STOCKTON, Calif. — In a cozy, but simple store front on East Main Street in Stockton is history, one of a kind history. At 2182 E. Main Street is the Chicano Research Center.

The director, Richard Soto, is a retired high school counselor from Tracy and a Vietnam Veteran. He has on display over 20,000 books, journals and artifacts highlighting Chicano history.

Soto said there wasn't much out there concerning Mexican Americans and their accomplishments when he was growing up. So, he has made it his life's mission to change that.

"And in this country, and I was born in this country and my mother was born in this country, you're stripped of your history," Soto said. "And they make you assimilate to something. And so, when I got older I'm thinking like why did the something other get to keep their history?"

Soto was at the forefront of the Chicano Movement when he returned from Vietnam. His personal collection, dating back to the 1960s, became the research center three years ago.

The center also serves as a meeting place for a veterans writing group, guitar lessons and more.

John Britto, retired culinary professor at San Joaquin Delta College, is a 20-year veteran of the Navy with two tours in Vietnam.

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"It's a perfect place. We talk. Many of the veterans are Mexican Americans. So, we come here and we talk about our Vietnam experiences," Britto said.

The center also caters to children. It has a separate room with books for kids focusing on the Mexican-American experience and more.

During the summer, the Los Angeles Times highlighted the research center. People from everywhere are now discovering it, including academic researchers from universities and curious visitors like Lori Labrado who stopped in from Los Angeles.

"It's just really cool that there actually is a Chicano Research Center. I've never seen this much stuff about that," said Labrado, who came to visit with her parents who live in Orange County.

Soto said his research center is a work in progress with more books and artifacts donated year round. He hopes his center leaves a lasting impression that's simple.

"I would want them to leave with the impression we have a rich, valuable history and culture," Soto said.

The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. For more information, call 209-851-3845.

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