. They come here and they are old enough to maintain their identity. The Chicano kids that are born here, they’re born and they don’t know to which side they belong. And they want to be with the Anglos when it comes the time when they are teenagers. And they want to date the girls or they want to go to the parties. Then they feel the discrimination. So, then it makes them bitter and there is a lot of times they quit school. Because all of a sudden, they feel like second-class citizens.

SANDRA NICHOLS: What’s that about? Why are they feeling like second-class citizens?

TALA DEWYNTER: Discrimination. People discriminate against them. It’s such a natural thing to discriminate, unfortunately.

SANDRA NICHOLS: So, what would be some of the other major challenges in the Latino community now?

TALA DEWYNTER: One of the things that worries me a lot about the younger generation is the adversity. Because that is—at the [cumbri?], that we had to be at the day. On my table what I said that my concern was adversity because that is diabetes, or sicknesses, poor esteem. It’s so many things that they derivate from being—people don’t want to associate with them if they are too fat.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Stepping back a bit, because you’ve really been privileged to see so much of really the change of the Valley, Napa and St. Helena and the Latino community, talk about some of the changes you think have happened since you first came and what really stands out?

TALA DEWYNTER: In the first place is the number of people that are bilingual. We have a saying in Spanish: en la tierra del ciego, el tuerto es rey. Can you translate for her?

SANDRA NICHOLS: In the land of the blind, the—is king.

TALA DEWYNTER: Tuerto. Only one eye.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Oh, yes. The person with one eye is king.

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, is king. Because at that time when we were starting with the community, I felt like I was a tuerto. (laughter).  With a lot of blind people. And that was one of the reasons that made me stand out. Because I was bilingual and I had more education. And that makes a big… now, that has changed. Now I see those kids that go to the college and everything, and they know a lot more than I do. So, it’s a big change. And their attitude. They are more self-assured and they have goals and they obtain their goals.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Tala, we’ve been talking a bit about how things have changed since you first came here. And one of the things you talked about is how supportive and, in some ways, maybe kind of welcoming many of the community was, with some exceptions. Now it seems like it’s a lot harder for a lot of the Latinos. What’s going on, do you think?

TALA DEWYNTER: I think that the Anglos are overwhelmed by the number of Hispanics and they are afraid. They are afraid to be outnumbered at the voting machines, that the Hispanics are going to be deciding who’s going to be elected. I heard one Anglo saying it’s clear what they are doing, they want to get all their land back. They are invading us.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And how is that getting expressed? And how is it impacting the Latino community?

TALA DEWYNTER: I think that we sense that they have some ulterior motives for trying to work and trying to advance in this country without having an agenda or why they are here. And maybe some of the times it’s good, that’s what we’re going to do. (laughter). But then the majority resents that because they want to be in this country because this country has been good for them. And I love this country because it has been good to me. And I still love Peru a lot because Peruvians are very [petroterres?]. But you can look—the countries are the same. I feel I have the same allegiance to United States. I get as emotional when I hear the Peruvian nationality as I hear the American nationality. I don’t know if that answers your question…

SANDRA NICHOLS: It does, very much. And I was just curious what your hopes and dreams might be for the Napa Valley. You’ve changed the Valley with your presence, your life has made a huge difference in the lives of so many people. What would you wish for the Valley?

TALA DEWYNTER: To work together. To work together. Not to have the lack of confidence in one another, thinking that you have to fight for a position or you have to fight for a place. I think we all can work together. And I think we are doing it, in a way. I do see the meetings sometimes when we have our banquet once a year. About 60%, 70% are Anglos. That they come to the banquet and they know that it’s for a scholarship for Latino kids.

SANDRA NICHOLS: This is the Hispanic Network?

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, that is going to be on September 14.

SANDRA NICHOLS: And you helped start the Hispanic Network, is that right?

TALA DEWYNTER: One of the founders.  Hope and I and a group. What happens is that different agencies we were helping people. And there was this lady that was crying all the time that she didn’t have anything. We tried to give her as much as possible. One time, where a group of us got together, we were all helping her. (laughter) So then we decided we have to get together and find out because all the help we are giving to one person, we can give it to other people also. It’s not fair that she’s getting everything. So, we decided-to meet about every two weeks in a restaurant. having lunch together, and discussing our program. And the idea was Hope’s. She is the one that is standing by everything. So, we had about five or six people…

SANDRA NICHOLS: Who were you?

TALA DEWYNTER: There was Hope, there was—I’m seeing him and I can’t Girard—what is his last name—from the college. My memory’s getting bad.

SANDRA NICHOLS: That’s all right, I’m sorry. I interrupted you.

TALA DEWYNTER: Don’t forget that my birthday is next month. (laughter)

SANDRA NICHOLS: We’ll write it down. (laughter) But you got together as Hispanics.

TALA DEWYNTER: Yeah, we got together and then all of a sudden, we got more structure. We decided to meet formally once a month. And then we start thinking of a name. I think there was a different name before. And then we thought that the Hispanic…

SANDRA NICHOLS: Napa County and Hispanic Network.

TALA DEWYNTER: Network. Because we were a network in order to help the people. And then one of the members decided after three or four years that we should concentrate on the education. And that’s when we started the scholarships.  And then this fellow that moved to Mexico, I can’t believe I can’t remember his name. But they, too, were the ones that decided that it would be a good idea to have the scholarship. So, then we started concentrating, putting more emphasis. Now, we are changing a little bit the emphasis to general problems that the Hispanic community has.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Tala, I really want to thank you for sharing with us your memories, this has been a really useful interview. But if there’s any concluding remarks that you’d like to make…

TALA DEWYNTER: Well, the only thing I can think and that is not just for our community, but the war in Iraq is making us all so powerless. And it’s causing so much pain and suffering. Let’s just pray for that war to end. How many Latin boys have died? A lot of Latino boys. And how many—3,600 that is too much. One is too much. It’s time that they get together and decided to—sooner or later we have to leave Iraq and it’s not going to be any better than it is now. So why don’t do it now instead of waiting for the same situation? I don’t know.

SANDRA NICHOLS: Thank you, Tala