The 40th Reunion of La Raza Unida Party held at Mexitas Restaurant in Austin, Texas, brought together — possibly for the last time — some of the most notable figures of the Chican@ Civil Rights Movement. Organized by a group of party activists the reunion celebrated the work of activists from the 1960s and 70s, but it also did the important work of collecting these stories through oral history interviews. I participated in the collecting of the interviews under the direction of Dr. Emilio Zamora and Marta Cotera. All interviews collected will be donated and housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
- The efforts to Free Ramsey Muniz
- The importance of women to the community and future of La Raza Unida
- Ensuring an equitable education for students regardless of race, nationality, or economic background
- The future of La Raza Unida as a political party
- The history of art as a revolutionary tactic
One of the things made clear is that informed political involvement needs to be more concerted at all levels of our community. It is not enough to vote every four years. We must remain consistently engaged in our local democratic institutions — even when we don’t get what we want. This is especially true in regards to education. I participated in the education breakout session, and among the many things we discussed was the fact that although many things have changed since 1972… there is plenty that has not changed. Segregation due to economic disparities, the end of high-stakes testing, the attacks on ethnic studies as well as the privatization of our public schools through the proliferation of charter schools were all points that we agreed needed to be addressed sooner rather than later. Email addresses were shared, commitments made, and a plan of action created to produce a unified presence in Texas for those dedicated to La Causa 2012.
On top of all this was the opportunity for me to meet, discuss, and learn from the people who made it happen in the first place. Humility, grace, and passion are what made La Raza Unida Party a formidable political party in 1972. In 2012 with many members gone but not forgotten those who remain are as committed as ever to enacting social justice for their community. It is easy to get discouraged in the age of Citizens United, Bush v. Gore, and the Koch Bros., but being among a group of life-long dedicated activists reinvigorated my desire to enact social and political changes — if only at the local level. Moreover, I realized how important my upcoming thesis project on Juarez-Lincoln University is. These stories need to be told.
It was an honor to work and talk to the people who’s blood, sweat, and tears have made it possible for me to be where I am now — a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Mexican American Studies. I hope to continue their legacy with my work and activism.