Thanks to folks like Professor Raul Reyes and the Student Activities office at Lone Star College-Kingwood, programs like Monday night’s screening of The Longoria Affair are bring offered to suburban communities in North Harris county. And Monday night attracted over 230 students, faculty, and members of the community.
The Longoria Affair, a documentary produced by John Valadez, takes us back to the days of WWII when a Three Rivers, TX soldier by the name of Felix Longoria died in the field of battle. When his widow was making funeral arrangements and requested a wake at the funeral chapel, the funeral home owner did not allow the wake because his white patrons would not like that.
It was this flash point in South Texas history that began a civil rights battle in which South Texas civil rights activist and physician Dr. Hector P. Garcia took on. As the film navigates through the history, which includes the involvement of then-Senator Lyndon Johnson who worked to have Longoria buried at Arlington National Cemetery, one learns but one piece of Mexican American civil rights history, but one that provided what one faculty member at LSC-Kingwood called, “a Rosa Parks moment.”
One part of the film that I found sobering was how Dr. Garcia formed a relationship with LBJ that took almost 20 years to foment some sort of action. From JFK ignoring the fact that the Viva Kennedy clubs were a major reason for winning Texas to constantly sitting on civil rights legislation, it was not until LBJ became President that the Voting Rights Act provided for a real voice for Mexican Americans, as well as Johnson’s appointment of Latinos to positions of importance in his administration.
If there are some folks locally (Latinos included) who want to learn about the road Texas Latinos have taken to where we are now, then this is a must-see. One may view it on PBS right now. Or you can go to the website and try to work out your own screening including the producer himself, John Valadez.
I met Valadez and one can honestly see that as an independent filmmaker, he has put in some laborious hours of love into this film. The fact that it made it to PBS and he is just finishing up a 40+ city tour in less than two months shows he has achieved much, thus far. And those of us in the activist community must continue to help him spread those pesky truths that our elected officials and a few educators attempt to avoid, and thus repeat the past.