Category Archives: DC Chicanos

Rodolfo Acuna: The Ox Bow Incident

The Ox Bow Incident


Rodolfo F. Acuña

Reading the posts in the I was surprised at the poor grasp of history of many of the wannabe bloggers. One wrote, “In the last five minutes I’ve seen about half a dozen references to Nazi Germany, which tells me that those who keep using these references have no frame of reference about what happened in Nazi Germany, and have
nothing constructive to add to the argument, whether their argument be pro or con.” It continued, “Is this bad law? To be sure. Does it warrant comparisons with Nazi Germany? Absolutely not.” The point was that genocide had not been committed—(yet).

As a historian, I recall the famous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller in 1946 about the inactivity of German intellectuals in the rise to power of the Nazis and their targeting chosen groups.

THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

At what point in history should people have collectively spoken out?

Let’s not be hypocritical. Arizonians are targeting Mexican-looking people. To the credit of a large number of people, there has been a moral outrage. SB 1070, signed into law this week, among other things, requires all law enforcement officers in Arizona to act on “reasonable” suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally—a law that the Sheriff of Pima County has sternly criticized.

Two days later, the legislature passed, HB 2281 (bill attacking ethnic/raza studies) states that any course, class, instruction, or material may not be primarily designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group as determined by the State Superintendent of Instruction. State aid will be withheld from any school district or charter school that does not comply.

It was signed by the Arizona governor. This act sets the stage to attack the Tucson Public Schools highly successful La Raza Studies program and to outlaw books which the censors deem critical of the United States. This follows on the heels of the Texas Board of Education whitewashing of history.

Everyone should see The Ox Bow incident (1943), especially the following scene: does a society become a lynch mob? Does this warrant the analogy to Nazi-like actions?

I would say that Nazism took time to whip itself up and did not begin with the mass genocide of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals etc.

Between 1848-1928, god fearing Americans lynched at least 597 Mexicans. This does not count Mexicans killed by Texas Rangers and other so-called citizens.

I write about these injustices to prevent making the same—I hate to use the word—mistakes as the past. The Arizona law is beyond mean spirited. It is reflective of a dark mood that many American people are going through—these so called Minute Men want blood–they are no ready—nor do they want—to listen to reason.

THEN THEY CAME for me, and people DID speak up.

Thoughts On Viernes…04162010

From Our Wise Latina Bureau…

It’s always a great night when you get to watch an activist in action and Dolores Huerta’s presentation to a packed room at Lone Star College-Kingwood (yes, Kingwood), did not disappoint.  Providing a little history on her community organizing efforts dating back to organizing Mexican Americans in L.A. with the help of organizer Fred Ross to her work with Cesar Chavez and the UFW to her present work with her own Dolores Huerta Foundation, the crowd was in awe of this woman–and they gave her a couple of standing ovations, too.

One of the most notable parts of her presentation was her ability to excite the women in the audience, urging them to become civic-minded, run for public office, and take on positions of leadership and influence. More importantly, to continue their studies because, “if a woman gets an education, the entire family becomes educated.”

A huge thank you and congratulations to LSC-Kingwood History Professor Raul Reyes for spearheading this effort, and to the folks at LSC-Kingwood for their support, too.

Magali Reyes, Dolores Huerta, and Prof. Raul Reyes

Who’s next? Congressman Luis Gutierrez? Maybe Labor Secretary Hilda Solis? Or let’s go for broke and get Justice Sonia Sotomayor! Great job, Raul!

Mine, too, Kuff!

Kuff’s “Some of my best friends are white people” post gives some more thoughts on the whole Caucasian deputies group.  I agree with Kuff’s title to the post, or else, why can’t the inner loopers take me out of Kingwood?

They Doth Protest Too Much

At Sam Houston Race Park in northwest Houston, about 6,000 tea partiers cheered and waved American flags as speakers denounced President Barack Obama and repeatedly assured the crowd that they were not racist.

And then…

No Racism? (from

Well, so much for that.


Dolores Huerta to Speak at Lone Star-Kingwood

If you all recall, Lone Star College-Kingwood is fast becoming a portal for Latino/Chicano speaking engagements, as was evidenced by last year’s presentation by Jose Angel Gutierrez.  Thanks to LSC-Kingwood History Professor Raul Reyes, the college will be featuring Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers and a popular speaker on all things political and cultural.

Dolores Huerta will speak at LSC-Kingwood on Thursday, April 15th at 6:30 PM.

I invite all of my DC Readers to trek up to Kingwood, once again, for what will be an historic speech featuring one of our greatest activists and speakers.

For added information, please contact Raul Reyes at raul.r.reyes [at] lonestar [dot] edu.

Get there early!

RIP: Ruben Vela-Conjunto Legend

Service Details (Thanks to my friend

A viewing is scheduled at Faith Please Gods Church (956) 412-5600, 4501 West Expressway 83 in Harlingen at 3-9 p .m Thursday with a regular service to follow at 7 p.m.

Another viewing and service is set for 8-noon Friday at the same church with funeral service to follow at 1 p.mj. Heavenly Grace Memorial Cemetary on rural Route 2 in La Feria. (956) 797-5614 sends condolences to the family of Ruben Vela, Conjunto music legend and pioneer.  From his MySpace page:

Ruben Vela was born May 10, 1937. Although he was born in San Antonio, he spent most of his youth in the Rio Grande Valley, growing up in cities like Relampago and Mercedes. While he and his family were living in Mercedes, Ruben’s mother presented 11year-old Ruben with his first accordion – a brand new two row Hohner. Even though the $70 she spent was a lot of money for that time, she soon realized, it was money well spent. Ruben was so delighted that he could now play with his 9 brothers and 1 sister, all musicians, he practiced non-stop. And at the tender age of 12, Ruben decided he was ready for his first public performance. Ruben had such talent and his music was so well received, that by 1956, he became a regular on the KGBT Martin Rosales radio show in the Valley. Rosales was so impressed with young Ruben that he introduced him to the owner of Discos Falcon in McAllen. There, Ruben recorded his first song, and instrumental called “Adolorido,” a compilation, based on two old traditional Mexican songs, “Adolorido” and “El Abandonado.” It became an instant hit. So, in 1959, with his first hit in hand, Ruben decided it was time to start touring. Since then, he has recorded many other memorable hits, including, “Te Regalo El Corazon,” “Mire Amigo,” and “El Oso Negro.” Ruben also recorded the beloved, “El Pajuelazo” and “El Tiroteo.” Throughout the years, Ruben has recorded on such labels as, Bego, Freddie, Dina, Joey, and Hacienda, and Crown. Throughout the years, Ruben Vela’s music has touched the hearts and souls of Tejano fans around the world. In 1983 he was honored for these outstanding contributions to the world of Conjunto music and inducted into the Conjunto Hall of Fame at the world famous Conjunto Festival in San Antonio. But who would have guessed that things would only get better? After forty years of entertaining audiences, Ruben Vela and his Conjunto had their biggest hit of all, a power cumbia called “El Coco Rayado ñ Powermix.” Not only did “El Coco Rayado” get heavy rotation throughout the Valley, it received impressive play in tough northern markets, as well. But the real surprise came in 1997, when the follow-up “La Papaya” earned Ruben a nomination for three Tejano Music Awards. This super-charged cumbia, not only earned Ruben a nomination for Song of the Year, but for Album of the year, as well. So, at an age when most people are contemplating retirement, Ruben dealt with a hectic touring schedule, the likes of which he had never before seen.

In fact, a search through YouTube will uncover several videos of performances, including one from less than a year ago.  There is also one posted this year, but I don’t have confirmation if the performance was this year.  In that video, one sees that the aging musico is assisted by a stand to hold up his accordion, but still plays as perfectly as ever.  Ruben Vela’s was a legendary career that boosted the careers of all those that came after him in the Conjunto Tejano genre.

Here’s a performance at Tejano Conjunto Festival in 2009.

Noriega: Education System a Security Concern

This op-ed has been making the rounds in newspapers statewide.

By Rick Noriega / Guest columnist

Early childhood education is not just an education imperative — it needs to be a national security priority.

Seventy-five percent of young Americans are unqualified to join the military, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Three primary reasons are inadequate education, criminality and physical unfitness.

According to the U.S. Army Accession Command, approximately one in four young Americans lacks a high-school diploma, one in 10 possesses a criminal conviction and 27 percent fail physical requirements due to obesity.

I want to focus on education.

A high-school diploma requirement can sometimes be waived, but roughly 30 percent of potential recruits with a diploma fail the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

The 2007 National Assessment of Educational Pro gress reported the majority of U.S. eighth-graders scored below proficiency in math (69 percent) and reading (70 percent).

Couple these facts with upcoming U.S. Census data estimating tremendous growth in the very communities needed to populate our armed forces. The students we will need in uniform tomorrow are increasingly failing in school today.

In the 2008-09 Texas school year, 51 percent of kindergartners and 65.4 percent of pre-kindergartners were Hispanic, the demographic with the highest state dropout rate. These statistics foretell the future population of military recruits.

The research behind early education is irrefutable. In the Institute of Medicine report, “From Neurons to Neighborhoods,” brain scans and neuroscience demonstrated the best time to influence a child’s intellectual development occurs when the brain is under intense development, which occurs during the first five years.

We at AVANCE have been doing an intensive parent-child curriculum that addresses this in predominantly Hispanic communities for 37 years — a program built on the mother as the first teacher and home as the first classroom.

In Dallas ISD, we tracked AVANCE children to demonstrate a 95 percent high-school graduation rate. In El Paso, AVANCE graduates consistently outperform the district average or the state average on the third-grade TAKS test.

Nobel laureate economist James Heckman estimates for every dollar we fail to invest in early childhood education, we as Americans will be forced to pick up at a rate of eight dollars to address other social needs.

Heckman stresses that early intervention reduces crime, grade repetition and special education costs, promotes high-school graduation, college attendance, helps prevent teenage births, and raises test scores. Though our financial consequences are obvious and tangible, this call to action is not about our nation’s financial security, but our investment for our national security.

Most people understand the importance of education in the success of America’s economic engines — the need for educated workers, the importance of continued innovation driving our prosperity — but we fail to recognize its impact on our military.

Improved educational outcomes increase military abilities to recruit the warriors we need to ensure America’s safety.

Justly, I feel understanding the importance of an educated pool of recruits for our military forces and public safety professionals (firefighters or police) are integral.

The safety of our future and our nation depends on it.

Rick Noriega is the new national president/CEO of AVANCE Inc., an early childhood education program. He is a colonel in the Texas Army National Guard and an administration appointee to the Military Leadership Diversity Commission.

Cesar Chavez Blvd. A Reality in Dallas

After years of trying, Dallas activists finally got what they asked for:  A street named for civil rights and labor leader Cesar E. Chavez.

The council’s path toward honoring Chavez, and acknowledging the influence of Dallas’ growing Hispanic population, was far from smooth.

The council rejected efforts to rename more prominent streets in Industrial Boulevard and Ross Avenue for Chavez. A short-lived plan to rename Young Street never made it to the full council.

The council was clearly united in the plan to rename the short stretch of surface street that runs past the Dallas Farmers Market.

Si Se Puede!

DC Does North Texas!

After a successful fundraiser for Juliet Stipeche, I took a working vacation to North Texas.  I checked out another great performance of Crystal City 1969 by the Caramia Theatre of Dallas at UNT, and I got to visit with my friends from the Mexican American Democrats of Texas, including State Rep. Roberto Alonzo and Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez.  It has been an enjoyable weekend and I thought I’d share some pics.

Our Next Lt. Gov., Linda Chavez-Thompson

The Cartel's Blessing: LC-T visits with my mom, Flora Medellin.

CD-26 Democrat Neil Durrance addresses Denton County MAD

Stace Medellin, Dr. Beto Calderon, Linda Chavez-Thompson, and State Rep. Roberto Alonzo

Dr. Rudy Rodriguez, Rep. Alonzo, Artista Joseph Gomez, ??, and Dr. Beto Calderon

UTs Zamora Wins Tullis Prize

Just received this through the ‘tubes.

Emilio Zamora will receive the Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for 2009 on March 5 from the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) during its 2010 meeting in Dallas.

The award for “the best book on Texas” recognizes Zamora’s publication, Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas; Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II (Texas A&M University Press, 2009). It is the first book-length study that joins diplomatic, Mexican American, and Texas history to examine home-front experiences in the United States.

The publication casts a wide net over the wartime economy, New Deal policies, the official and popular language of justice and democracy, the deleterious effect of discrimination on recovery from the Depression, Mexico’s interventionist policies on behalf of Mexicans in the United States, and the State Department’s decision to bring the Good Neighbor Policy home as an anti-discrimination initiative in social and labor relations.

Zamora brings focus to his study with the overarching argument that wartime concerns in Mexico-U.S. relations raised the issue of race to a hemispheric level of importance and encouraged Mexican workers to continue their call for equal rights. As race morphed into an international issue, Mexico singled out Texas as the most important site for implementing the promise of non-discrimination in the State Department’s Good Neighbor Policy and the President’s executive orders 8802 and 9346.

The increased diplomatic cooperation that promoted good will and improved understanding in diplomatic and ethnic relations also provided the impetus for the League of United Latin American Citizens to emerge as one of the leading proponents of equal rights in the United States.

Despite the persistence of racial discrimination and inequality, the unprecedented attention that Washington, D.C. directed at Mexico and the Mexican community in the United States raised postwar expectations for better relations and encouraged further official activism and Mexican agitation for equal rights.

Zamora’s Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs will remain relevant to scholars and policy makers in the present as questions about immigrant labor, Mexican Americans, Mexico-U.S. relations, and discrimination continue to draw our attention.

According to Zamora, the book prize has special meaning because it is named after Professor Horton Tullis. She was the TSHA’s treasurer and corresponding secretary during a 40-year tenure in the organization. She was also a member of the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin for 35 years starting in 1924 when few women worked as faculty on campus.

Zamora added that the recognition from the TSHA is also important because the organization has a special historical relationship with the Department of History at the university. George P. Garrison, the first chair of the department in March 1897, was a founding member of the TSHA. The building that the department calls home is named after him.

Celebrating 40 Years – La Raza Unida Party

Here’s an op-ed piece written by Professor Emeritus Carlos Munoz (UC Berkeley) on the 40th Anniversary of La Raza Unida Party in Texas.  As I have stated, LRUP changed the face of the Texas Democratic Party, changed South Texas politics, and empowered thousands of Mexican Americans.  Here’s Professor Munoz:

By Carlos Muñoz, Jr.

627 words

Mexican Americans made political history 40 years ago when, on January 17, 1970, they founded their own independent political party in Crystal City, Texas. They called it “La Raza Unida Party” – or, translated, “The United People’s Party.”

A look back at this party can give us clues about where we need to go today.

The call for an independent political party came out of a national 1969 radical Chicano youth conference held in Denver, Colorado, by the Crusade for Justice, the first Mexican American civil rights organization to emerge during the ’60s. The conference produced a plan for Chicano liberation called “El Plan de Aztlan.” The document called the two-party political system “the same animal with two heads that feed at the same trough” because they represented the nation’s racist political power structures that historically had oppressed and colonized Mexican Americans since the end of the U.S.-Mexico War of 1846-1848.

As was the case for African Americans in the South, Mexican Americans had been victimized by white supremacy in the Southwest – from lynchings to segregation.

The party’s strength was in Texas and California, the two states with the largest Mexican American populations. With the exception of Crystal City, where the party gained control of the city council and school board, and several other South Texas cities, there were few victories for the party, due to strong opposition from both conservative and liberal white and Mexican American sectors.

For example, Henry Gonzalez, a liberal Democratic Congressman and the only Mexican American from Texas serving in the U.S. Congress at the time, publicly denounced Jose Angel Gutierrez, the leader of the party.

In California, the party was not able to get the required 66,000 voters registered to get on the state ballot. It was able to register only 22,000 people, mostly college students. It never came close to a single political victory.

The party’s last hurrah came in the 1972 Texas governor’s race when its candidate, Ramsey Muñiz, received 6.43% of the votes.
Soon after, the party started to decline due to ideological divisions.

The party did not meet it’s goal of becoming a viable independent political institution, but it did  contribute to the opening of the doors for Mexican Americans into the two-party political system. After the party’s decline, many of the party’s activists went into the Democratic Party.

More significantly, the party contributed to the political awakening of the Mexican American people and other Latinos. It put the issue of political representation of Latino/as  on the agendas of local, state and national politics. Prior to the emergence of the party, there were only a relative handful of Mexican American and Latino/a elected officials. Now, though still underrepresented, there are hundreds of them throughout nation.  For example, in 1970 there were 5 Latinos in the U.S. Congress.  Now there are 25, including two U.S. Senators.

The increase in elected officials, however, has not resulted in fundamental change for Mexican Americans. Primarily because those officials, no matter how liberal they may be, are an integral part of the “animal with two heads.” Racial or ethnic identity does not guarantee the representation of communities of color – specifically, those who are poor and working class. The best example today is the President of the United States. The majority of African American and Latino/as voted for Obama expecting he would act in the interest of their communities. He has not.

The story of the La Raza Unida Party teaches us that independent political parties based on racial or ethnic identity will not work. An independent mass political party that can represent the needs of our more complex diverse society must emerge to challenge the two-party dictatorship. Such a party could lead to an authentic multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural democracy for the twenty-first century.

Dallas Examiner Covers Crystal City 1969

The Dallas Examiner

Cara Mia Theatre Company will be presenting the original play, Crystal City 1969, at the Latino Cultural Center from Dec. 9 through Dec. 19. Written by David Lozano and Raul Treviño Crystal City 1969, commemorates the 40th anniversary of the student walkout in Crystal City, Texas in 1969. Trevino is the nephew of Mario Trevino, one of the three student leaders of the walkout. The elder Trevino moved to North Texas and has lived here for many years. The play has many other connections to Crystal City, Texas, and most of them have to do with people – familial relations – some political and educational.

Crystal City is a small rural town in South Texas with a population of about 7,000 today; approximately 90 percent being Mexican American. It is a typical South Texas town. It has a special place in history, however, for being a pioneer for its political and civil rights activities, which lead to the advancement of Mexican Americans in South Texas and throughout the country. The activism gave momentum to the Chicano Movement that grew exponentially after the Crystal City walkout.

In 1963, Crystal City also made political history when the town’s people elected five Mexican Americans to their city council. The five men were known as “Los Cinco.” The victory was short-lived when all were not re-elected or chose not to run for re-election due to losing their jobs or to harassment, among other reasons.

Perhaps influenced by the 1963 election, the youth became proactive in making a difference in 1969. They had suffered institutional discrimination for too long. They were left out of school activities and educational opportunities. The rules that were set in place were unfair and made it hard for students to participate fully. They were unable to run for homecoming king and queen. Only one Chicana was allowed to be cheerleader per year. They were not allowed to speak Spanish anywhere during school hours. The three student leaders, Mario Treviño, Diana Aguilera and Severita Lara were determined to make a difference. They went before the school board to ask for change.

When their request was rejected, the students understood that they needed to convey their message through an act of civil disobedience, so they organized and planned a walkout. They took to the streets in an organized manner with instructions given to all participants. In a photo posted on the Cara Mia Theatre’s Web site, the students are seen walking orderly down a city sidewalk. This photo does not show the emotion and excitement that I recall.

My memory is limited in terms of relaying information about the walkout; I was only 6-years-old at the time. But the experience of seeing hundreds of students marching outside the elementary school and chanting, “Walkout, walkout, walkout,” invoking the younger students inside the school to join them in the protest, was life changing. It is that image that became the mantra for my own activism and the defining moment of my identity as a Chicana.

It was Dec. 9, 1969. I was sitting at my desk in the grammar school, when all of a sudden we heard a distant sound that grew louder and louder by the second as students got closer and closer to our school. My classmates and I looked at each other, then through the widows of our second-floor corner classroom. It had enormous windows all around that began at counter height and reached the ceiling. As the chanting students arrived at the school and began circling it, we rushed to the windows. The teacher kept telling us to get back in our seats and not to leave the classroom. But one by one, as the students recognized their older siblings, they ran outside to join them. Soon there were only a handful of us in the classroom. The building was almost emptied in minutes. Other teachers and a few students joined us in our classroom. I stared out the window mesmerized; my adrenaline pumped and my heart was raced. I looked for familiar faces and saw none. I remember wanting to run outside and join the students, but also wanted to stay there at the window to take it all in. I don’t remember leaving the building or participating in the organized teachings in the park. It was December, and I probably stayed home for the remaining two weeks of school before the winter break. The rest of the story I learned through listening to other’s memories of their participation and through history books.

Those moments in time made a great impact on my life; I had become a child of the walkout and part of its legacy. I will always remember the students’ faces and body movements as they manifested their emotions through chants, signs and raised fists.

When I saw a vignette of Crystal City 1969 recently, the scene of the character Lara being spanked for speaking Spanish followed by the scene of her father threatening the principal was very emotional. It took several minutes and many deep breaths for me to rid myself of the knot in my stomach and throat. I am looking forward to seeing the play in full on opening night, which is Dec. 9, 2009. I think that for many, the experience of being spanked for speaking their own language, will provide them with cultural affirmation and perhaps heal old wounds caused by past insensitive practices.

Dallas has many connections to Crystal City. The first and most significant is the fact that the co-playwright’s father was the first bilingual education director for the Dallas Independent School District – a Cristaleño. Not only did Mario Treviño fight for the right to speak his own language and not be punished for it, but his brother was also instrumental in ensuring that other students were given equal educational opportunities in Dallas. The first Center for Mexican American Studies in North Texas – at the University of Texas in Arlington – was established by Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez and created through the legislature by state Rep. Roberto R. Alonzo, both Cristaleños. The latter becoming the first [Mexican American] elected state representative in North Texas (Dallas – District 104).

It is fitting that Crystal City 1969 should make its world premiere in Dallas. Cara Mia is dedicated to presenting plays on the Chicano and Latino experience, and can be proud of its unique mission that no other theater company is attempting to promote – yet another reason to support the theater company and Crystal City 1969. For more information on the theatre or the play, visit