Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Making of a Chicano Militant: Lessons from Crystal

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Making of a Chicano Militant: Lessons from Crystal

Article excerpt

The Making of a Chicano Militant: Lessons from Crystal. By Jose Angel Gutierrez. Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, c. 1998. Pp. xiv, 334. Paper, $19.95, ISBN 0-229-15984-1; cloth, $50.00, ISBN 0-299-15980-9.)

In the small South Texas community of Crystal City (or Crystal), Jose Angel Gutierrez as a boy in the 1960s became involved in the Mexican American community's protests of Jim Crow segregation--the Chicano movement. This autobiography is the author's attempt to offer his interpretation of the events of his life in the Chicano movement, to explain why he became a militant Chicano and why he "never became a Hispanic" (p. 12). As a young radical, Gutierrez concerned himself primarily with ushering in an electoral revolution. He led a national Chicano third party in the early 1970s called La Raza Unida Party (RUP) that took political control of several South Texas county and city governments. Gutierrez eventually left Texas in the 1980s for an academic position in Oregon and to escape legal harassment from political rivals and federal law enforcement agencies (FBI investigative reports are presented in an appendix). Gutierrez returned to Texas to teach and has recently earned a law degree.

One flaw in this fascinating autobiography is the uncritical use of the word gringo, a racial epithet referring to whites. The racial animosity of the time necessitates using this word with regard to published works of the era, such as Gutierrez's own satirical book on organizing Chicanos, A Gringo Manual on How to Handle Mexicans (Crystal City, Tx., 1974), or regarding direct quotations of speeches. Gutierrez often applies the word gringo broadly, without this necessary context (p. 34, 65, 80, 192, 244, 255, and 269). …

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