Quixote's Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981

Quixote's Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981

Quixote's Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981

Quixote's Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981

Synopsis

In the mid-1960s, San Antonio, Texas, was a segregated city governed by an entrenched Anglo social and business elite. The Mexican American barrios of the west and south sides were characterized by substandard housing and experienced seasonal flooding. Gang warfare broke out regularly. Then the striking farmworkers of South Texas marched through the city and set off a social movement that transformed the barrios and ultimately brought down the old Anglo oligarchy. In Quixote's Soldiers, David Montejano uses a wealth of previously untapped sources, including the congressional papers of Henry B. Gonzalez, to present an intriguing and highly readable account of this turbulent period.

Montejano divides the narrative into three parts. In the first part, he recounts how college student activists and politicized social workers mobilized barrio youth and mounted an aggressive challenge to both Anglo and Mexican American political elites. In the second part, Montejano looks at the dynamic evolution of the Chicano movement and the emergence of clear gender and class distinctions as women and ex-gang youth struggled to gain recognition as serious political actors. In the final part, Montejano analyzes the failures and successes of movement politics. He describes the work of second-generation movement organizations that made possible a new and more representative political order, symbolized by the election of Mayor Henry Cisneros in 1981.

Excerpt

This is a local history with national pretensions. the geographical scope of the narrative is largely limited to San Antonio, Texas, and to nearby areas. Change the names of people and neighborhoods, however, and we see a similar storyline of social and political change playing out in the late sixties and early seventies in Albuquerque, Denver, Los Angeles, and other southwestern cities. a reference to the South is not unseemly: in the sixties, San Antonio was considered a “moderate” city, similar in race relations and segregationist practices to Little Rock, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and other urban areas of the southern fringe—with the exception that its restive “minority” community consisted of Mexican Americans. the best comparative case is arguably Atlanta, a similarly sized city with a similarly complex race-class order, and one that experienced similar political convulsions during the sixties and seventies. Indeed, change the accents and skin color of the political actors, and the following history becomes one of the many movement narratives of social change that shook nearly all the major urban areas of the country during that time. in the South and Southwest, these movements basically took down the last legal-political vestiges of Jim Crow segregation. This local history was part of that national political transformation.

Except for those who lived in the Southwest, Mexican Americans were a somewhat invisible “minority” in the sixties. Unlike the national presence of African Americans, Mexican Americans at that time had a smaller population and were regionally concentrated in the southwestern margins of the country. Not surprisingly, then, the post-World War II history of protest against segregation and discrimination waged by the “second race” is not . . .

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