40 Years Later: La Raza Unida Party Reunites in Austin

Vote Raza Unida Party Poster - ca. 1972

Vote Raza Unida Party Poster - ca. 1972

It has been four decades since La Raza Unida Party changed the way Texas votes. Until 1972, the Mexican American electorate was all but ignored by both major political parties. Even after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 people of Mexican descent — and Latin@s in general — were prohibited from voting through literacy tests and language barriers. In the late 1960s a group of college students, activists from the Farmworkers movement, and other dedicated public servants joined forces to organize an alternative political party that would seek to address many of the issues disenfranchised Mexican Americans faced at the time.

The LRUP, after a couple years of organizing, nominated a slate of candidates for the 1972 state elections. They changed the political world in Texas, and arguably across the Southwest. The LRUP made the Texas Democratic and Republican parties wake up and see the importance of the Mexican American — and Latin@ — electorate. Now, with Texas Latin@ voters pushing the 1 in 4 registered voters mark, this section of the electorate is critical to those seeking elected office. From local races to the presidential race, Latin@s and Mexican Americans in Texas are what elections are now made of.

The election year of 1972 was huge. Nixon was reelected, McGovern lost, and the LRUP shook the state and nation with their showing in Texas elections. This year, at the cusp of another change-the-world election, La Raza Unida Party reunites to reflect on the days when they changed the world. The weekend of July 6th and 7th, 2012, LRUP founding members, activists, and candidates will gather in Austin at Mexitas Mexican Restaurant to reminisce, catch-up, and share their stories with those of us who are eager to hear their story.

Here’s an excerpt from the announcement website:

La Raza Unida Party was a direct political response by those who felt political power was long over due. When La Raza Unida Party in Texas began winning elections, there were those who felt, :”If we don’t stop those Mexicans now, no telling what is going to happen.” As the party grew and spread from the rural areas to the cities, more and more candidates joined the effort. At one point, there were candiates running under or with the support of La Raza Unida Party in at least 10 counties in Texas.

What ever happened to all those who ran as candidates?

What happened to those who won and actually held office? 

Where did all the activists go?

Only July 6th and 7th, 2012 there will be a reunion of all those who were part of el movimiento back in the 60s, and 1970s and dared to stand up and challenge the system.

This reunion will be held  in Austin, Texas at Mexitas Mexican Restaurant and the adjacent bingo hall next door which is located at IH 35 Freeway and 12th Street in downtown Austin
I’ve added the event to my calendar, and will definitely be there to hear the stories, meet the people, and show my respect for those who put their personal and professional lives on the line so that people of Mexican descent and all Latin@s would have their right to vote protected and honored.
Visit the site (LaRazaUnidaPartyReunion.org) for more information.

La Raza Unida Poster via Peace Press

Post Image: La Raza Unida, c.1972, 21.50 x 13.50 inches, Collection of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, © Peace Press.
About jaimerafael

Jaime is a doctoral student in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include 20th Century U.S. & Borderlands History, cultural production during the Chican@ Movement, and the role education in social movements. His work engages with the many bodies of scholarship that use race, gender, and class, as their analytical frameworks.


  1. kiko193146 says:

    Hola Jaime, just got the info on RUP reunion, great news, count me in. I’m in Venice Beach, Ca. 
    Enrique “Kiko” Salazar
    RUP Cameron County, TX Chairman 1973-1974

    • Kiko,

      It’s great to hear from you. I’m glad to have helped spread the word so you can be at the reunion. I am not affiliated with the event, so please be sure to visit LaRazaUnidaPartyReunion.org to formally RSVP.

      I hope to meet you there!

      – Jaime

      • Armando Cavada says:

        I hope to be there. I was RUP chairman in Nueces County after Guadalupe Youngblood, ’73, ’74.

        • Armando,

          I do hope you can make it. I’m not sure if transportation is what will keep you from attending, but if it is there may be a solution. According to the official website there’s a bus being chartered for people unable to drive coming from the Valley — Crystal City to be exact. You may want to contact Alfredo Santos to see if there’s an option available for you.

          Thanks for commenting, I hope to meet you at the reunion.

          – Jaime

    • Ricardo A. Chavira says:

      Hola Kiko,

      Remember Alpine, Texas ?
      ricardo a chavira

  2. Raul G. Martinez, Jr. says:

    I was involved con el movimiento in the late sixties and early seventies and ran for county judge in LaSalle County (Cotulla). I was also the editor of a weekly newspaper in Cotulla called Nosotros:El Pueblo during that time. Armando Cavada and I were real good friends, as were the late Carlos Guerra, Lupe Youngblood and Cecilio Camarillo Garcia. Other friends and colleagues were Leodoro Martinez, Cesar Martinez, Pancho Velasquez, toda la palomilla de Cotulla and others too numerous to mention.

    • I can’t wait to hear you talk about your experiences at the conference.

      Do you still have copies of the newspapers, or an archive of documents you would like to share?

  3. Luis A DIAZ DE LEON says:

    I lookfarword to getting involve in the up coming conference , since I was a candidate for the usa senate in 1978 the last state election the party participadate in QUE VIVA LA RAZA UNIDA

  4. Here is a copy of a talk I gave in Iowa a couple weeks ago. See reference to Crystal City experience. Kathy and I taught there in the mid 70s. Doug Foley just emailed me about the reunion. I hope it is a success. Can’t seem to place the PDF so here is the reference: In the mid 70s my wife and I were asked to come to South Texas and teach at Crystal City then under control of the Raza Unita Party. While there I was surprised to learn that some of my new colleagues had attended little barrio schools rather than the big public school in this town of over 8,000. These were the children of migrant farm workers who worked in the sugar beets and hops up north. By then these Barrio kids had grown up, some had even become fairly well educated.
    When conditions presented the opportunity, a student walkout provided the catalyst that overthrew the school board and purged the system of the racist white teachers and all but two white families. Not finding enough Mexican teachers, they hired a few of us northerners.
    Those were the most challenging and rewarding four years of my short nine-year teaching career. More importantly, in the classroom that first summer, I successfully employed one of the things I learned back in the one room school in South Dakota. Faced with a classroom full of students, some literate in Spanish but not English, some literate in English and not Spanish, some more or less illiterate in any language, and a few bilingual and literate in both Spanish and English. I decided to have students teach each other. I divided each class into groups of 5 or 6 students and the later group, bilingual and able to read and write English became the group leaders. They were my teacher aides. One in particular, I’ll never forget was Enrique Mata. Older that the rest, he had not gone north in an attempt to finish school. He was a natural born teacher and his group excelled under his patient leadership style. That fall he was drafted. The last time I saw him he was AWAL in San Antonio. Another kid in that class was Maria del Carmen Fernandez recently there from Mexico. She spoke almost no English. I’m not sure if she was in Enrique’s group but she tried hard and made progress. I recall that when she was a senior she got on the honor role. Each year when I receive a Christmas card from Carmen, I also think of Enrique and how much he helped me that first summer in Crystal City.

    • roberto r alonzo says:

      I am Robeto R . Alonzo from crystal city, texas. I am 55 years old i was a student when you guys came to Crystal City You were both the best and all the teachers that came to crystal city You both helped me to become who I am. At the raza unida reunion i spoke and I said that. I am a po;itician and a lawyer. Before i spoke, it was said that politicians are afraid to speak at these events because something might happen. I am not afraid because of you and all those teachers that were there and not there, taught me the baby of the raza unida, that if someone wants to get mad, they can always find a reason to get mad. You teachers taught us that the sky is the limit. You two taught us of ghandi and engllish, and others taught us of our history and culture. I remember. You made us proud. I said that I became the first Chicano elected the student body president of UT. But with the spirit that you guys gave me. I was ready. By slogan was si se puede, it can be done. In fact, one guy that was there said it was recorded in playboy magazine in 1978. I became a lawyer. I became an assitant attorney general of the state of texas. I have gone to Peru, El Salvador, Spain, Mexico, Israel. I am a Texas state representative from Dallas, Texas for fourteen years.(When I was a kid we used to go up north to work in fields hoeing beets, picking cucumbers, and tomatoes, and working other crops. And we would pass the capitol to Crystal City, my hometown, on the way back, and I would say to my self, that one day I would be there. Now I have an office on the fourth floor of the Texas capitol.) And it is because of you, those that were at the reunion. And many others. When you get a chance drop by You guys made it happen. Mil gracias. I can say as the teacher told Holden Caulifield in the book Catcher in the Rye, you taught me and us that the mark of an immature man dies for a cause, the mark of a mature man lives for a cause. Thank you all for helping me live for cause. robeto.alonzo@house.state.tx.us

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