Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism

Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism

Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism

Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism

Synopsis

Private First Class Felix Longoria earned a Bronze Service Star, a Purple Heart, a Good Conduct Medal, and a Combat Infantryman's badge for service in the Philippines during World War II. Yet the only funeral parlor in his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas, refused to hold a wake for the slain soldier because "the whites would not like it." Almost overnight, this act of discrimination became a defining moment in the rise of Mexican American activism. It launched Dr. Héctor P. García and his newly formed American G.I. Forum into the vanguard of the Mexican civil rights movement, while simultaneously endangering and advancing the career of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who arranged for Longoria's burial with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.In this book, Patrick Carroll provides the first fully researched account of the Longoria controversy and its far-reaching consequences. Drawing on extensive documentary evidence and interviews with many key figures, including Dr. García and Mrs. Longoria, Carroll convincingly explains why the Longoria incident, though less severe than other acts of discrimination against Mexican Americans, ignited the activism of a whole range of interest groups from Argentina to Minneapolis. By putting Longoria's wake in a national and international context, he also clarifies why it became such a flash point for conflicting understandings of bereavement, nationalism, reason, and emotion between two powerful cultures- Mexicanidad and Americanism.

Excerpt

AT THIS WRITING THE United States is making preparations for a military intervention in the Middle East intended to defend our post-9/11 country against “weapons of mass destruction.” History—and these days “history” happens quickly—will ultimately judge the moral and material merits of the impending assault on Iraq. But when it does happen, for better or worse, we can be very sure that the Mexican American community will be very well represented within the American forces in this new war as they have been represented in U.S. armed forces from the Civil War (on both sides) through Afghanistan in 2001–2002.

Undoubtedly, the most salient presence of Mexican Americans occurred in World War II (with Vietnam close behind), a saliency foregrounded not only by numbers but by the moral justification of our military expeditions in Europe and the Pacific, further underscored by the consistent valor and skill of Mexican American troops with . . .

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