Mario T. García: Remembering a Mexican-American political legendby Dee Dee Garcia Blase on Mar. 19, 2013, under Cultura, Culture, Mexican-American / Chicano political activism, Mexican-Americans and Chicanos are patriotic
From the National Catholic Reporter.
Mario does a very good job writing about a Mexican-American Political legend. Thanks, Mario!
On Friday, at age 97, a major Latino leader, Ambassador Raymond L. Telles of El Paso, Texas, died. Most will not know of him, unfortunately.
Telles was selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to be the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica. He was the first Mexican-American to serve as an American ambassador and one of the few Latinos appointed by Kennedy to an important federal position despite the fact that Mexican-Americans overwhelmingly supported his 1960 candidacy and organized for the first time in a national election through what were called Viva Kennedy Clubs. The Mexican-American vote in Texas was crucial in Kennedy winning this major state.
But Telles’ place in American and Chicano history predated his becoming an ambassador. He was born in El Paso and attended Catholic elementary and high schools in the 1930s before serving with distinction in World War II as a decorated officer in the U.S. Army, though he did not see combat action. Instead, he helped train Latin American pilots in San Antonio.
Telles was one of thousands of Mexican-Americans who served in the military during the war. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 Latinos, mostly Mexican-Americans, were in the military then, and many were engaged in combat duty. Many never came back and many returned wounded, both physically and emotionally. Moreover, Mexican-Americans exhibited great valor and won a number of Congressional Medals of Honor disproportionate to their population size. Having experienced racism back home before the war, these veteranos, or veterans, returned to fight another war, this time against prejudice and discrimination against Mexicans in the United States. Part of this battle — besides fighting against school segregation, job and wage discrimination, and exclusion from various public facilities such as restaurants, theaters and swimming pools — included struggling for effective political representation. They wanted to serve in electoral positions denied to them.
In El Paso, as part of this electoral strategy, Mexican-Americans, in particular the veterans, began to look to Telles as their standard-bearer. They first convinced him to run for county clerk in a countywide election in 1948. In an impressive grass-roots effort that brought forth a large Mexican-American vote, this movement paid off, and Telles won the election. He served for the next several years before he was called back into service during the Korean War. FULL STORY>>>