This Moment in Time is quite extraordinary. It is a photo of President John F. Kennedy visiting a reunion of the Houston League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Houston, Texas on October 21, 1962.. What makes the photo particularly poignant is that this photo was taken the night before President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Benny Martinez, who had joined LULAC back in 1932, recounts that the LULAC chapter had invited the President to their function but figured he would not show up because he had a previous commitment to attend a fundraiser for Congressman Albert Thomas. But to everyone’s surprise, President Kennedy, accompanied by his wife, Jacqueline, and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson did appear.
Speaking to Latinopia, Benny Martinez recalls, “When the President came into the room everyone went crazy with cries of Viva Kennedy, Viva Kennedy!” President Kennedy’s 1960 campaign was successful because he won the Southern vote and Texas was crucial to securing that vote and Mexican Americans were, in turn, crucial to securing the Texas vote because they created ”Viva Kennedy” clubs throughout the state that helped him get elected.
“He was with us for 45 minutes or so. “Recalls Martinez, “ I had a good look of the President because my brother was police Sargent and in charge of security. He sat next to Vice -President Lyndon Johnson and they talked together. Jackie Kennedy, the President’s wife, spoke to us in Spanish and told us how important it was for the United States to reach out to Latin America and Mexican Americans in this country. The program included flamenco dancers and. At one point, the pounding sound of their feet on the dance floor sounded like a gunshot. I saw President Kennedy duck for cover.”
Latinos and the President of the United States, October 21, 1962…a Moment in Time.