Dr. Monica Perales
Smeltertown Oral History Project
Summary of Interview
Ramon A. Salas was born in Mexico and migrated to Smeltertown in the 1920’s. He attended school in Mexico and then finished his education at a public school in Smeltertown. He attended vocational classes which help him learn a trade. This is where he was introduced to construction. Salas worked in construction and was employed by El Paso Natural Gas for 20 years until he retired. Salas detailed demographic of Smeltertown where Anglos occupied houses ASARCO owned on a hill and the Mexican workers lived below them. Some of the Mexican houses did not have running water. Times were difficult due to the great depression, but working at the smelter with low rent allowed people to survive. He recalls his childhood as school and helping around the house. There were extracurricular activities such as basketball and baseball teams. There were also dances. He even met his wife in Smeltertown. They moved to downtown El Paso in 1940, and lived there until 1955 when Salas was employed by Natural Gas. Salas also discussed working on the road to mount Cristo Rey. He describes this as hard work and recalls getting paid $1.50 a day for six hours of work. There were few safety regulations and a large risk with climbing the mountain, but they competed the trail to Mt. Cristro Rey. Salas says the best aspect of living in Smeltertown was the sense of community where everyone knew each other. Salas went on to have five children with his wife; two of his children became lawyers.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Interview with Ramon A. Salas by Dr. Monica Perales, 1995, "Interview no. 1664," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.