longer, many accepted their subservient potition. When we charged that the poll tax was unfair, the administration of the school replied that anyone who really wanted to vote could raise a quarter. This was hard to believe when there were students who wore the same shirt to school five days a week for months because it was the only shirt they had. There were students that never ate noon meals because they could not afford to pay for it, and they would not bring a sack lunch because of the ridicule they knew they would be subjected to for eating tortillas instead of bread. Teachers did, however, urge everyone to pay the poll tax and be good citizens. They justified the poll tax as good training in citizenship. Students, the teachers said, should learn that they must pay to vote. The results were obvious. Usually only half of the students paid the tax; few Latins ever won elections in the predominantly Latin high school, and those that won were the “chosen ones” with middle-class ideals who spoke unaccented English and were fair complexioned. It was this bunch who had served in the token integration of lower grades; who, once having risen from the depths of poverty and nothingness, looked down at those less fortunate than themselves; who, once in an elected office, betrayed their fellow Latins by voting, for example, for keeping the school poll tax and openly denouncing all attempts by other Latins to abolish it. They made the administration of the school marvel and say, “There is tomorrow’s leadership for the fine Latin people.” A few of us revolted from the ranks of the “showcase greasers” and stood up for the rights of the Mexican-American. We were neatly blackballed socially by our compatriots, the appeasers, and the hierarchy didn’t stand idle either. One friend, a teacher, told me that my name was withdrawn from nomination to the National Honor Society by a high school official because I was a “shady character.” School life was miserable, so I took full loads and went to summer school and graduated at the end of my junior year. I don’t think I could have taken another year of that hell. THINGS OUTSIDE school were very much the same. Anglos never seemed to recognize their Latin classmates outside the campus. Two separate societies still exist in the area around Robstown; the Mexican-Americans and the Anglo-Americans do not mix socially. Inter-ethnic marriage, or dating, for that matter, is nil. Undoubtedly the biggest taboo for the Mexican-American is dating Anglos. My first confrontation with the unwritten law occurred when I was in high school. I began dating a Swedish girl living temporarily in Corpus Christi, 16 miles away. After a movie one Saturday night we drove downtown to a drive-in restaurant, a popular hangout of local teenagers. I left the car window on my side open about three inches. As we were waiting for our Cokes I heard the clunk of metal against the edge of the window. I turned, only to see a .38 caliber revolver staring at my forehead. 8 The Texas Observer The South Texan Rev. Navarro and Carlos Guerra as the Marchers Passed through Kingsville A burly blond man in his early twenties held the pistol partially concealed under his coat as he leaned against the car, sneered as he brought his face to the open portion of the window, and cocked the loaded gun. “Whatcha’ doin’ with that white girl, GREASER?” he asked in a low tone. “I’m about to take her home,” I answered with a trembling voice. I reached for the key and started the car. “You better, goddammit,” he drawled quietly as he stood up, putting the gun inside his coat. As I drove out I heard loud laughter from several cars, one of which pursued me. I sped madly through the streets until I finally lost my pursuer. Five months and one girl later, I was not fortunate enough to receive warning. Again in Corpus Christi, I was dating an Anglo girl. Fearing the obvious, we were careful about appearing together in public. Among her friends, the girl avoided mentioning me in conversation, and we made it a point that I should never escort her to any social functions. The girl’s friends never met me; all they knew was that she was going out with someone named “Charlie.” Everything worked out perfectly until one night, on our way to a drive-in theater, we were passed by two couples in a late model sedan. Both girls in the car recognized my date as one of their friends. They waved and went on. It was then that I must have been noticed, for the car suddenly slowed down and let me pass. This time there were no smiles and no one waved, they just stared. We got to the drive-in, and as we stopped to pay, a car humped into the back of minethe -same car that passed me. Once in the drive-in nothing happened and we forgot about everything. After the movie I took my date home and started to drive back to Robstown. Instead of taking the highway, to save time I took a farm road. There was almost no traffic except for a car behind me. All of a sudden it speeded up and began to overtake me. As I slowed down to let it pass I was forced off the road. I jumped out of my car and saw five toughs jump out of the other car and run toward me. “We’ll teach you to go out with white girls, sonofabitch,” shouted one. The first one to reach me kicked me in the groin and I fell to the ground and pretended to pass out. “Oh God,” said one, “what’d you do to ‘im?” “I don’t know. Lets get the f out of here!” I heard them run back into the car; I was afraid to open my eyes. Above the slamming of car doors I heard one say that it should have been the girl they punished. They sped away and I got up and drove off. Realizing what could be done, I broke up with the girl the next day and never saw her again. I graduated and took a job that summer as a lifeguard at the Robstown municipal swimming pool. There are two swimming pools in Robstown. Few Robstown Anglos ever go to the municipal pool; many of them belong to the Robstown Swim Club, which maintains its own private pool. Membership in the Robstown Swim Club is by invitation only, and to my knowledge no Mexican-American has ever splashed in the water of its pool. SOUTH OF ROBSTOWN is Kingsville and Texas A&I. The college social life is a shock to most out-of-state students. The first day I went to A&I, I went to check into the dorm, Poteet Hall. One of the dorm managers checked me in and asked me my room preference. I said I wanted to live wherever it was quiet. “Second floor is the most quiet,” he said and looked at the roster for vacancies, “but the only vacancy we got is with an Anglo boy.” “Hell, I’m not proud,” I retorted with indignation. “Wouldn’t you rather room with another Latin?” “I’d rather room where I can study!” “Well, I don’t know if this guy would like to room with a Latin. Why don’t you go up an’ shoot the bull with ‘im a while. See if you can git along.” Fuming, I stormed up the stairs and knocked on the door. An Anglo boy answered, and after introducing myself I blurted out; “Are you a Meskin hater?” Shock registered on his face while he said that he wasn’t in four different ways. “Good,” I said, “I’m your new roommate.” Later I found out he was from an Air Force family and thus was not acquainted with the South Texas social system. A&I is representative of a South Texas community. The Student Union coffee shop can be mapped: Latins sit on one side of a line and Anglos sit on the other. The integrated weekly dances are the same; Anglos and Latins stay at opposite sides of the ballroom. At election time the ethnic factor runs high. The Latins, 22% of the student body, have had to resort to bloc voting to gain any recognition. Counter-blocs usually upstt the Latin bloc. At times the ethnic factor goes openly into advertising. During the last homecoming queen election there were signs cleverly stating, “Remember the Alamo/Vote for Nordmeyer.” In another popularity contest, the election of the Latana queen and her court, another ethnic
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