One rises we all rise to paraphrase Jose Angel Gutiérrez, was part of his definition of the Raza Unida Party (RUP). The RUP was the 3rd party created by him and Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) founder Mario Compean. 


Back then (the 70s) most Mexican Americans thought there was not much daylight between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Some said they were a two headed monster; unity would be in the RUP.  I asked Jose if he thought our community could unite again and become a united force, his short answer- No.  He also took issue with the new label some are giving our community ‘LATINX’, can’t’ really say what he said but it was not complimentary. I am personally of the opinion that we can, and We Must! And I trust he would be all in to make that happen, but that’s another story.


 In the 1970s many in our community still worked in ranches and farms, blue collar jobs or in the service industry. Only a lucky few had the education to get them at least at the fringe of decent paying jobs. And when they were able to secure those jobs it was easy to lose it to the next Angelo that walked through the door. In fact, many were asked to train the person that would replace them. Not to mention the inequality of pay for doing the same job and as bad as it was for the Mexican American men it was worse for the females in our community. That besides having to put up with unfair labor practices many had to put up with sexual harassment as a hellish bonus. So, it came to no surprise that many in our community and even to this day claimed ancestral ties to Spain. This would serve to make them of European descent much like the Italians which had an easier time of acceptance. Some might argue that because the Civil Rights Act had signed into since 1964, things couldn’t be that bad. They would be wrong; Jim Crow was still alive and active in the 70s – Civil Rights Act be dammed. 



The problem with trying to get away with the European label was the color of our skin. While many in our community are light, most are not. And it did not help that a prevailing stereotype of that time was the sleepy Mexican with the sombrero over his face napping by a large cactus. It was with this backdrop that Jose and Mario decided that in order to change the narrative for their community, they must take power. Both leaders believed that positive change could only come about by Mexican American control of a system that was still foreign to most in our community. They felt that the political system was inherently racist against the Mexican American community, that it had to be completely reevaluated. Of course, it was easy to see that by just visiting South Texas communities where Mexican American were the majority but had no elected offices. Things were even worst in other parts of Texas where racism was just part of life. In Lubbock where I grew up a former governor of Texas Preston Smith owned a theater with a sign that read, No Negroes, No Mexicans or Dogs allowed. 

  In December of 1969 at the one and only National Mayo meeting the idea of the RUP was proposed by Jose Angel Gutierrez and Marion Compean and accepted by the assembly. So, in January of 1970 this young group of Chicano leaders set out to do what none in our community had done before. This party was about bringing economic, social and political justice to the Mexican American community. The days of acceptance of whatever they decided to give us was over, they would demand their place at the table! 



End of Part 1 look for Part 2 on weekly subscriber edition El Weekender, if not a subscriber go for your free subscription 

Story By A. Govea

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