By Carmen Robles
Frank White doesn’t fit the typical description of Afrodescendiente (Latinos of African descent).
He is descendent from an interracial marriage between an African-American father and a Mexican mother. According to White, long before floods ravaged the West Side neighborhood, rupturing a dynamic Mexican neighborhood and long before the Interstate 94 ran through the heart of the Rondo Neighborhood displacing generations of African-American families; these two communities were distinct, culturally ethnic and deeply rooted in history. And these were the two childhood communities of White.
White’s father Louis “Pud” White was one of the top catchers in the Twin Cities with deep roots in the African-American Rondo Neighborhood area where White grew up with childhood friends, baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and Steve Winfield.
White’s mother, Fideila Rangel was Mexican from St. Paul’s West Side. The Rangel family’s roots run deep in the West Side community. His maternal grandfather, Franciso Rangel, assisted Mexicans living in Minnesota through his work as an aid to the Mexican consulate in Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s.
The White family didn’t spend too much time on the West Side but White has vivid memories of the Mexican pride and history instilled in his household. “Yo soy Mexicano” he bellows in his flawless Spanish-gringo accent. Even though he lived in two worlds, had two cultures, grew up in a household with two languages; White quickly learned how to maneuver through the landmines of speech, racial perceptions and racism, learning at an early age how to depend on his other senses and honing in on his academic and athletic skills.
It was White’s uncle, renowned musician Kiko Rangel, who brought up the subject of family pride.
“Fidelia was part of a Mexican musical group with our sisters Maria (Rangel), Juanita (Rangel) and Eugenia (Rangel),” said Kiko Rangel. “There’s a drawing of them at Wells Fargo Bank on Robert Street. We don’t know how it got there.”
White confirmed he knew of the mural but did not know of its origin.
“It remains a family mystery,” he said.
The Minnesota Historical Society has a copy of the image used in the mural but it revealed no clues as to how it ended up at the Wells Fargo branch.
Only one thing left to do, go to the source … Wells Fargo Bank at 1710 S. Robert St. in St. Paul.
The beautiful mural is vast, telling history through images. Janet LaBathe, bank manager at the branch provided a description of the mural, which is made up of photographic images depicting historical community activities on the West Side and was a 2006 Wells Fargo tribute to Hispanic Heritage Month.
White’s desire to connect his bicultural worlds into the larger historical picture was brought on by the writing of his first book, “They Played for the Love of the Game: Untold Stories of Black Baseball in Minnesota.” He said he felt a personal sense of responsibility to honor the legacy instilled by his bicultural household and a passion to preserve the past for his descendents and future generations through accurate storytelling.
“I feel the weight of the Rangel legacy squarely on my shoulders,” said White, recognizing he can add “family historian” to his list of achievements.