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Remembering Rep. Frank Tejeda and how he changed San Antonio politics

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Juan Tejeda performing at a book reading at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
David Martin Davies
Juan Tejeda performing at a book reading at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

San Antonio Congressman Frank Tejeda was at the vanguard of fighting for Latino rights, political representation and equal access to public services, including fair housing, quality education and environmental justice.

Tejeda was a rising star of Democratic politics; however, his life was cut short at age 51 due to an aggressive brain cancer. He left behind a legacy of fighting to improve the lives of those on the Southside of San Antonio and for veterans across America.

Stories of Tejeda’s rise in politics—and also the use of his fists to settle scores—are legendary in San Antonio but hadn’t been captured in a comprehensive biography— until his brother Juan Tejeda decided to change that.

The book “Mi Carnal Frank” tells the story of the Tejeda family and Frank’s life from birth to his time connected to gangs, his stellar service in the Marine Corp, his career in politics and the premature death.

The well-documented and sourced book draws on interviews with family and close friends, letters, newspaper articles and primary sources from institutions, including the Marines.

The resulting narrative is the chronicle of the American dream. Frank’s early years are traced to being raised by low-income but hard-working parents with deep roots in San Antonio that reach down before European settlement.

But using his grit and wits Frank Tejeda was able to strive for excellence in military service, higher education and political success —first as a Texas state representative, then a Texas senator and then U.S. congressman.

Guest: Juan Tejeda is the author of “Mi Carnal Frank: A Family Memoir and Biography of U.S. Congressman Frank Mariano Tejeda Jr. 1945-1997.” He is also retired professor of Mexican American studies and Music at Palo Alto College. He is a musician and founder of the San Antonio Conjunto Festival.

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This interview will air on Monday, February 26, 2024.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi