The first in-depth history of the Chicano community’s struggle for inclusion in the political life of San Antonio during the years 1951 to 1991, drawn from interviews with key participants as well as archival research.
To many observers, the 1981 election of Henry Cisneros as mayor of San Antonio, Texas, represented the culminating victory in the Chicano community's decades-long struggle for inclusion in the city's political life. Yet, nearly twenty years later, inclusion is still largely an illusion for many working-class and poor Chicanas and Chicanos, since business interests continue to set the city's political and economic priorities.
In this book, Rodolfo Rosales offers the first in-depth history of the Chicano community's struggle for inclusion in the political life of San Antonio during the years 1951 to 1991, drawn from interviews with key participants as well as archival research. He focuses on the political and organizational activities of the Chicano middle class in the context of post-World War II municipal reform and how it led ultimately to independent political representation for the Chicano community. Of special interest is his extended discussion of the role of Chicana middle-class women as they gained greater political visibility in the 1980s.
- Chapter 1. Introduction
- Chapter 2. Posing the Correct Questions
- Part One. The Partisan Era
- Chapter 3. The Shaping of a Political Agenda and Its Consequences
- Chapter 4. Coalition Politics: Trench Political Warfare
- Part Two. A Period of Transition
- Chapter 5. The Changing of the Guard
- Chapter 6. The Transitional Period
- Faces of San Antonio through Time: Photographs
- Part Three. Political Pluralism and Its Consequences
- Chapter 7. Style and Strategy in San Antonio Politics
- Chapter 8. The Cultural Is Political; the Political Is Cultural
- Chapter 9. The Question of Inclusion: A Final Note
- Appendix: San Antonio Mayors and City Council Members, 1951-1999
In 1981, the Chicano community in San Antonio gained national visibility when Henry Cisneros was elected as the first Chicano mayor of a major city in the United States. Throughout the decade of the 1980s Chicano communities across the nation gained political prominence in major urban electoral arenas, such as Denver, Los Angeles, and Chicago. By the 1990s, Chicanas also became very visible in urban politics. Again, the spotlight was on San Antonio, when Maria Antonietta Berriozabal barely lost in her bid to become the first Chicana mayor of a major U.S. city. While she did not win, her bid for mayor represented a major breakthrough for Chicanas in electoral politics.
This study focuses on the political process leading to these momentous events. In particular, the focus is on the role of the post-World War II Chicano middle class in creating a more open political system in San Antonio and in bringing about political inclusion for its community. Just as important, the analysis will examine how the changing political environment eventually formed and shaped the political process of San Antonio. The analysis is of a community's struggle to gain political inclusion and the consequences of that inclusion. The period covered is from 1951 to 1991.
The major question in this study, which arises from the continuing social and economic exclusion to this day of major sectors of San Antonio's Chicana and Chicano working class and poor, is: Can a community mobilize its resources in the urban electoral arena in its interest, in the face of institutional rules of participation combined with the demands of an urban political economy that have historically favored the interests of business? Can it mobilize power in its own interest? Or is this political prominence simply an accommodation of the Chicano middle class by the Anglo business community into a political process where the political and economic priorities have already been set? While this study may not be able to answer these questions in any definitive manner, hopefully through this analysis we may be in a better position to understand the limitations as well as potential that a community faces in our very complex urban society.
The Question of Inclusion
One of the objectives of the analysis in this study is to address the question of inclusion, not only as a political and historical issue, but also as a methodological one. Until the recent political successes, the Chicano community was generally written about as a monolithic group, rural, generally lower working class in nature and politically apathetic. The farmworker movement that swept from the California fields into the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the mid-1960s, and which provided the seeds for the Chicano movement in Texas, ironically perpetuated this image.
The reality is that the Chicano community underwent the same urbanizing experience that most groups underwent in the United States after World War II. In Texas, the urbanization of the Chicano community occurred in the midst of a post-World War II shift from a rural agricultural economy to an urban service economy, caused partly by the production needs of a war economy and partly by the technological advances in agribusiness which dislocated many of the rural communities. This urbanization especially impacted San Antonio, whose total population doubled in the 1940s.
In the wake of this shift San Antonio experienced two major changes. First, it set the stage for major political reform in city government. In 1951 the political machine that had dominated politics in the city as well as the county since the beginning of the century was defeated by a well organized Anglo business community. In the broader context, these reforms placed San Antonio on the threshold of becoming a major Sunbelt city competing for investments across the Southwest.
Second, and more important to this study, the new political arrangements coupled with the growth of the Chicano middle class also had the effect of opening up the electoral process to direct Chicano political participation for the first time in this century. Before World War II, the Chicano community was mostly poor with a very small middle class and was for the most part excluded from direct political participation; Chicanos were invisible when it came to participation in the established political institutions. The post-World War II reforms created a more open political environment where the growing Chicano middle class emerged as a visible political force.
The new political arrangements brought about by the business community in 1951 were certainly not intended to create independent representation for the Chicano community, and they did not. However, a consequence of this more open political environment was that it set in motion a more competitive political environment that eventually brought about in the 1970s independent political representation for the Chicano community, a situation without precedent in San Antonio in this century.
Despite these historical facts, there is virtually no documentation of modern Chicano electoral politics in San Antonio, until, of course, Henry Cisneros was elected mayor of San Antonio. Most, if not all, of the political studies of San Antonio have not considered the Chicano community as a key political sector. Even after Henry Cisneros was elected as the first Chicano mayor of a major city, the focus was on Henry and not on the Chicano community--except maybe as a backdrop.
In other words, the analysis in this study not only addresses the political exclusion the Chicano community has faced and how it, as a community, has confronted it; this analysis also is in itself a critique of how the history and politics of San Antonio has been presented. It addresses the total exclusion of the Chicano community in San Antonio's historical memory. This study is a small step toward recovering that history for the community.
The Connections of History
It is important to point out that this study does not in any way argue the old, tired "sleeping giant" thesis. While it is not as well documented as it should be, much work has been accomplished in the last thirty years in documenting the Chicano community's labor struggles as well as community struggles throughout the Southwest in both rural and urban areas. In San Antonio, there is a rich oral history, some of which has been documented and analyzed, of the intense Chicano labor struggles that occurred throughout the first half of this century. The same can be said of other social movements, especially the struggle for equal education.
The focus of the analysis in this study is on urban electoral politics--historically a very middle class activity. As a consequence, the Chicana/o middle class plays a dominant role in the effort to gain inclusion in this process. It is important to emphasize that the analysis is of the political process leading to political inclusion; it is not necessarily of the middle class itself. Nor does the analysis proceed on the assumption that the middle class sector was the only sector organizing in the modern post-World War II period. But a basic premise in this study is that it was the Chicana/o middle class that had the resources and, indeed, were positioned to provide the leadership in the wake of the reforms coming on the heels of World War II.
Another very important premise is that the political process that this study focuses on is historically tied to-indeed, is a continuation of the urban political struggles engaged in by the Chicana/o community leading up to World War II. As will be shown, the developing political agenda of the liberal Chicana/o electoral mobilization in the 1950s was based on political inclusion, the one issue that characterized pre-World War II Chicana/o middle class politics. The goal of inclusion, however, was not a realistic goal until social and economic changes were brought about by the pressures of a changing economy and the accompanying intense urbanization of Texas in general. As such, then, the post-World War II political activity did not simply occur out of the blue, so to speak.
While inclusion, as will be shown in this chapter, was a general ideal of Chicano middle class pre-World War II political activity, the restrictive anti-Mexican environment dictated concessions as the practical goals of their participation. After World War II, the various demands were translated into a general demand for inclusion in the decision-making process and not simply concessions as in the past. This historical connection shows that the Chicano community was not simply waiting to be invited in; rather, their activity anticipated these changes. Or put in another way, the giant did not awaken, it was already kicking at the door. The giant could not be kept back any more.
In this chapter, I will provide a brief profile of the politics of the small but active Chicano middle class before World War II and their organizational and political experience in an environment that was very anti-Mexican. Then I will present an economic profile of the middle class before and after the war, leading to a discussion of the dilemma that this growing middle class faced in defining political inclusion as the system finally began to open up. I will conclude with an outline of the organization of this book.
Race, Class, and the Impact of the Urban Environment
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the establishment of a laborintensive commercial farming economy in Texas had a significant impact on the Chicano community's race and class position. As David Montejano points out, the introduction "of ready-made farm communities, transplanted societies from the Mid-west and the North (United States)" in South Texas created a class as well as a race struggle.
In South Texas, where the overwhelming majority of the landless population was Chicano, race began to define the class relations in a much more significant manner. As the political economy shifted to agribusiness in South Texas, a corresponding political order developed that was anti-union and anti-Mexican, generally restricting the Chicano community.
This segregationist order did not leave San Antonio untouched. Through local initiative, school districts in Bexar County (where San Antonio is found) segregated Blacks and Chicanos from Anglos in schools of obvious inferior quality. Through the 1940s, restrictive covenants in house mortgages isolated Chicanos from most sectors of San Antonio, except the west side. This residential segregation had dire consequences for the Chicano community as it grew in numbers but not in space. By the 1930s San Antonio's barrios had some of the highest rates of tuberculosis, venereal disease, and infant mortality in the United States. Since the majority of Chicanos in San Antonio were working poor or lower middle class, most were directly exposed to the conditions described above in one way or another.
At the same time, the political machine that dominated city and county politics throughout the first half of the twentieth century excluded the Chicano community politically, although it did provide institutional support for services and jobs for the otherwise alienated and neglected Chicano community. Indeed, the ties to the political machine were so secure that after the poll tax was instituted in 1902 "Callaghan's political supporters simply paid the poll tax for Mexican American voters who were in turn told how to vote." This continued through World War II.
However, the political machine did not go unchallenged during this period. Indeed, as far back as 1912, the business community attempted to bring about reform in city politics. But, as John Booth and David Johnson point out, the machine weathered these reform efforts by implementing superficial changes. Then in 1939, the political machine was temporarily defeated by the mobilization of both the Anglo and the Chicano communities. Although the political machine regained its dominance in 1941, this process reflected two very important trends in San Antonio politics during this period.
The rise of anti-machine politics in the 1930s, which reflected the reemergence of the Anglo economic elite in electoral politics, gave rise to the first trend: the involvement of the Chicano middle class in electoral politics. As the business community began to feel the need to create a municipal government that would more directly reflect their investment and growth needs, their anti-machine politics provided the opportunity for the Chicano community to play a role in challenging the domination of their community in electoral politics. The already more competitive urban market economy (as opposed to that of rural areas), with its weakened repression coupled with the intense political activity created by the anti-machine movement, provided an environment that enabled the Chicano community to press for concessions and rights as voters.
The voting patterns within the Chicano community began to reflect more their community interests and less and less the dictates of the machine. Indeed, the changing voting patterns of the Chicano community contributed to the setback for machine politics in that decade. More important, it was in this intense process that the small but active middle class began to provide a visible political leadership in electoral politics.
This brought about a second trend, which did not come to full fruition until the 1950s, and that was the recognition by the anti-machine Anglo leaders that the growing electoral power of the Chicano middle class would have to be part of their electoral strategies if they wanted not only to defeat the machine but also to establish their own legitimacy in city politics. The relatively safe assimilationist approach to politics--that is, its involvement in electoral politics--of the emerging Chicano middle class, as opposed to the more militant "disruptive" approach of the organized labor sector of the Chicano community during this period, obviously made them more palatable to the reform-minded Anglo business community. These trends would eventually undermine the dominance of the old political machine and lead to greater and more independent participation of the Chicano community after World War II. But this would not have occurred if the Chicano middle class had not already been busy organizing their own community.
LULAC and the Origins of a Modern Chicano Middle Class
Richard Garcia's very important study of the rise of the Mexican American middle class from 1929 to 1941 provides an excellent analysis of the developing political consciousness of the Chicano middle class. Garcia concludes hat, despite the racial and political obstacles that faced the Chicano community as a whole, they were actively organizing around issues that confronted them; they "busied themselves in making their own worlds in San Antonio, Texas." The middle class, especially, was busy organizing not only around the issues of education and civic participation, but also protection of its community from the pervasive racism against Chicanos that was blatant during the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s.
Eventually, throughout South Texas, including San Antonio, various middle class civic organizations sprang up during this period. In San Antonio, the most significant one was the Knights of America. However, frustrated with the fragmented efforts that the various organizations represented in fighting racism, several attempts were made throughout the 1920s to consolidate into one united front. Finally, in 1929, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was created through a merger of most of these South Texas middle class civic organizations.
This newly formed organization reflected the same assimilationist strategy of the earlier organizations as they busied themselves promoting education as the key to success and civic participation as the key strategy in overcoming discrimination. Indeed, its goals reflected the idealistic notion that by learning the English language, and thereby becoming more American, Chicanos would be able to gain inclusion into the "American Dream." Emma Tenayuca, a militant leader of the pecan shellers strike in 1938, and Homer Brooks described LULAC during this period as follows:
In the past, its viewpoint was colored by the outlook of petty-bourgeois native born, who seek escape from general oppression that has been the lot of the Mexican people as a whole. It meant an attempt to achieve Americanization, while barring the still unnaturalized foreign-born from membership. It resulted in the glorification of the English language and Anglo-American culture to the extent of prohibiting Spanish within the local societies.
Thus, the behavior of middle class Chicanos, informed by their experience with LULAC, the most visible Chicano middle class organization at the time, kept them from expanding their base before World War II. Their insistence on proving their Americanism through pursuing education and building a civic-minded consciousness kept them from supporting the militant labor struggles that engaged a significant sector of the Chicano working class of that period.
Although harsh in her judgement of LULAC, later Tenayuca did correctly point out that in the context of the repressive Jim Crow order in South Texas, which was especially anti-Chicano, LULAC sometimes worked with other groups, even labor unions, to confront the discriminatory practices that were prevalent during the period. They were also very adamant in maintaining their cultural and social ties intact as Mexican Americans. In fact, LULAC represented the first general attempt on the part of Mexican Americans to organize themselves for the purpose of giving voice to their aspirations and needs as citizens of the United States and at the same time maintaining their cultural identity. Garcia describes this as the begining of a modern Mexican American consciousness.
The apparent contradiction between LULAC's idealism and its practices was the result of two major tensions that resided within its goals and the reality it faced when founded in 1929. The most obvious tension existed between its middle class goal of assimilation and its intense cultural pride. While this tension was addressed in different ways, its most general form was found in its advocacy of civic-mindedness as a form of cultural pride. The most profound tension was found in their acceptance of the "American Dream" and the extreme racism that transcended class and continously forced them to coalesce with other groups, even with their nemesis, unions, in the struggle for their basic rights.
Adding to this tension was the existence of a class of wealthy Mexican expatriates who escaped most of the consequences of the prevalent discrimination. One article on San Antonio, quoted in Garcia's "Class, Class Consciousness, & Ideology," points out that for the most part those Mexicans were not "excluded from the social, political, business, or the professional life of San Antonio. They were allowed in the social clubs and in the civic life of the city, although there was some discrimination." Most of them were political and religious refugees from the Mexican revolution and most repatriated to Mexico as conditions changed. However, as Garcia points out, there were commonalities between them and the native Chicano middle class.
While the direction and ultimate logic implicit in the overall goals and in many of the ideas of the ricos [the wealthy] did not coincide with those of the LULAC sector [the middle class] there was much compatibility. Both were Mexicano, both were patriotic, both worked for the betterment of the poor, and both social sectors opposed the ideology of the Tenayuca-type workers.
At the same time that the aspirations and goals of these two sectors were similar, their political and economic realities were not. This is the connection between the middle class and the working poor. Both bore the brunt of discrimination in general without the mitigating relief of political institutional support or of wealth itself. Although the middle class did not have to contend with the pervasively low wages earned by the working poor, they lacked economic opportunity because they lacked access to credit. While Richard Garcia and Cynthia Orozco respectively provide good descriptions of the organizational infrastructure and social mobility of the Chicana/o middle class community, the reality of the middle class during this period was that they were sharply circumscribed by the highly segregated nature of pre-World War II San Antonio. Thus, although they were generally better off than the working poor, they could not avoid the reality of the poverty that surrounded them.
This had important consequences for the evolving political role of the Chicano middle class. Their political and economic alienation from the wealthy class intensified their own efforts to organize. On the other hand, their alienation from the working poor because of their middle class assimilationist views and their historical aversion to the intense radical labor activity of that period limited their ability to organize a broad political base. This was especially true in the 1930s because of the intense segregationist order that prevailed. This isolation, however, began to crumble as the economy began to change.
The Impact of a Changing Economy on the Chicano Community
As the Texas economy shifted after World War II from an agricultural economy to a more competitive urban market economy, the economic and demographic changes brought about by this shift had dramatic consequences in the class character of the Chicano community. For example, state-wide, the skilled and professional ranks in the Chicano community grew from 34.5 percent in 1930 to 69.2 percent in 1970 to 71.1 percent in 1980. As would be expected, the growing urban market in San Antonio had even more dramatic consequences for the Chicano community.
As San Antonio's total population grew from 231,542 in 1930 to 785,880 in 1980, the Chicano population grew from 81,040 in 1930 to 341,468 in 1970 (when the Chicano community finally gained majority status as shown in Table 1) to 422,017 in 1980. Further, Table 2 shows the Chicano middle class (represented by the attainment of skilled and professional status) expanding at a very rapid pace during this period of growth in San Antonio. The skilled and professional ranks in the Chicano community grew from 42.8 percent in 1928 to 67 percent in 1960, 76 percent in 1970, and 86 percent in 1980.
The percentage of white collar workers alone grew from from 16.6 percent in 1928 to 21, 28.5, and 29.5 percent in 1960, 1970, and 1980 respectively. The proportion of craftsmen and foremen grew from 15.4 percent in 1928 to 22 percent in 1960 and held at 26 percent in 1970 and 1980. That of operatives grew from 10.8 percent in 1928 to 24 percent in 1960, dipped to 22 percent in 1970, and rebounded to 30.5 percent in 1980. The percentage of unskilled serviceworkers and laborers, on the other hand, dropped from 43.1 percent in 1928 to 29, 23.5, and 14 percent in 1960, 1970, and 1980 respectively.
However, in reading the available statistics on the Chicano community, careful attention must be paid to the various categories and their meanings as well as applications. For example, because of the highly racialized environment that Texas, including San Antonio, found itself in throughout this century, skills did not necessarily complement wage earnings and/or position. Emilio Zamora provides a good analysis of this inconsistency within the federal sector at the local air bases in Corpus Christi during World War II. Further, under the category "skilled," "operative" tends to be the fastest growing category. But because of the racially defined job descriptions as well as opportunities, to include this in the definition of middle class would be misleading. Equal pay for equal work was simply not a reality for the Chicano community. From this perspective, then, one could easily group together the categories "operative," "clerical/sales," and "service worker/laborer" and radically change the picture by showing that by 1980, 60 percent of the community were still locked into jobs that only held out a promise, if that.
To further cloud the picture, one would also have to take into consideration how middle class applies to the Chicano community. For example, a "proprietor" of a mom-and-pop grocery store or of a taco stand would be included in the definition of middle class. On the other hand, an "operative" working at the local air base would more than likely be classified under the Wage Board classification rather than the more professionalized GS rating. Moreover, most of these "operatives" and "proprietors" would neither have access to the more middle class neighborhoods nor the accompanying schools in San Antonio until the late 1970s.
For our purposes, then, the various categories that are utilized to show the dramatic change in the class character of the community symbolize potential more than real economic and social opportunities. A Kelly job held out a promise more than a reality. In this sense, then, one can see how expectations rose dramatically during this period. It proved to be a very powerful material force as it provided the base by which a community began to legitimize its demands for political inclusion.
However, occupational distribution is only one indicator of inclusion, real or potential. As the Chicano community grew in numbers as well as occupational attainment, the housing and educational opportunities did not necessarily keep pace with this growth. Richard Jones, in his demographic study, finds that San Antonio by 1980 was still dominated by a service economy, including "retail activities, services, and government; these sectors constitute(d) 70 percent of San Antonio's labor force, versus 42 percent for the state." As shown in Table 2, by 1980 the clerical, sales, craftsmen, foremen, and operative occupations made up 72 percent of the Chicano workforce. Given the non-union environment and its concommitant depressed wage scale, residential access, defined in racial and economic terms, was and is still limited for a large sector of these supposedly middle class occupations; as Gambitta et al. conclude in their analysis of educational opportunity in San Antonio, educational access is largely defined through residential access. Indeed, the crisis in school finance that the state of Texas finds itself in today, brought about by the Edgewood versus Kirby case out of San Antonio, is based on the relationship of residential access to educational opportunity.
What we find is a large gap in educational opportunity and available housing between the Chicano barrios in the south and west sides of San Antonio and the more affluent Anglo north side of San Antonio. Compounding the existing gap in these resources, the already bountiful educational and housing resources in the north side continue to attract residential development at the expense of the south and west sides.
In 1980, for example, the three northern series of census tracts in Bexar County accounted for 96 percent of the net population growth in the county. While certainly many middle class Chicanos have in the last twenty years continually moved to the north side, the majority of the predominantly Chicano population in the communities they have left behind, notwithstanding the general improvement in occupational attainment, still face a lack of residential and educational opportunities. Despite the statistical evidence of greater occupational access, then, San Antonio's Chicano community is still largely de facto segregated into unequal educational and residential environments.
Thus, rapid growth in population and occupational attainment had a twofold impact on the Chicano community. On the one hand, because of the de facto segregation, the population density in the Chicano barrios intensified (even as these barrios expanded geographically), thus intensifying the already present urban problems, especially in education and housing. The apparent improved occupational attainment, then, did not shield the majority of the community from the intense urban problems still facing San Antonio. Added to this, the post-World War II at-large nonpartisan electoral system in San Antonio, along with the still existing poll tax and other obstacles to voter participation, turned out to be a hindrance to their greater demands as their expectations grew with their occupational attainment.
On the other hand, this geographical containment of the community enhanced the political conditions that eventually led to the political mobilization of the Chicano community after World War II: the community was an easy stationary target for political organizing. It is this ironic definition of inclusion that had a profound impact on the political development of the modern Chicano middle class. It is no surprise that it is in this sector where aspirations for greater inclusion intensified.
The Dilemma of Political Inclusion
The question over how to gain political inclusion for Chicanos in pre-World War II San Antonio was framed in the conflict between the middle class, who were busy trying to establish a base by which to gain inclusion into electoral politics, and the Chicano labor movement, which was busy challenging a racist and exploitative system that had excluded them all of this century. But as the Chicano middle class gained the central role in Chicano politics after World War it, this same conflict now surfaced in the conflict over electoral strategies. Certainly the municipal reforms of the 1950s represented a watershed for the Chicano community's electoral participation. From the very first successful reform slate for city council, at least one Chicano was included. But this does not mean that the Chicano community was fully enfranchised or that they fully participated in the electoral process. In fact, the opposite was very much the case.
In the immediate post-World War II period, before the Warren Court rulings on apportionment and the Voting Rights Act, gerrymandering and inaccessible polls were still the rule in the barrios. Further, the poll tax remained a formidable barrier to participation. Added to this, the new at-large, nonpartisan rules of participation in city elections made it very difficult for Chicanos to mobilize their community.
Finally, the municipal reform group was able to consolidate its base by forming a slating group, the Good Government League (GGL), that controlled the nomination of city council candidates, making it almost impossible for any candidate to run independently for city council. The GGL was able to define political inclusion in terms of their class interests, excluding the immediate community interests of the Chicano community. Thus, the Chicano middle class was faced with choosing individual political inclusion at the expense of neglecting the problems facing the Chicano community as a discriminated and impoverished group or challenging the terms of inclusion with little foreseeable success. In broader terms it represented the dilemma of class versus race. This dilemma is best reflected in the different strategies to, and the different definitions of, political inclusion within the Chicano middle class.
These conflicting tendencies can best be understood in the political profiles of the two dominant and most visible middle class leaders of the pre-World War II period, Alonso Perales and Gus Garcia. Adela Sloss-Vento's biography of Alonso Perales and Perales's own published works show that the objective of the early middle class was to further the cultural nationalist struggle against racism, economic deprivation, and social inequality. Perales's analysis, which was not a class analysis, emphasized the political democratic nature of society. It focused on the need of the Chicano community to organize itself as a group and to defend itself. Perales's ultimate faith in the system, which was shared by most middle class Chicanos of that time, led him to view electoral politics as the most important source of political power. They sought a politics of inclusion, not a politics of confrontation. Indeed, the same political orientation that kept the middle class isolated politically became the catalyst for incredible political growth as its numbers grew, giving it greater visibility in a changing economic environment.
On the other hand, Gus Garcia, although driven by the same concerns that motivated Perales, challenged the system's neglect of the Chicano community through the legal process. Besides being involved in the electoral process, he also represented several civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In one particular case, the concept of "class apart" was established in describing the Chicano community in civil rights. While this very important legal precedent would be the basis for the inclusion of the Chicano community in the protections of Title Seven and other civil rights legislation, its most profound political impact was on the question of political inclusion. Albert Pe-a Jr. pointed out that "this idea scared the more conservative elements of the middle class. It is a shame that we (Chicanos) did not use it for almost 14 years." Pe-a, of course, was referring to the political level, where the view that the Chicano community was a separate group--" a class apart"--was rejected by the more conservative assimilationist sector of the Chicano middle class.
The different strategies taken by these two individuals do not seem so dissimilar. After all, they represent the different facets of citizenship as defined by T. H. Marshall in his classic lecture, which are civil, political, and social rights; with Perales emphasizing the political rights, i.e., voting power, and Garcia focusing on the civil rights due all people because of their membership in society. But while neither is as subversive or threatening as the third facet, social rights, Garcia's efforts reflected a more confrontational strategy for gaining inclusion. Besides setting the tenor for a civil rights agenda that has pervaded Chicano politics throughout the modern period, his efforts also set the stage for the conflict between the confrontational and the assimilationist approaches to inclusion. These conflicting tendencies would especially have an impact on Chicano politics after World War II as the middle class expanded and diversified.
As the Chicano middle class expanded, however, so did their organizational efforts. These organizations included not only civic organizations in addition to LULAC, but also veteran organizations, with the GI Forum being the largest and most active of these; church related organizations; and business organizations, including not only the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, but also the short-lived Pan American Progressive Association (PAPA). The major question that confronted these organizations was the question of political inclusion. A very important point here is that, as opposed to the stereotype of the Chicano community as unorganizable, the reality is, in fact, the reverse: Their proclivity for organization is intense, as shown not only in the post-World War II period, but also throughout this century. These organizational experiences provided the context where the conflict over strategies for gaining a greater voice in mainstream electoral politics would occur; this conflict would continuously shape and re-shape Chicano politics in post-World War II San Antonio.
One example that clearly shows the intensity of this conflict occurred in 1947. In the 1940s, the Pan American Progressive Association, or PAPA, was formed to deal with the little or no credit extended to Chicano businessmen by local banks. The goal was to set up an alternate financial institution--a minority finance corporation--that would extend much-needed lines of credit to the emerging post-war business sector in the Chicano community.
At the same time, its director and organizer, Henry B. Gonzalez, had a broader agenda. He sought to use the issue of credit to politicize the more successful Chicanos and involve them in seeking solutions to the problems facing the Chicano community in general. In a letter recalling his efforts in 1947, Gonzalez states:
All during the while, I noted for the first time the formation of a nucleus of relatively young Mexican American businessmen who had become rich during the war. I felt San Antonio had great need for these men to reflect some social conscientiousness about the terrible problems affecting the Mexican Americans generally, and the Mexican American small businessmen, specifically.
In pursuing this goal, Gonzalez confronted specific issues. Among them was the existence of restrictive covenants in home mortgages which prohibited the sale of a house to Chicanos or Blacks in the more affluent areas of San Antonio. The issue created such a controversy within PAPA that Gonzalez resigned. Although its goal of creating an alternative institution of finance recognized the existence of racial discrimination, PAPA was unwilling to confront the financial market over social issues.
The increased opportunity to enter the mainstream of the urban market after the war, not just as consumers but as entrepreneurs, apparently took priority over social issues and demands for political power for these Chicano middle class businessmen. The delicate balance between gaining entry to the market to gain access to the benefits of an expanding economy, which was supported by the city's new institutional arrangements, and confronting the intense social problems that the Chicano community still faced thus intensified the middle class dilemma over political inclusion.
Was inclusion in the politics of the Anglo business-led group the answer to the political exclusion they had faced all of this century? Or was the establishment of an independent political base the answer? This dilemma intensified as political inclusion would finally become possible after World War II and, indeed, would ultimately influence the particular electoral strategies that emerged.
Organization of the Book
As this chapter has shown, the municipal reform of the 1950s had its roots not only in the needs of the Anglo economic elite, but also in the increased demands of a middle class Chicano political leadership that sought political inclusion. Indeed, the Chicano middle class organizational efforts in pre-World War II San Antonio anticipated a greater role for the middle class as the electoral arena broadened. Thus, while the post-World War II municipal reform did not necessarily open up the electoral system to the Chicano community in general, it represented a watershed for modern Chicano middle class electoral politics.
As the political system opened up, the pre-World War II middle class experience provided the continuity for inclusion in a broader, more mainstream electoral politics. More important, as the rules began to change, so did the concerns of this Chicano middle class. As political inclusion became a real possibility, the question of strategy and approach became a dominant issue.
While LULAC continued to thrive through the war and remains the oldest and largest active Chicano organization today, the post-World War II Chicano middle class also grew and its organizational activity expanded beyond LULAC. This expanding organizational activity created the environment where an intense conflict over the question of strategy occurred. Out of this conflict a liberal sector of the Chicano middle class developed which challenged the class nature of the GGL's dominance of city politics. The analysis in this book will focus on the political and organizational activity of the Chicano middle class in the context of post-World War II municipal reform, leading ultimately to independent political representation for the Chicano community.
Chapter Two will present the theoretical and methodological framework. Originally, I felt that perhaps I should not bother the reader with the problems of theory and methodology that I faced in constructing the narrative of this study. As such, I had planned to put this discussion in an appendix, to be read if so desired. However, I have concluded that as important as the narrative is in understanding our political reality today, it is just as important to share with the reader why our political history has been a mystery up until now. The goal of this chapter is to enable the reader to understand the development of the narrative and especially the provocative nature of its presentation.
The plan of the book generally follows the chronology of events that eventually lead to the political changes in 1977. The study ends with an analysis of Chicano middle class political activity in the new independent political environment, and an expanded discussion of the role of Chicana middle class women as they gained greater political visibility.
The book is organized in three sections. The first section will focus on the activity of the Chicano middle class in San Antonio politics after World War I 1. The first chapter in this section (Chapter Three) begins with an analysis of the business community and their successful efforts to implement municipal reform. In this chapter the focus will primarily be on the co-optation of an emerging Chicano middle class. The analysis in Chapter Four will then shift to a dissatisfied sector of the Chicano middle class who, because of their civil rights orientation, challenged the business community's agenda of growth and expansion.
Chapter Five in the second section will begin with an analysis of how the civil rights oriented sector of the middle class was able to build a coalition which could challenge the political domination by the business community throughout the 1960s. Chapter Six will then analyze the emergence of the intense Chicano movement at the end of the 1960s and its role in the political changes in San Antonio's system of political representation in 1977.
Chapter Seven in the third section begins with a case study of San Antonio's first Chicano mayor, Henry Cisneros, and a contemporary of his, Bernardo Eureste, and their impact on Chicano politics in San Antonio from 1977 to 1985. In particular, Chapter Seven analyzes the impact of the changing political rules on the participation of the Chicano middle class. Chapter Eight in this section focuses on the emergence of Chicana women in San Antonio politics and their impact on the political environment. In this chapter, the roots of the emerging Chicana middle class will be traced to the present. The major focus in this chapter is the difference that Chicanas bring to the political arena.
The concluding chapter (Chapter Nine) will discuss the questions of empowerment and the future possible direction of Chicano politics. The chapter will conclude with the posing of issues that still face the Chicano community in San Antonio and how they relate to the broader Latino community in the United States as we enter the twenty-first century.
“Imaginative and rich political science.... Rosales' analysis of middle-class Chicano activism in the early postwar era is both a new and an important contribution to our knowledge of San Antonio's and Texas' recent political history.... Also, the clarity of the book's writing and structure make it a good candidate for use in intermediate undergraduate urban and/or minority politics classes.”
Sidney Plotkin, Professor and Chair of Political Science, Vassar College