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Fronteras: Raza Unida Party members reflect on Chicano activism on its 50th anniversary

The Chicano movement of the 1960s and ‘70s grew out of social injustices and inequities faced by Latinos in Texas.

The movement went far beyond the efforts of established organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the American G.I. Forum.

A group of five Chicanos — José Ángel Gutiérrez, Willie Velásquez, Mario Compean, Ignacio Pérez, and Juan Patlán — founded the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) in 1967.

MAYO engaged in combative tactics and civil disobedience, which drew heavy criticism from older Mexican American political figures.

From MAYO grew the Raza Unida Party (RUP). Organizers, including Gutiérrez and Compean, founded the party in 1970. Although the party dissolved within a decade, it left a legacy of fighting for the social, political and economic advancement of Chicanos in Texas.

Three of the RUP’s founders, Mario Compean, Luz Bazán Gutiérrez, and José Angel Gutiérrez, spoke about the catalyst behind the party.

“The Raza Unida started because we were being ignored by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party,” Bazán Gutiérrez said. “They were not listening to us. We needed to have our own voice.”

The Raza Unida Party will commemorate its 50th anniversary at a conference in San Antonio this month.

Aurelio Montemayor, an educator and Chicano activist who was active in MAYO and Raza Unida Party activities, said the issues fought by the RUP five decades ago are still relevant today.

“I think the important thing is not just honoring the past, but how (it) affects teachers right now who can influence kids,” he said. “How can kids see, ‘They did this 50 years ago, what are we going to do now?’”

The Raza Unida Party holds its 50th anniversary reunion Sept. 15-17 at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus.

The three-day conference will cover the RUP’s history and legacy, where they are now, and a look to the future.

To register for the event, click here.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1