Russell Contreras from our neighboring state of New Mexico pointed out some interesting Mexican-American trivia last night as it relates to the Oscars — and I want to pass that information on to my readers, too. The movie near and dear to my heart (last youtube movie clip below) has to do with a story with regard to Mexican-American War Hero Hector P. Garcia and what he did for the cause.
Hector P. Garcia was the founder of the American GI Forum. In 1948, Dr. Hector P. Garcia was quarreling with the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas which refused to accept sick World War II veterans who were Latino. After this effort, Garcia founded the American G.I. Forum. The 500,000 Latinos who honorably served in World War II now had a leader in Garcia, and within months of inception, the American G.I. Forum was opening branches across the nation.
Garcia today remains a central figure of the Latino civil rights movement, due to his refusal to stand idle while Mexican Americans were being dehumanized in the post-World War II society. With Garcia at the helm, the American G.I. Forum called for the removal of poll taxes while simultaneously holding fund-raisers to help pay poll taxes to register more Mexican Americans to vote. García organized back-to-school drives for Mexican American children. He launched case after case against Texas school systems for being illegal, and won many of his efforts. He and others instigated court cases to sue for the right of Mexican Americans to serve on juries (winning one such case in the Supreme Court). While making him heroically revered among the Latino culture, these actions also made him the most hated man in Texas by discriminating parts of society. (The Border 1948 (2004) 1948 American GI Forum. Retrieved June 13, 2010, from PBS History Timeline).
Here is the Academy Award Trivia I learned below from Mr. Contreras:
In 1947, Frank Sinatra declined to perform at the Oscars. That opened the door for Andy Russell to sing in his place, becoming the first Mexican American to perform at the Academy Awards. Andy Russell was the son of Mexican immigrants and was born in East Los Angeles. He was a hero to returning Mexican American veterans of WWII. They were proud that he was able to cross over (and sing in Spanish and English).
In 1956 film “Giant’ won Best Director at Oscars. It was the 1st film to deal with the discrimination of Mexican Americans. In this scene, Latino soldier Angel Obregón prepares to go serve in WWII, and the Dennis Hopper falls in love with nurse, Juana.
Also, the1956 film “Giant’, which won Best Director at Oscars, was 1st film to deal with the sacrifices of Mexican American WWII soldiers. This scene was based on the “The Longoria Affair” and was influenced by Hector P. Garcia of the GI Forum.CREDIT: Giant