The Second Battle of the Alamo: Fox News vs. Julián Castro's mom
Mon September 10, 2012 8:59 am

This battle was initiated by Fox News, which accused the mother of Democratic keynoter of being a member of a “radical civil rights movement”and who reportedly thinks the truth behind the Battle of the Alamo is that Texans swiped Mexico’s land.

More from the article:

The Hispanic Texas mayor whose keynote speech wowed the Democratic National Convention crowd Wednesday night draws political inspiration from his mother – who was a member of a radical civil rights movement and who reportedly thinks the truth behind the Battle of the Alamo is that Texans swiped Mexico’s land.

Maria del Rosario Castro, the mother of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, said in 2010 that she grew up being told the battle was “glorious,” only to learn the so-called heroes were really “a bunch of drunks and crooks and slaveholding imperialists who conquered land that didn’t belong to them.”

“But as a little girl I got the message — we were losers,” she told The New York Times Magazine. “I can truly say that I hate that place and everything it stands for.”

The Alamo, then a sprawling mission for missionaries and American Indian converts, was attacked in February 1836 by Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Though historical accounts vary, Texans, including famous frontiersman Davy Crockett, fought back for 13 days only to surrender, on March 6.

Maria del Rosario Castro also was a member of the La Raza Unida, a radical movement that defended the civil rights of Mexican-Americans in Texas.

The 37-year-old Hispanic mayor told New York Times Magazine that upon being elected mayor in 2009 he promptly hung in his private office a 1971 La Raza Unida City Council campaign poster that featured his mother.

I want to ask, and answer, three questions.

1. Are Ms. Castro’s sentiments about the Alamo an indication that she practiced radical politics? The answer is no. Her feelings about the Alamo were very common among young Mexican Americans who grew up in San Antonio. I have heard very much the same thing from others–for instance, Ernesto Cortés, the founder of COPS (Communities Organized for Public Service), regarding his childhood, and, later in life, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant.”  The Alamo, standing as it did in the heart of San Antonio, was a constant reminder that Mexican Americans in those days were second-class citizens in their home town. Ms. Castro’s statement–”we were losers”–was exactly what the Alamo conveyed.  It was a terrible burden of shame to place on a child.

2. Maria del Rosario Castro also was a member of the La Raza Unida, a radical movement that defended the civil rights of Mexican-Americans in Texas.

Was Raza Unida a radical organization? Again, the answer is no. It was a political organization, activist but not radical. It was never violent. Raza Unida was a third-party organization that was formed to challenge the dominant white conservative Democratic party. Ms. Castro was chairman of the party in San Antonio and a candidate for city council. Raza Unida was hoping to weaken the Democrats by taking Latino votes away from them. The core of Raza Unida were young activists from St. Mary’s University. Several of them were running for public office (which doesn’t sound very radical to me), including Ms. Castro, who ran for city council. There were real radicals in those days that made Raza Unida look tame by comparison. The strategy of taking Latino votes away from the Democrats came pretty close to working. Dolph Briscoe, the Democratic candidate, won the election with 973,397 votes, or around 47.9% of the vote. Hank Grover, the Republican candidate, received 1,533,986 votes, or 45%. Raza Unida’s candidate, an attorney and former Baylor football player named Ramsey Muniz, polled 214,118 votes. Grover and Muniz together outpolled Briscoe and exposed the weakness of the conservative Democrats. The strategy worked. How did Raza Unida do so well? A story that circulated at the time was that the Nixon Administration secretly funded Raza Unida in an effort to split and weaken the Democratic party, which in those days was overwhelmingly white, rural, and conservative. This was a believable scenario. I heard it at the time, and there continue to be online references to it. Chuck Colson is said to have played a key role in the Nixon Administration’s strategy. Raza Unida’s strategy was to break the hold of the dominant party on the state, and the best way to do that was to recruit Latinos to vote for Raza Unida.  It almost worked. Briscoe won a hollow victory and was never an effective governor. In 1972 Nixon carried the state in a landslide over George McGovern, but I doubt that Raza Unida had much effect on the outcome.

The 37-year-old Hispanic mayor told New York Times Magazine that upon being elected mayor in 2009 he promptly hung in his private office a 1971 La Raza Unida City Council campaign poster that featured his mother.

3. Did Raza Unida ever act as a radical organization? Only if you think of engaging in local politics as radical. This is where Raza Unida had its biggest success. It elected city council and school board majorities in Crystal City, Cotulla, and Carizzo Springs. The party eventually spread beyond Texas, but its greatest successes were achieved here.

# # # # #

On July 6-7 of this year, Raza Unida held its 40th reunion in Austin. On that occasion, University of California professor emeritus Carlos Munoz Jr. wrote a history of Raza Unida, which was published in Dos Centavos, a blog by Stace Medellin. The article follows:

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.

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...

Most Read

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 week