Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
When we first met Ernesto Castro, he was a young, single man embarking on a career in government work. Thirteen years later, he’s still a young man, he’s happily settled in his career, and he’s a married father of five (yes, five!) children. Lucky for us, he consistently takes time from his busy schedule to conduct tours (often in Spanish), help with our biannual festivals, and promote the museum at off-site events. We’re inspired by his energy and enthusiasm for history.
You have a large family, a full-time job, and are active in your church. What motivates you to continue volunteering at the Homestead Museum?
After my family, I have two passions in life: religion/theology and history. I like to share my passion and knowledge of both of these subjects. So what motivates me to volunteer at the Homestead Museum is to give back and share some of our wonderful Southern California history. After I give either a presentation or talk in my parish church, or a tour at the Homestead Museum, I feel so good because I know I contributed in making a person a better person.
Besides conducting tours at the Homestead, you have given tours at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. What are the similarities and differences in these experiences?
Yes, giving tours at both places is great. Some similarities are that both focus on California history. Some topics covered at both places: Mission period, 1870s, 1920s, Temple family, immigration, architecture, expansion, and Southern California history. Some differences: Cathedral focuses on religious art, we deal with more people who speak different languages and are of different cultural and religious backgrounds. The focus of the tours at the Cathedral is, regardless of your religious background, we want people to have a wonderful spiritual and educational experience. The Homestead Museum focuses on the two historical houses and their families and the impact they had in Southern California. We usually get people from out of town and from other states. The purpose of the tours at the Homestead is to teach visitors our rich Southern California history.
You often bring your children to museum events and to work with you as “assistants” on your tours. What do you hope they, and other children, will get out of their exposure to the museum?
Yes, I’m trying to get my kids involved in my tours and the different events at the Homestead Museum because I want them to learn about our rich and wonderful history. I would say it is paying off. My son, Josue, is in fourth grade and he aces all of his quizzes, projects, and tests dealing with the Mission and Rancho periods. The teacher is amazed and she encourages my son to teach fellow students because Josue is very knowledgeable about these topics.
Over the years, you have given more than 150 tours in English and Spanish. No doubt you have accumulated some wonderful memories. Please share one or two with us.
Two brief stories:
One time this couple came to take an English tour with their son. They were probably in their late 70s. This couple was from New Jersey. They spent about a month here in California, and just came to visit their son who had left New Jersey many years ago. The son appeared to be very busy at work, because he hadn’t seen his parents for many years, and it seemed like he didn’t take his parents out much within the month that they spent in California. So, in other words, the old couple was bored the whole time and wanted to go back to New Jersey. They were leaving for New Jersey the following day. The couple was so happy with my tour that they said it made their trip to California worthwhile. Even though they were bored the whole month at their son’s house, this last day of their stay made their trip worth it. The old man wanted to tip me (but I said I couldn’t take any money) and said that he wanted to share his experience at the Homestead with friends back in New Jersey.
Another time there was a lady from Mexico who came to visit her kids in California. She took the tour in Spanish. It seemed like her kids took her to visit other areas in California. The lady was a widow and had other children in Mexico. She came to take the tour on a Sunday and was leaving to Mexico on the following day. She told me she had spent about six weeks in California, but wanted to go back to see her other kids. She missed particularly her youngest son, who according to her, looked like me, and was a professor in a big university in Guadalajara, Mexico. This son was a historian and also worked part-time in a museum. The lady told me that I made her day because she loved the tour and that I reminded her of her son. She was very grateful and said that she would like to introduce me to her son, who is planning to come to California next year. In her own words she said not only do you and my son look alike, but you both have a passion for history.
Thanks to Public Programs Assistant Craig Chyrchel for catching up with Ernesto.