1972 LA RAZA UNIDA NATIONAL CONVENTION
Following a series of walk-outs by Mexican American students to protest inferior education at the high school in Crystal City, Texas in 1969, Chicano activists, led by José Ángel Gutiérrez, created a third political party and called it La Raza Unida (The United People).
Inspired by the call for political self-determination articulated in the 1969 Program of the Plan De Aztlán, the Texas La Raza Unida party ran 16 candidates in the April, 1970 elections for city council and school boards in the towns of Crystal City, Cotulla, Carrizo Springs, and Robstown, Texas. It won 15 of the 16 elections.
As news of the Crystal City victories spread, chapters of La Raza Unida sprang up in cities throughout the Southwest as Mexican American political activists challenged Republican and Democratic candidates in local city, county and state elections.
In September, of 1972, party leaders, notably Rodolfo “Corky’ Gonzalez of Denver, Colorado and José Ángel Gutiérrez of Crystal City, Texas, called for a national convention of the Party to take place in El Paso, Texas.
Several hundred delegates from more than 40 states attended the week-long convention from September 1-5, 1972. For the first time at a national level, issues of high unemployment, inferior education, lack of political representation, immigration, the farm workers movement and other concerns pertinent to Mexican Americans were aired nationally through widespread news coverage by a host of journalist who covered the event.
The convention concluded with the election of José Ángel Gutiérrez as National Party Chairman. Although the party soon lost its effectiveness due to in-fighting in subsequent months, the initial victories garnered by extensive get-out-the-vote campaigns in Mexican American communities, put the Republican and Democratic parties on notice that the Mexican American vote was not to be taken for granted.
Subsequently, the creation in 1965 of the Southwest Voter Registration and Educational Project and its voter registration drives patterned after the La Raza Unida victories soon result in electoral victories for Mexican American candidates, largely Democratic, throughout the Southwest.
THE 30 MINUTE DOCUMENTARY “LA RAZA UNIDA,” PRODUCED BY JESÚS TREVIÑO IS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE FROM THE CINEMA GUILD. VISIT: www.thecinemaguild.com