Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974

By Gordon K. Mantler | Go to book overview

7 The Limits of Coalition

Gilberto Ballejos returned to Albuquerque in July 1968 inspired and ready to build local bases of power. “A lot of nice things, humorous things, enlightening things occurred” in Washington, Ballejos recalled. Alianza members, young and old, “came back and were very different, and better for it. People I still talk to, it was the highlight of their lives.” And despite being a little wiser and more experienced at age thirty-two than some of his younger counterparts, Ballejos also was inspired by the interactions he had with other activists he met in the nation’s capital. Ballejos primarily had been a problem solver that spring, such as procuring SCLC money for the New Mexico delegation’s transportation back home and getting Corky Gonzales involved when SCLC looked like it might renege on providing resources to go to Washington. Yet it was his dealings with the much younger Brown Berets of East Los Angeles that motivated Ballejos to found a chapter of the organization in Albuquerque.1

In a sense, the unemployed schoolteacher and Alianza member some considered an heir apparent to Reies Tijerina was picking up where he had left off. In 1967 and early 1968, Ballejos and Los Duranes neighborhood activist Carlos Cansino led a series of protests calling for improvements at the local elementary school. While many of their demands focused on incorporating Spanish into the school’s curriculum, hiring more bilingual teachers, and engaging more thoroughly in the school’s Mexican American neighborhood by forming a Parent Teacher Association, the protesters also connected the school’s deficiencies to the widespread poverty that affected African Americans, Indians, and whites throughout Albuquerque. In the short term, the demonstrations had little effect on the school but did lead to the two men’s founding of El Papel, an underground Chicano newspaper that offered an alternative to the state’s conservative dailies. Ballejos’s vigorous activism and interest beyond just land rights raised his stature to the point that Tijerina tapped him as New Mexico’s recruitment director for the Poor People’s Campaign.2

-186-

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Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Abbreviations in the Text xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- The "Rediscovery" of Poverty 15
  • 2- First Experiments 40
  • 3- War, Power, and the New Politics 65
  • 4- Poverty, Peace, and King’s Challenge 90
  • 5- Race and Resurrection City 121
  • 6- Multiracial Efforts, Intra-Racial Gains 154
  • 7- The Limits of Coalition 186
  • 8- Making the 1970s 208
  • Epilogue- Poverty, Coalition, and Identity Politics 242
  • Notes 249
  • Bibliography 313
  • Acknowledgments 341
  • Index 345
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