Jose Prado


Jose Prado


In this interview, Jose Prado discusses growing up in southwest Detroit, and working for the City of Detroit maintenance department.


Detroit Historical Society


Detroit Historical Society

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Jose Prado

Brief Biography

Jose Prado was born in Mexico in 1961. His family moved to Southwest Detroit when he was four years old for more job opportunities in Detroit. His father was a steel factory worker and his mother a housewife.

Interviewer's Name

Arielle Dueweke


Oral transcription:
Arielle: What is your name?
Jose: My name is Jose Prado.
Arielle: Can you spell it for me?
Jose: I certainly can, it’s J-O-S-E, last name P-R-A-D-O.
Arielle: Alright, when and where were you born?
Jose: I was, where, oh and when was I born, I was actually born in Mexico in 1961.
Arielle: Alright, so when did you move to Detroit?
Jose: Approximately four years old.
Arielle: And do you know what attracted your family to move here?
Jose: The Great Migration of the mid 60’s and the uh, job opportunities that Detroit offered.
Arielle: Okay. And what neighborhood of Detroit did you grow up in?
Jose: My entire life, basically, has been here in Southwest Detroit.
Arielle: Okay. What did your parents do for a living?
Jose: My father was a steel factory worker, and my mother was a uh, what do you call it nowadays? Housewife?
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: She was uh, yes.
Arielle: Did they enjoy their jobs, or?
Jose: Pardon?
Arielle: Did they enjoy their jobs?
Jose: Very much, very much. My father retired, uh, after 30 years at the steel mill…
Arielle: Oh, wow.
Jose: …And my mom was a homemaker.
Arielle: Okay. Do you have any siblings?
Jose: I do. I have, uh, two younger sisters.
Arielle: How much younger are they?
Jose: Respectively, uh, five and seven years younger than I am.
Arielle: Okay, and what schools did you go to?
Jose: Western High School, here in Southwestern Detroit. Um, all three of us graduated from there. And then, uh, I went on to study a bit at Wayne County Community College. My middle sister went on to study at Wayne State. And my other sister went on to Northwood.
Arielle: What stores did you go to when you were growing up?
Jose: Of course, I have to say Honeybee Store. Uh, that was the store to attend, and still is the store to attend here in Southwest Detroit.
Arielle: Where is Southwest is that?
Jose: It’s on the corner of 17th Street and Bagley…
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: …And um, it’s phenomenal, it has anything and everything and for everyone to eat as far as your Mexican-American cuisine is concerned.
Arielle: Okay, did they have like clothing too, or just groceries?
Jose: No, groceries. Pref.. Yeah, groceries. It was uh, it’s what started it all because the house is now a market, and it’s well attended.
Arielle: Okay, Nice. Besides the grocery store what was your neighborhood like growing up?
Jose: Vibrant. Um, family oriented, and I see it around me to the day, fifty years later, and it’s still family oriented. Um, homeownership is high. Homeownership is high here in the city, and the southwest part of the city that I know of…
Arielle: Right.
Jose: …So basically I have been my entire life in the city, here in Southwest Detroit.
Arielle: Okay. Are there any stories you would like to share from growing up, especially like with your friends? Or things that you did for fun?
Jose: Baseball was very… prevalent in this area…
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: …And it still is, I understand. Uh, as far as at a high school level. My grandson plays little league baseball still, and does well city-wide. So that was a sport. As of late, soccer seems to be taking hold here in the city and in Southwest in particular. But, um, those were the sports to be prevalent. We played also football, and to some extent basketball.
Arielle: Okay. Did you play through your school or was it just for fun?
Jose: Both…
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: …Both. I have to say though, I was pretty good at tennis in high school. [laughs]
Arielle: Oh, really?
Jose: I was a lefty. I said, “Okay, this is good. I can do this.”
Arielle: Nice! Tennis is fun. [laughs]
Jose: Yes, chinky little ball. [laughs]
Arielle: Yeah. [laughs] Growing up, did you tend to stay in your own neighborhood, or did you venture out into the city?
Jose: Growing up I tended to stay in my neighborhood. It wasn’t until I became old and adult that I started venturing, in a way, in parts of the city and the state as well. I lived in Waterford for an amount of time in the Mid 80s, as well as Dearborn. And uh, eventually I just migrated my way back into the city itself, into Southwest again.
Arielle: Okay. Outside of Southwest Detroit, what are your favorite parts of the city?
Jose: The actual city of Detroit, I really like an area called, um, oh I was just there. Uh, Russell Woods, um oh boy, Rosedale Park, uh Woodbridge area, just south of Wayne State University. Corktown, of course. Uh, there’s many pockets that I do like visiting. And, uh Indian Village, that’s a nice little, very opulent area.
Arielle. Mhm, for sure. Okay. What was the makeup like? Economy, race, ethnicity of your neighborhood growing up?
Jose: Growing up, um racial was pretty well mixed: Uh, Latino, black and white. Uh, Economically I think that was our common bond that we were all working class…
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: …And we knew that growing up. And many years later when I still run into old family and friends from the neighborhood, of all, the before mentioned races, we talked about growing up as children and how we basically shared the same economic levels. So that the racial area was never an issue, it was economics…
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: …To the day…
Arielle: Right.
Jose: … To the day…
Arielle: That’s interesting.
Jose: …We’re stuck in the same boat. [laughs]
Arielle: Yeah, for sure.
Jose: And we are working class, that’s good, that’s good, that was our common bond.
Arielle: And was that the same like, in your school as well?
Jose: Very much in the school as well…
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: …Very much in the school as well. Interestingly enough, Western High School was um, renamed Western International High School I think about fifteen, twenty years ago. And those of us who attended that high school forty plus years ago laughed because we say to ourselves, “It always was international.” [laughs] per se, we were like, “they’re just now.. they’re just now renaming it?” To us, we always saw it as western international.
Arielle: Right.
Jose: Pretty well mixtured.
Arielle: Mhm. Well that’s good!
Jose: So it was interesting.
Arielle: Yeah. Did you feel comfortable in your neighborhood?
Jose: Very much, very much…
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: It was home, and it is still home. To my children, and now my grandchildren.
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: My grandchildren, we all share the same area, still.
Arielle: And how many children to you have?
Jose: I have three children. One son and two daughters. And my son still lives here in the city with his family.
Arielle: Oh wow! So did they go to school in this area as well then?
Jose: They did, they did.
Arielle: Okay. As the decades have progressed, did the makeup up of your neighborhood change?
Jose: This area… I have to say, quote, never really went bad. It got old, because it was old.
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: And um, it’s rather evident if you travel through the area that the blight may be there, but it’s not as prevalent as it is, it can’t be, in other parts of the city…
Arielle: Right.
Jose: …Only, it got old because it was old. And of course economics played a lot, large role in it. And uh, this little area maintained what it had, and did what it could with what it had.
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: And I think that’s the spirit amongst us, uh, with the neighbors. And were like, we’re doing what we can. It’s pretty evident.
Arielle: Yeah, keep it up. And if, like how do you think it has changed, especially?
Jose: [thinking] There’s a rebirth. As it is throughout the city. There’s a rebirth. This area, as I said, economically was challenging.
Arielle: Right.
Jose: But as of late, there seems to be a new interest- a renewed interest in this area, as there is city-wide. And uh, we’re starting to see the rebirth of uh, Ford Street, because of the bridge coming up of course.
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: Um, Michigan Avenue is starting to get polished up a little bit. Vernor Highway has always the main artery as far as businesses go.
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: Um, there again, there …There’s a rebirth. A renaissance in this area, which is good.
Arielle: Do you think there’s a rebirth of the businesses on Vernor as well?
Jose: Yes, yes yes.
Arielle: Okay. Uh, as the decades have progressed, did your opinion of your neighborhood change?
Jose: I can’t say it did. I cannot say it did. My love and interest has always been in the city- and in Southwest in particular. This was, again, home to me. And it is home to me. And uh, I never lost an interest in this area.
Arielle: Yeah, it’s just always been home.
Jose: All the passion, all the passion for this area…
Arielle: Right.
Jose: …Uh, so much so that um, my son lives in the area with his children. And uh, we all plan to continue contributing to this area. It is home to us.
Arielle: Mhm. Uh, have you every thought about leaving the neighborhood? I would assume not, but..
Jose: Chuckle, I have to laugh…
Arielle: [laughs]
Jose: …Um well my, I have one daughter who lives in uh, Phoenix Arizona area. And my other daughter lives in Chicago-land area. And uh, I’m near retirement myself, after thirty-one years plus with the city of Detroit. They’re always beckoning me, “Daddy come live with me in Phoenix… Daddy come live with me in Chicago.” And, we’re talking to extreme uh, temperatures, and I say to myself, “I think I’m okay… I think I’ll just continue to stay here, come visit me.”
Arielle: Yeah? [laughs] Mhm.
Jose: Which they did last month. And they do routinely.
Arielle: Well that’s nice.
Jose: They both come uh, and we all get together and visit granddaddy.
Arielle: Okay, that’s nice.
Jose: Yeah.
Arielle: So you said that you’re near retirement, where have you been working in the city?
Jose: City of Detroit maintenance department..
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: …That’s my employer, uh thirty one years plus already. And I like what I’m doing, I like what I’m doing.
Arielle: So what do you mainly do?
Jose: Uh..
Arielle: You said maintenance, but..
Jose: Building renovations and repair.
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: In fact, that’s what we’re doing today, building renovations and repair. We maintain every municipally owned building in the city. Uh, fire houses, police stations…
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: Anything uh, parks, anything that’s municipally owned, that’s what we maintain. We keep the machine running, per se.
Arielle: Right.
Jose: That’s what we do. We’re the behind the scenes guys, when things happen - or don’t happen, we’re there. And uh, I enjoy what I’m doing.
Arielle: Alright, nice. And do you mainly do the renovations in Southwest Detroit?
Jose: No, throughout the city.
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: Throughout the city. No, throughout the city. The entire city. Geographically, of course the city of Detroit is huge…
Arielle: Right.
Jose: …It did house, once upon a time, up to two million people. So we can spend an entire eight hour day within the city limits itself, and still be in the city.
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: So there’s a lot to do, there’s a lot to do.
Arielle: Where do you see most of the renovations taking place?
Jose: Recreation centers. Uh, police precincts, administrative offices. And uh yeah, that’s… that’s most of the areas.
Arielle: Alright, nice. What would you say makes your neighborhood most unique?
Jose: Unique… I think it it’s the continuing love and spirit that the resident’s give and receive. I guess that you could say I’m living proof.
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: I enjoy where I’m at, I enjoy giving. There’s a little park three uh, three blocks away from here where I grew up playing. And it has always been a park, and uh, I have my grandchildren out when they come over and visit me and we play this little game, it’s called “let’s play pickup.” So I give them a little stick [laughs] and a bag, and we pick everything up before we even start playing there as an effort to keep it beautified…
Arielle: Aw...
Jose: …And, to the day, I uh, make sure that little park is tidy. And the community itself does that as well, not only myself. We all pitch in to keep that little park alive, because that is our little sanctuary – our little outdoor sanctuary…
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: …And we enjoy it there.
Arielle: So it’s like the heart of the town almost.
Jose: Yes, yes yes.
Arielle: That’s really nice!
Jose: Yeah, yeah. And of course, West veers Clark Park, which is a bigger park, and it’s… nice. It’s come a long way, it’s really nice. It’s well maintained, and it… it’s well maintained, and it’s also well attended…
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: …It’s well attended, I played tennis there many years ago…
Arielle: Okay.
Jose: …And uh, my grandson plays baseball there now.
Arielle: So there’s always a lot of… A flow of people going through the park?
Jose: Yes, yes yes.
Arielle: Alright. That’s nice to hear. And what does the term “neighborhood” mean to you?
Jose: Family. Family, family.
Arielle: Like a sense of belonging and…?
Jose: A sense of belonging, a sense of uh, the neighborhood where I’m at, where I reside, uh most of us know each other. And uh, I’m not shy about uh, talking with my neighbors. Again, family. A sense of belonging, a sense of uh, sh-sharing, loving. Um, which is the key to anything I guess, in life. And uh, but yes, that’s my definition. Would be, yeah…
Arielle: If you could do anything in your neighborhood, what would it be and why?
Jose: [thinking] If I can do one thing in my neighborhood… to continue contributing. To continue contributing, and keep this flourishing neighborhood in this city, flourishing, keep it blooming, and keep it happening. Uh, it’s well attended…
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: …Uh, we get many tourists… from everywhere…
Arielle: Yeah…
Jose: …It seems like. And it’s uh, it has it’s own flavor, shall we say. Uh, that’s interesting in itself… That’s unique in itself.
Arielle: So what do you think of the tourists that come to the area?
Jose: Love it…
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: …Love it. Love it, I love uh… sharing. I love giving. I love contributing. And I think that’s the same feeling that amongst the neighbors here, lifelong neighbors here. We enjoy the… visitations, we enjoy the welcoming, we enjoy the uh, overall outcome. When people leave this area they’re like, “Hey, I’m going back.” And they do.
Arielle: Nice. Aside from this whole thing, is there anything else that you would like to add about the neighborhood? Or just any experience you would like to share?
Jose: I’d like to continue… Again, I keep going back to the word giving, contributing…
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: …And keeping this area as lively as it has, has been. That’s what I’d like to see, it continue flourishing. And I know it will.
Arielle: Mhm, yeah for sure.
Jose: Yeah, yeah.
Arielle: It’s all coming back. Continuing to prosper.
Jose: Yeah it is, it is. Not only economically, but I think the spirit of the people here, um like myself. I believe, give. And uh loving people, and that’s what we do. That’s what we do. This is why this area has thrived.
Arielle: Mhm, for sure.
Jose: This is why this area has thrived. Family, community, neighborhood. Um, as a perfect formula to make it happen.
Arielle: Mhm.
Jose: Despite the economic changes. Despite the economic challenges. Like well, I’ve got… I have to do with what I have. And uh, I think it’s pretty evident - not only with the housing, but the overall environment, the overall ambience, is that of challenging, and persevere.
Arielle: Yes. Alright Jose, well that is all. Thank you so much for your time!
Jose: Miss Arielle, nice talk with you.

Search Terms

Detroit, Southwest, Steel factory, Mexican, immigration, great migration,


“Jose Prado,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed November 28, 2021,

Output Formats