There were so many good people involved in the movimiento, especially in my hometown of Crystal City. The movement brought many unsung heroes and sheroes to my little town. Cristal became a sort of laboratory for progressive Chicano thought and action. So, when my friend, playwright Gregg Barrios, sent along word of Erasmo Andrade’s passing, it was a reminder of another unsung hero.
After an honorable discharge as a Machinist Mate III, he graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations. He subsequently earned his Juris Doctorate from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. As a young professional, Erasmo taught English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) to military officers at Lackland Air Force Base. He subsequently spent three years in Turkey and Iran teaching ESL for the U.S. Department of Defense. On returning to the U.S., he began working as a union organizer for migrant workers, garbage collectors, and other disenfranchised groups. Erasmo’s early activism on behalf of social justice was notable in San Antonio and South Texas. As a staff member of Bishop Robert E. Lucey’s Committee on the Spanish Speaking, one of his major achievements was the organization of the Valley Farmworkers Assistance Committee and the coordination of the 1966 Farmworkers March from Rio Grande City to Austin on behalf of safe work conditions and a state minimum wage of $1.25. He played an active role in the battle for voter rights in the Winter Garden area and was the first director of federal projects for the Crystal City Independent School District. Funding from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health helped him to create the Zavala County Mental Health Outreach Program, in cooperation with the Department of Psychology, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
It was folks like Mr. Andrade who helped develop much needed programs in South Texas, which became a model for programs elsewhere–the same type of programs that many fight for today in the big cities. So, here’s a DC Salute to a great individual.