Interview with Daisy Cubias, September 21, 2015

Wisconsin Historical Society

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GÓMEZ: Hi, Daisy, it's Eloisa Gomez, and today is September 21st, 2015. And I want to thank you so much for your willingness to participate in the audio interview, and we appreciate it so much. I have a number of questions to ask you, and please feel free to let me know if anything that I ask may not be understood, or and we have about an hour for the call, but it all depends on how this goes.

And again, thank you for you provided us with a video interview in the past, and you've also had a chance to fill out the profile form. So for all of this, we thank you so much. So the first question is, we know that you weren't born in Wisconsin, Daisy, so could you tell us when you came to the United States, and then when you came to Wisconsin?


CUBIAS: Oh, I came to United States in December of 1965. And then I moved to Milwaukee in January of 1970.

GÓMEZ: Okay. Thank you. Could you share with us a childhood experience, or two, in terms of what may have influenced your community involvement in Milwaukee?

CUBIAS: In El Salvador is very rich people and very poor people, and very few in the middle. So I was raised with, my grandfather raised me. So we were right in no poor, no rich, no in the middle, right in-between. And I saw and felt and have friends that were very poor that sometime they left the house to go to school, and they come back, and their [unclear] was flattened by the landlord tractors. And that's how I start asking many questions about why the people who 2:00are so mean to the poor people.

And that is when it started, when I was like five, six years old, and since then, I had been trying to figure it out, how to make this a better place to live. The better work for everybody, not just for the rich.

GÓMEZ: Yeah. Well, those experiences are ones, and from El Salvador that you mentioned. Was there anything else that, you gave the example of land acquisition in an unjust way. Were there any other experiences, or within your family or things that you observed that has influenced your role today?

CUBIAS: Yes, my grandfather was a very nice man. He lives in a very little village. Because his knowledge, he's understanding of people, he was elected 3:00mayor of the nearest city, so he didn't lead them there. And that's how I started. He put me in the school, and I start writing my poetry, basically, because I asked so many questions, that he didn't want to answering, so he says write it down. And so that's how I start writing down things and figuring out how we can make it, like I said before [unclear] war.

And that's how, when I came to America in the '70s, I have all the background. No only in being, reading the poets from Latin America and the writers, but also how to take care of myself without being the victim or feeling victimized by people who were mean to me. Because, you know, I was a Latina. And in Latin America, we had so much machismo.


So I experienced that, but I was raised to be equal and treat people with the equality. So when somebody was mean to me, I just fight back, and that's how I make it. These, my better life for myself and people I know because I, all the same that we are all the same, no matter what color or what sex or what religion.

GÓMEZ: Yeah, so your grandfather, he was somebody who supported equality among the genders. Was he somebody . . .

CUBIAS: Yes, he was, you know what, you know, he's here, because at that time, it was in the '40s and '50s. But because he wanted a third grandson, and I happen to be third granddaughter, he didn't raise me to cook and clean. He 5:00raised me to go to school and raise horses. So that's how come, I guess, he treats me like a boy, really. So that's how come I land to be the way I am. Because he didn't expect me to cook and clean and get marry, have babies. He expects me to work and be what I wanted to be. So he supported me.

GÓMEZ: Wonderful. How long was he a part of your life, Daisy?

CUBIAS: Well, he was since I was born in 1944, all the way to 1965 when I came to America.

GÓMEZ: Okay. Thank you. You know with the cultural differences and similarities between El Salvador and the United States, some people undergo some identity transformation or assessment of one's culture because of being, in the different 6:00kind of culture. What was it for you, Daisy, in terms of your ethnic identity? Did it change from the time you were in El Salvador to Milwaukee? Did it stay the same? What was influential there?

CUBIAS: Well, there was an incident New York University. Even though I went to school in my country, my country denied my history to everybody, so I didn't know about the history of the country in the 1930s.

So one day, one of the students, we were all learning English, he says, oh, you're from El Salvador. I say, yes. He says, oh, your mother was born 1922, she must know about the Matanza [Spanish]. And I say to him, what's Matanza what are you talking about? So he says, well, that was when the president of El Salvador 7:00kills all the Pipil Indian, and over 30,000, and because he says he didn't want ugly people in the country, and he just killed them. And they called him [Spanish]. And I say, I never hear about that, I don't know what you're talking about.

So he took me by the hand, took me to the library, and show me, explain it to me, all the history on El Salvador that was denied to us. And that's how, that was 1965. And I was so upset and so enraged, that I refused to go back to El Salvador ever and live there because the way they treated people. And that's how I find out that, and the constitution, it was that so bad time.

If you marry a black, you were denied citizenship because that was against the rules. Anybody who marry a black person, race black, man or woman, lost their 8:00citizenship. So I thought, oh, my God, what kind of government is this, and then I discover all the horrible things that they've done over the years.

And then, when I was in America in the '70s, that's how the war started. And then I learn about all the [Spanish] group and everything, and that's how I find out the history of my country. What I found out in here, not in there, because there was no freedom, no expression down there. And here, it's the freedom of expression, so you can learn all you want to know or you are curious about.

GÓMEZ: Daisy, when you arrived in New York, did they, did people assume you were Puerto Ricanya, Mexican, or was there any, did you have to explain your own nationality?

CUBIAS: Yes, I still have to do that because in New York, it's Puerto Rica.


Milwaukee is Mexican. So everybody, I have to learn a new language because Puerto Ricans don't pronounce the R's. And they also use [unclear] it was completely different, so people thought I was Puerto Rican. And I explained I was Salvadorian. There was very few Salvadorians at that time. And then, when I came to Milwaukee, they told me, everybody thought I was Mexican. I explained, again, I was Salvadorian. So at that time when I came to Milwaukee in the '70s, according to the census, there was only 100 Salvadorians in the state, so.

GÓMEZ: Did that influence how you saw yourself here in the United States? Certainly, you had to explain to people you weren't this, or you weren't that, and did they get it when you told them you were Salvadoreña?

CUBIAS: No, they didn't get it, and they didn't care, just people like you, 10:00just, but I didn't feel they were being nasty. I thought maybe they were curious because I didn't look enough Puerto Rican or Mexican or whatever they saw a Latina should look like. So it didn't bother me, but it was concerning the lack of education of the average American, that they don't know the difference between the countries.

GÓMEZ: So today, do you still consider yourself as Salvadoreña?

CUBIAS: Yes, I was born there, but my country is this, so.

GÓMEZ: Okay. All right. When we, you know, we've talked to a variety of women, over time and over many experiences. And we ask them, you know, we said this project is about women who we consider community activists, but do you consider 11:00yourself a community activist? And if that's not the right term, then what would you call your many community efforts?

CUBIAS: I don't like the community activist title. I think people are concerned about human rights. I never consider myself to be above anybody or anything. I just consider myself, I was really concerned about human rights for everybody, not just for Latinas or Latinos, but for everyone. I think everybody should be treated the same.

Because I believe in that, I try to do the best I can, I could at a time with working with victims for sexual abuse or working with victims of rape, or whatever it could be, for the rights of the people in Latin America as a whole. But I know enough that it is just a concerned citizen and a concerned human 12:00rights person, who is concerned with the well-being of the other ones.

GÓMEZ: Okay. So can I call you a human rights activist, or would you prefer concerned?

CUBIAS: Whatever you want, it doesn't bother me, you know.

GÓMEZ: Yeah, but you're stressing the human rights, and not just for some people but for everyone, and not just in the United States but worldwide, so.

CUBIAS: Yeah, because we all are the same. We all breathe the same air, and I don't know why it should be a difference. Everybody should be treated the same with respect.

GÓMEZ: You talked a little bit about, you know, your first understanding of injustices, when the government took over land from people in El Salvador. Is 13:00that when your human right, your role as a human rights activist began, or did it start later?

CUBIAS: I could say that. And I could say it was the beginning because the, when I discovered all the stuff from El Salvador, then I become more concerned about what the rest of the people in that country, and that is why. Like I said, my family wasn't rich or poor, but wouldn't have enough to send people to college, so I was very happy to send my brother and sister to become whatever they wanted to be, so I pay for their college education. Being in this country, I send money every month for them to become whatever they want to be, and that's how come my brother become a teacher. And that's how come he was killed because he was working with the poor again to [unclear]

GÓMEZ: I'm really sorry to hear about your brother and the fact that he was 14:00killed for helping the poor. You certainly have done a variety of things, not just in El Salvador, but other places to empower the poor. What was some of the work you had done in El Salvador as well? I know you've done quite a number of things to help people there?

CUBIAS: Well, in El Salvador we say [unclear] Nicaragua because El Salvador was in a war. But Nicaragua was also - was in a war with the embargo in the '70s. So in the '80s, we started an organization, and we sent medical aid, and through 1983 to 1990, we send over $5 million in medical aid to the people of Nicaragua and 15:00to the people in El Salvador. And we also supported orphanages and hospitals in Nicaragua.

And we send [unclear] to Costa Rica. We send whatever we could pick up in here from the medical business that they didn't want to use, or they discarded, or they were samples. So they gave it to us, and we send it in containers, 22 20-pound containers to Nicaragua, almost every other month from 1985, '84 to 1990. From toothbrushes to penicillin to whatever we could get donated. And we did fundraisers. We did whatever we could to help the people in Nicaragua and the people El Salvador and other countries, Honduras, but mostly Nicaragua.

GÓMEZ: And so, and you did that mostly from Milwaukee?


CUBIAS: Yes, all Milwaukee.

GÓMEZ: So what was Milwaukee like at the time of 1983 or 1984 through the 1990, what kind of environment was it like for you to find people to help with this effort?

CUBIAS: Well, in 1983, we took a delegation because we becoming all very, because the work was going in Nicaragua and Central America, but really, but most in Nicaragua and El Salvador. So we took a delegation in 1993 to Nicaragua, 18 people from all different religions, Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Jewish people and Channel 12 and Channel 6 personnel to go and look at the Revolution. To look because everybody would say communist has taken over. We have to do embargo, blah, blah.

So we wanted the people for find out for themselves what it was going on. And 17:00that's how come we train delegations to go down there, send a fact-finding mission a week, ten days, five days, whatever the people could go. And go down there to work and see the work of the people and the people who were in government. And also we send volunteers to work physical therapists, teachers, whoever wanted to volunteer. We'd pay for the trip, and we'd pay for their food and a little stipend to live there if they wanted to work.

And that's how I met most of the poets of Nicaragua, including Ernesto Cardenal, who has been here three times because I brought him over. He is the priest that the Pope [unclear] said remember me? He was the national [unclear] work delegation that he was the Pope scream at him for being in the government of Nicaragua back in the '80s. So I met all those people because they were working for the people, 18:00they believe in their cause, and they believe in human rights. And that's how come I went there, and every chance I got, I worked with the people and the children of Salvadorian people who were in the refugee camps.

GÓMEZ: Incredible. When you were organizing the effort in Milwaukee to assist Nicaragua and El Salvador, were many of the people who got involved Latinos from Milwaukee.

CUBIAS: None, none. Just one from Nicaragua, Maria Delina [unclear] most of them were Americans. They already had their organization, and they were concerned, and they got a doctor [unclear] but he is the one that connected us to the hospital because he was a doctor at Children Hospital, so he got all the hospitals to 19:00start collecting the things they didn't need or they didn't use after a surgery, and put them in a special container for us to pick it up every week.

So we have, I would say 99% of the people were North Americans, American born, and the only person was from Central America was myself and Maria Delina, and the rest were all from all over. They were very concerned about the war and our sending people, groups down there. And, you know, American people they are, not all of them, most of them, I would say 99% are concerned with other countries because we know that sometimes with the [unclear] North American and American [unclear] to respond to that, so.

They had the organization, and we just come in and make a presentation about the war. And they took it over, and we all worked together. We have a great house, 20:00and every week, we have tons of people coming over and work and doing filling the containers, and I had [unclear] people from Milwaukee and Nicaragua with all the [unclear] I didn't do it myself, never. We did it together.

GÓMEZ: You had mentioned that in 1983, a delegation went down to Nicaragua. Sounds like there were many people representing different faith communities. Was the religious community very involved in your work?

CUBIAS: Yes. Yes. Mostly the Episcopal Church because of the women, the president of the board was Episcopalian, so Bishop White helped us a lot at that time, he was alive. He then passed away a couple years ago. And we had the Catholic Church, and then we got together to [unclear] in Milwaukee. Thanks to the 21:00churches, not just one church, all the churches together. The Lutheran Church went with us, and we, they saw what it was going on, and we just put it together, a schedule to visit different centers. And when they saw they are helping to [unclear] that's how come I say, we do it together.

GÓMEZ: Are you, were you involved also because of your religion? And that's a presumption on my part, I don't know if you have a religion.

CUBIAS: Well, I was born Catholic, but I am Catholic in my own way. Now I am Catholic again because of the Pope. The Pope is fantastic this time. Oh, I just adore him. But in the past, I didn't like the way they treat [unclear] now he's a saint. I've always thought he was a saint. I went to his house, and when I went there, in 2000, he was passed(?) away, but I went to [unclear] you know, where he 22:00used to sleep. Very humble man, he was a Bishop of the people of the Americas. And the [unclear] victim rights, but he didn't great work with El Salvador, and that's how come we [unclear] but, and [unclear] war killing their own people and [unclear] so. And different war.

GÓMEZ: Yeah. What were some of the key influences that shaped your human rights activism? You shared quite a bit. Was there anything else that was very influential in the work that you did?

CUBIAS: After my sister and my brother was killed in 1981. We left, my brother left three children and my sister one. And I was trying to bring them to America. Being an American citizen, I thought it would be easy, but it wasn't. And that's how come I becoming involved in politics.


And then I just say because I took my case to the Congress, and I took my case to the senator, and I met all the representatives from Wisconsin. And one of them Poblocki(?), who's in heaven now, he told me how to bring my family to this country. Then Congressman Jim [unclear] sent me tons and everybody, oh, the old boss, remember Norquist? We first met him in Nicaragua when he went there, and I met with him and I explained the situation.

And they went in a delegation from the [unclear] everybody took [unclear] for us. And that's how I met him, and that's how I become involved in the politics of this country, because of a lot of good people in there. There's no lot of bad people. There's a lot of good people that want to do the best thing they can. June went 24:00to El Salvador then because I told him, you know, all the things that were happening, so he went there as a chance to bring the peace to our country too. And so all the people that were in Congress, they were really very good people that I met and I talk and explain. And they let me, they must have [unclear] helped me.

GÓMEZ: So were you able to bring your nieces and nephews to [unclear]

CUBIAS: Oh, yes, I did. Now they're married now, they are American citizens. One is in the Army, he is [unclear] and he's been Afghanistan and all over the war with the Army because he says that this country was the best because, it's true that they give you money to pay his college, but still, you know. So they are all here [unclear] my mom is here, but it was very hard, but as I say before, they're about 40 different refugees, and I didn't know that, no one speaks to them until 25:00they explain it to me, and they tell me so that's how can they came over?

So again, the church helped me a lot, and my friends. You never do anything by yourself. A lot of people are behind the scene helping us, helping people, so. That's what I don't like community activist because there's no more people, together, working for the better of everybody, so.

GÓMEZ: Yeah, thank you. You know, you, one of the questions is, how did your human rights activism role evolve over time? You shared that you were involved in humanitarian aid to El Salvador and Nicaragua. Then you mentioned you became involved in politics locally, initially to help your, the children, your nieces and nephews to come to the United States. And then, I know that you became involved when your son was born, and you had wanted to enroll him at 26:00Allen-Field. Would that be sort of, was that one of the things that you were involved in in the area of education?

CUBIAS: Yes, I become involved with the Women's Also Against Faith and with Family Violence because my husband was violent man. And I got divorced, and we started, now it's called the Women's Shelter, but we start out with [unclear] for Women's Shelter. We started that organization many, many years ago. I don't even remember the year, and then with Betty [unclear] remember her?

GÓMEZ: Uh-huh.

CUBIAS: I went with this Latina who had spoke about against family violence, because nobody speaks against that, nobody. Everybody is so scared, you know, the husband, but I did. And that's how I became involved with another different group of people that were concerned about family violence.

And then I left my husband, a lot of people I didn't help me, and I teach my son 27:00how to read and write when he was two or three years old. And like my grandson now, he doesn't know how to read, but he knows the names of all the animals and everything. So anyway, he went to school, and he knew a lot. And what happen is, I have lot of reports from the school saying that he was in [unclear] that he was trouble and everything.

So I told them to give him a psychology evaluation, and they didn't want to do that. So finally, they did, and they find out that he was different talented, so, by the way he just published his first novel, about a month ago.

GÓMEZ: Oh, congratulations.

CUBIAS: Yes, and he, it came out in hard copy this month, but he was in the [unclear] only, now I'm [unclear] and it's in the bookstore now, I think. But anyway, he was a different talented, and that's how I started the first program at Allen-Field, 28:00because they don't have one for Latinos. They didn't have one in the South side only because of the mayor. And it was so full you couldn't get in.

So remember all the [unclear] okay, her and Mrs. [unclear] was here, she was the principal of the school, and we worked very hard with the school board and everybody who could listen to us to start the first program for children, different talented, because I talked to the parents and the parents, many parents had the same problems. And believe it or not, in about 3 weeks we find out 25 kids with the same problem that my son had, and we started school. We started the grade, and we were very excited.

With the help of the Milwaukee Journal, and again, with the help of Gene Moody, that he went to the Senate education, he was the senator in Madison that time. He helps us to get money for the program and get a teacher. And it was just 29:00incredible, but he was a hard work. It was very hard, and again, people came out to help. Many parents with just meetings and meeting. And people, how was people that they could help us, and they did, and we start it. So that was back in the '80s, so it was good.

GÓMEZ: In the [unclear]

CUBIAS: [unclear] in the '70s, between '70 and '80 [unclear] it's in the late '70s.

GÓMEZ: Okay. You know, when I think about the number of things that you've done, and you've just mentioned only a few, did you experience any sexism or racism or any other -isms in your work in terms of working with people?

CUBIAS: Oh, yeah, many. I can't even tell you. I don't even pay attention 30:00anymore because no matter what I went, I always find people that were nasty to me for one reason or another. Like, for example, when I was working at Children's Hospital, and I went to look for an apartment. And after my nephews came over to this country, I have a son, and then my sister's son didn't have a father or mother, so I took it to live with me.

I only have an apartment in [unclear] and it's two beds, and when I wanted three because, you know, he has to have his own room. So anyway, we went to a big place in 76 and by South Beach to find an apartment because my son was going to high school at the time, and I wanted him to be near Hamilton. When they told me how much the rent is, I say, oh, yes, good. I will apply, and I filled the application and everything. And the women say, oh, I didn't know that welfare gave you so much money. And I say, hey, lady, I happen to work for a living, I 31:00am no on welfare.

And immediately I, I didn't get insulted. I just called the owner, the manager and explained to them. And the woman was, you know, I don't know what happened to her, but she kept her job. But at least I let them know that you don't treat people like that.

Same when I went to the bank to buy a car, or to the dealership, the first thing they did is, was a Toyota dealer. First thing they did say, oh, I say I want this car, dah, dah, dah. And, well, it happened to be the [unclear] you know. And she says, oh, no, we have good used ones, this one. And I looked at them and say, excuse me, I can buy a brand new car if I want to. And I didn't buy the car from them. Since that day, I tell everybody not to go there, you know.

Went to the bank to get my mortgage for my first house, same thing. They say, oh, your husband has to sign it. I say, excuse me, I don't have a husband, and I don't need one, and I can afford to buy my house. I mean, if it was sexism or 32:00racism or every -ism you can think of, but I didn't let them bother me. I didn't let them putting me down.

Because see, the first thing you have to do is believe in yourself. And that's the problem with us Latinas sometimes, we don't believe in ourselves. We just think that whatever everybody else they think, it's okay, but you don't believe in yourself. So I never let that happen, you know.

Like I say the plumber. I called the plumber, oh, your husband couldn't fix it, eh? And I say, excuse me. You know, it's just ridiculous, and see now, but you have to just open their eyes and educate them a little bit about what it's all about, you know. So I find it, plus it's only a few incidents. You just, you know, it's tons of them, but I don't let that bother me.

GÓMEZ: How was it for you as it relates to other Latinas or Latinos?

CUBIAS: It was hard because some Latinos are still alive and some that pass away 33:00hate me because they say I was a [Spanish], excuse me, I don't even know what it was that all the time. And they say I was a too pushy, and I was, you know, I shouldn't do anything I was doing, that only men do that. And it was a big incident, remember when Jesse Jackson ran for President?

GÓMEZ: Oh, yes.

CUBIAS: Okay. Well, I was working with him to elect him. And I happen to, he happens to ask me, can I speak for the Hispanic community because he liked me, and he knew me and I was helping very hard. So many men in the Spanish community were so upset. And then when we went to the arena, remember Milwaukee Arena, they used to call it?

GÓMEZ: Oh, yeah.

CUBIAS: They led me in, and this was, you know, the security was there, and they didn't let the guys in. And they say, excuse me how come she went in? Because she's a speaking, but you cannot go in. Because I was seen to go where Jesse 34:00Jackson was. Oh, boy, do you have these incidents like that. They were so upset at me. And they were Mexican men with very good education, but they just were upset, and they called me all kind of names.

And even when we went to the, I was talking about when we took the churches to Nicaragua. One of the Catholic representatives called me a communist and an [Spanish] in Miami, in front of everybody because I just say, you know, something. And I have to go to Bishop Weakland and explain it to them. He was reprimanded because he was upset because I was explaining to them how it was. And he was upset because I didn't translate the way he wanted me to be. He translates like he was translate his own way. And I say no, no, no when we were in Nicaragua. I say, he didn't do that [unclear] I did.


So we had a big fight because he wanted to take [unclear] the Catholic Church and the priest that went. They find him with his pants down with the women. Okay. And went to meeting, and I say, no, he didn't say that, he says this. So, I mean, I had men screaming all my life. People, but you know what, it doesn't bother me because I know who I am, so it doesn't bother me at all, so.

GÓMEZ: And, Daisy, was that because, I'm just thinking of you had talked about your grandfather and how he set you on a path towards education and believing in yourself, is that what helped you when you were dealing with such resistance?

CUBIAS: Oh, yes. That helped me a lot because my sister is not like me. My sister is quiet and a lady-like. I am not. So I am a lady, but I just don't let people push me around, so, I don't let nobody push me around. And that is what I 36:00got divorced from because I just don't believe in people should disrespect other people.

GÓMEZ: Yeah, were there other barriers that you experienced in your work, Daisy?

CUBIAS: Well, many things have happened over the years. From divorce and family violence, all the way to the sadness of losing my grandfather and my brother and sister and most of my family during the war, but I am okay now. I am very good. I have a son who is very nice. He live in Los Angeles, and I go up there all the time and every chance I get.

I have a grandson and all my nephews and nieces that I helped to bring over, they are successful people. They have good jobs with education, so that is great. And people who work very hard maybe, you know, they try to help 37:00themselves [unclear] to see it, but because this is a great country. People who say otherwise, I mean, they run because this is a great opportunity in here.

And there's lots and lots of good people here, fantastic people. And I have a lot of friends are here from different countries that, one way or another, has helped me over the years [unclear] and fantastic, I mean, I just love him, the man. And [unclear] for example, so all those guys, and they work very hard, you know, and they went through lot of stuff too, a lot of women.

I mean even [unclear] she was my mentor. She just was fantastic, and it's a shame that she went away to a better place, and I hope maybe in your book you can even mention her name because she was a great lady. And Mrs. [unclear] I mean, she was fantastic Rita [unclear] she was just great. I remember Mrs. Ortega; she was a 38:00fantastic lady too.

All those ladies that opened the road for us. And they all worked so hard, and they didn't get recognized. And I guess they went through hell too, with the guys, but they still did it because that was the way they believe it. And thanks that to them, because otherwise, we won't be here.

GÓMEZ: And speaking a little bit about that, did you feel that the men, Latino or non-Latino, wanted women to be in a certain role?

CUBIAS: Yes, they wanted to be in the fore role, and that's it. Yes, they wanted, they didn't want to give up the power. It's very hard once you hold power for so many years, to give it up. And they always thought that women should be submissive, they should be quiet, they should just stay there, but no be there, no speak.

And it's very hard because what I see now, the whole world is changing, and it's 39:00better now. But I see a lot of young people changing the face of the Latino men as a machita, and lots and lots of women going to college and getting degrees in engineering and medical profession and lawyers. And I think that's what we need. We need people to believe in themselves, to make it a better world for everybody.

I raised my son to respect women, and you know what he did? He took two years of his life to watch the baby because my daughter-in-law made more money than him. So he says, okay, we pay a babysitter, it would be more money, so I am staying home. So he changed every diaper, every bottle, everything for two years. So I think that's what the world needs. The world needs nourishing people to help each other, and to be a new generation to a better world because without them, 40:00we will be lost.

GÓMEZ: Yeah. Daisy, when did you start to write poetry in earnest? And why did you do that, and how did it come about?

CUBIAS: Oh, like I say before, in El Salvador when I was asking many questions, and I couldn't get the answers, my grandfather say, write it down, whatever you think, write it down. And I compose the poetry that way, because I have many questions.

And then I came to America, and they saw my, the professor at the University of Wisconsin thought my [unclear] was too bloody. It was funny because I never sent a letter to be published. And have been published many times because people just see my work, and they want to publish it, so. With my dear friend [unclear] been translated to 40 languages and become a therapy and a curriculum in different, 41:00three different school districts, so it's good.

And then I got a scholarship to go to Spain three years ago, so I was in Spain for two months. I developed a foundation with everything pay [unclear] pay nothing at all, but write my poetry. So they have eight artists from all over the world painting [unclear] one from each [unclear] of the [unclear] and a beautiful place in Spain. And we stay there, and it was fantastic. I don't know how many Latinas from Milwaukee been there, I don't see anybody. And it was fantastic because they just choose one from every country, and I was choosed one from United States. So it was great. So I like to write, I like to, you know, crazy but, eh [unclear]

GÓMEZ: For the person who, or people who listen to this audiotape, what do you write your poetry about?

CUBIAS: Well, I write about everything. In the '80s and '90s, I wrote about the 42:00revolution in Central America, and The Journal of the Sparrows [Spanish] is about how the people of El Salvador leave the country. It's a novel. It's for young adults. And then I write Spanish poetry and comic books. Really, because the one in the growth of the [unclear] the Convention Center. My poetry is there, that's Why Women Wear High Heels, and it's and [unclear] I think I'm the only Latina in there in the world.

But it's funny because I go and explain why women wear high heels, and its part of the book, and I didn't finish because I've been so busy. Why, why women wear bras, why men wear mustaches, why men leave the toilet seat up, why people 43:00drink, why women are afraid of the letter M. That was my [unclear] like I read [unclear] because I like it. So anyway, I write all kind of poetry, whatever I feel like it, you know. I'm sitting down sometimes, and I cook rice or whatever, you know, it doesn't matter. I don't have any specific thing to write about, so.

Why the letter M is about, I was at the doctor's office, and this woman come over and ask me why, why are you here for? I say for a physical. She said, oh, I'm a little anxious, you know, I did mastectomy, my marriage is falling apart, my daughter run away with the mailman, and I thought, on, on, on. And this [unclear] start writing about, and then I came home, and I come out with a very funny one, everybody laughs when I read it. But it was like an [unclear] was just calling me 44:00because this woman went on and on about this, everything that started with the M.

And she said, and the machismo filled with the very macho. And I said, oh, my God, oh, my God [unclear] with the M's, my God [unclear] and then I come out with the long poem about the M, you know. So, and then I ended up with the Why Women Are Afraid of the letter M because of muerte, and that's the M. So but anyway, I just write about whatever, you know, doesn't matter.

GÓMEZ: Yeah, well, in terms of all of the work with human rights, or any of the other aspects of your life, were there any personal sacrifices that was involved in in doing the community work that you did?

CUBIAS: Well, sure, you know, I have to work very hard because I was a full-time worker, a full-time mother, a full-time student. So it's [unclear] but my son went 45:00along with me everywhere. And then when I had [unclear] with my other son, then we all went together everywhere, but I even took them to Nicaragua to see the war down there. So it was not a [unclear] but it was worth it because he was, something to open the eyes to the world.

Like my niece, she never been anywhere out of the country. So I took her to Nicaragua to become a volunteer for six months, and then I sent her to Cuba for another two months, you know. Help her to get there to see what the world is all about because in here, we have everything. And many people don't think about other people, especially young people.

Because, you know, you just, just go and get it, you know. So she went to Nicaragua, and she experienced a lot of differences down there. So it was not a happy sight, because my sister was so mad at me, she didn't talk to me for five, 46:00she said I conned her daughter to going out of the country to work so, but it was fun. I stayed with her for a couple of days, you know, weeks, and then I went to pick her up. But it was, I think it was good. It was sacrifice a lot of people, didn't talk to me because they thought I was crazy, but, hey, that's all right, everything come out good.

GÓMEZ: You mentioned that friends and family were support to you over the years. Were there any other kinds of support you received?

CUBIAS: Not(?) really, but you were one of them when I didn't have a job, you call me to interview for the Mount Mary College. And you were one of the few Latinas that helped me other than in my area. And they were a lot of people like I said, a lot of people that look out for me, somehow or some way I always be grateful. Maybe I never say thank you to you, but I got the job, but I didn't 47:00take it because it was too little money. And I had more [unclear] than that, so I got a job with [unclear] at that time, but you gave me that lead. And I went there, and it was great, I thank you very much.

And there was also Miguel who gave me another lead. Like I say, I owe all my little successes I had with my life is to people like you and others, because they were there for me when I need them. And they were there always, and I always be grateful to them. It's lot of good people that help me. And I wish them the best because they are still my friend, I still talk to them, and they were good to me, they were good to me.

GÓMEZ: It sounds like you were good to many, many people as well, Daisy.

CUBIAS: Oh, no, you do whatever you have to do when you see something wrong and when you see talent. For example, when I saw talent working at [unclear] I saw those 48:00kids that they could go to college, I took them.

And the best thing, the other day, it was about two months ago, I was right in 6th and Wisconsin Avenue when this man called me from behind, and I scream, I was going to kick him what I heard. And he says, do you remember me? And I say, no. He says, you took me to the school at the University of Wisconsin to register, and I am a lawyer now. And I forgot all about, I couldn't believe. I said, hi [unclear] and all my [unclear] one of them is working at Allen Bradley. Not Allen Bradley, no, that Rockwell. And she went to Spain, to Barcelona, she just always says, thank you for helping me.

So you have to do good things to other people because people did it for you. So, you know, you never know, I had letters coming from people say, thank you for helping me at that time, and I just forgot about, you know. I bet you do that too because, you know, you are the kind of person that will help too, so.


GÓMEZ: Thank you. What, of all the work that you've done, Daisy, what would you say is the work that you did that you are most, that you feel has had the most impact? Of the many things you've shared over this phone call, what's the most, what has had the most impact?

CUBIAS: I think the gift and talent program because, I didn't check this year. But a couple years ago, I check, and they were still there [unclear] and I think that that, because it's still there, it's still there. But the other one, you know, we did it, and it's done, but this one is still there, like I said I didn't check this year. I used to go when other, when different principals were there, and they know me, I used to go, and I speak to the kids.

And I think that was it because it impacted many generations. Many kids have 50:00been going through the program, and hasn't been [unclear] for a very long time. But I think that was it because, you know, kids have talent, and you have to discover the talent early. Otherwise, they can do the wrong thing, or they can do the wrong thing and the wrong way.

GÓMEZ: Daisy, how would you describe your community role now, what is it?

CUBIAS: Well, I am retired now. I'm enjoying every minute of it, traveling, gardening, growing tomatoes, delicious tomatoes, and visiting with my friend, going to the theater, going to the movies, going to everything I want to do before. And even some bored, but still helping. I am on the advisory committee for the [Spanish] I'm helping them to become a second-usage thing(?) for the Hmong. And I got the Ricardo [unclear] with [unclear] together to be with [unclear] to help 51:00her out.

And I helping them to do the best they can for the Hmong community because they really need all help, and they releasing young immigrants that come over, and they don't have a country, and they just. I feel like them because I didn't have a country at that time when I came over, and they're doing a great job. They started with 200 students, now they have a 1,200.


CUBIAS: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. And we've been working now, that since then, remember I work with the mayor now. I got the housing authority to have a meeting with them to see we can work out something with them. So we're working very hard, I've been working very hard with them for many years. Are you still working a little bit? Not as much as before, but I feel like I used to speak with the [unclear] board and the [unclear] School, and the Milwaukee Ed Board, and [unclear] anything 52:00related to art, except the [unclear] because I love art, yeah, so. But I don't know, I just take care of myself nowadays. I go to people house, I have dinner and cookouts or whatever, you know.

GÓMEZ: Would you change anything about the journey you've taken thus far, Daisy?

CUBIAS: No, I don't. I don't believe in regrets, and I am happy I did it. But I am very sad I didn't do more, but, you know, I am very happy with my life. I don't have regrets and no [unclear] and I am very happy with what I did whatever I could. I wish, like I say, I had more time, money, energy to do more work, but I couldn't, so.

GÓMEZ: Yeah. So what words do you have for future generation of Latinas, 53:00Latinos, or all people about activism? And this is, you know, human rights activism, as you have called it. What words would you like to share with future generations?

CUBIAS: I think, for the ladies, I think they should believe in themselves first. Get a great education, the best they can afford, or they can borrow money to get, and I believe they should help each other. We should help all younger generations to be successful, better than we are ourselves, because that's the only way our community will live to better life, to better future.

And I think the Latinas, and Latinos too, but the Latinas especial, should go to school above everything. And then, if they want to, they should get married, but it's not a goal like their grandpa and my mother thought I should get married, 54:00have children. No, I think they should believe in themselves, go to school, get a great education, and then decide what to do with their life. And also help others, because we are no in this alone. This is our world, and we have to leave it better than what we found it.

GÓMEZ: Well, Daisy, thank you so much. And I'm hoping that maybe even you will allow us to use one of your poems in our book, we would be so honored, and.

CUBIAS: Sure, anything. No problem.

GÓMEZ: Yeah.

CUBIAS: Yeah, no problem at all.

GÓMEZ: Okay. Well, Daisy, thank you for this time, thank you for the many things that you do for the community. We're grateful. And I've known you over the years, but you just continue to inspire me. In fact, when I read some of the 55:00transcripts from the video, I just, it remains very powerful for me. The many challenges that you had to deal with, and you were able to overcome so many barriers to help many people in that process, and I just want to.

CUBIAS: Well, thanks to you too, because you did a great job, always. Everywhere you went, you did the best you could, and you help others. And like I say, you going to [unclear] with your help and all your knowledge and all your good things you have done, you have [unclear] me a lot. And like I say, Mrs. Medina and the rest, you are the second generation of helping us to have, and these children with somebody else because they see it from their mother.

Their mother helps, and so they learn to help others because they learn it from you. And thank you for everything you done for me and for other women and for 56:00other people. You always been there, and thank you, thank you and God bless you in getting many, many, many more years.

GÓMEZ: And the same to you, Daisy. All the best.

CUBIAS: Thank you.

GÓMEZ: All the best to you and thank you. Have a wonderful evening, and we'll be in touch.

CUBIAS: Oh, sure, yeah. Just let me know when you need me, okay?

GÓMEZ: Okay.

CUBIAS: Thank you very much.