Page 11


Semantics: Latin, Mexican, Spanish Austin Through most of the “Latin-American summit conference” in Austin earlier this month was serious business, there were some lighter moments. Bexar Cty. Cmsr. Albert Pena interjected the view that what cost Waggoner Carr his bid for the U.S. Senate was a “wetbacklash,” referring to the defections of many Latin voters. Pena, a bit later, recalled that he often is told by Anglos he has just met how much they enjoy bullfights, Mexican food, tequila, and trips to Mexico. “I reply that I prefer scotch to tequila and pro football to bullfights,” Pena said. Curtis Graves, the Negro legislator from Houston who is co-sponsoring the House’s minimum wage bill, said that nobody ever told him how much they enjoy chitlings. Speaking of the minimum wage ordinance to be passed a couple of days later at Mathis, one of the conference’s participants referred to it as the first amendment to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. Pena said at times he is asked what he has against Anglos. “Nothing,” he said he answers, “in fact I was raised by an old Anglo mammy.” Father Henry Casso of San Antonio and the Bishops Committee for the Spanish-Speaking urged that the group use their positions as leaders to get everybody united behind the term, “Mexican-Americans.” Dr. George Sanchez, U.T. professor who chaired the meeting, said that different groups have tried to avoid the word, Mexican, since “Mejeans” have been so discriminated against. “The people in El Paso and California want to be called Mexican-Americans, the rest of the people in Texas want to be Latin-Americans, the people in New Mexico want to be Spanish-Americans. Except of course when they’re speaking Spanishthen you ask them and they answer, ‘Soy mexicano!’ “I have compromised lately by saying ‘Americans of Mexican descent’,” Sanchez said. Casso said the young people don’t want to compromise any more. Chris Aldrete of Austin said that in San Angelo back in the forties, he and two friends went to get some medical shots. Afterwards, walking along, they compared their slips, and they found that the doctor had put one of them down as Spanish-American, one as Latin-American, and the third as Mexican-American. Aldrete phoned the doctor and asked him about this. The doctor explained, “A Spanish-American is tall, pink-skinned, and has blue or green eyes. A Mexican-American is short, stocky, dark, with brown eyes. A Latin-American is somewhere in between.” Aldrete said he responded, “Is that what they taught you at Galveston medical school?” Dr. Sanchez has said for many years, addressing mexicano audiences, “Llameme to que me llame, pero llarneme a corner.” That is, “Call me what you call me, but call me to dinner.” pressure to speak out against a group such as ours, but I hope that all Mexi can-American groups will be behind us.” Dr. Sanchez was elected chairman of the conference by acclamation; the secretary will be Lupe Zamarripa, a U.T. journalism student. The next meeting will be called by Dr. Sanchez, probably in April. Others attending this “summit conference” of Texas-Mexicans were, from Austin: Humberto Aguirre, immediate past state chairman of the G. I. Forum; Robert E. Canino, district director, G. I. Forum; Sergio D. Elizondo, U.T. Spanish professor; Manuel C. Garza, executive secretary, Texas LULAC; Humberto Silex, Jr., Republican Party of Texas; Jose Ruben Moreno, G. I. Forum member; Gus Gonzales, regional Equal Employment Opportunity Office; Mike Hernandez, U.T. graduate student; and E. A. Galvan. From San An 12 The Texas Observer tonio: Erasmo Andrade and the Rev. Henry Casso, both of the Bishops’ Committee for the Spanish-Speaking; Charlie Campos, Jr., representing Bexar County commissioners precinct No. 1; Jose Raul Kennard, member of L.U.L.A.C.s and the Political Association of Spanish-speaking OrG.I. Forum member; George R. Rivas, chairman of the Southside G.I. Forum. From Houston: State Rep. Lauro Cruz; John Castillo, member of P.A.S.O. and the Valley Workers Assistance Committee; State Rep. Curtis Graves; David Ortiz, East Texas regional chairman for P.A.S.O. From El Paso: A. F. Kennard, member of P.A.S.O. and L.U.L.A.C.s, and Alfonso Kennard, Jr., western regional chairman of P.A.S.O. New Braunfels: Aguinaldo Zamora, city councilman. G. 0. LUBBOCK: Austin Lubbock County may become another chapter of the developing story, in Texas, of the growing militance among many Mexican-Americans. Last September more than 100 workers, most of them Latinos, went out on strike at the Plains Co-op Compress, a cotton processing and storage facility in Lubbock. The strike began ten months after workers had voted, 168 to 148, to form a local of the United Packing House, Food and Allied Workers, AFLCIO. As this year began, 14 months after the organizing election, the company had not yet negotiated a contract with the union. The Rev. Rodney Howell, a young Catholic priest who is helping the strikers, tells the Observer that the company is refusing to negotiate. A compress official is quoted as saying that the union has not contacted the company. Giving impetus to the union organization movement were complaints, particularly by the Latins, about alleged discriminatory practices of the compress as between its Anglo, Latin, and Negro workers. But, as in the Starr County strike by Mexican-American farm workers, a larger background is involved. Many of the strikers regard their protest as more than economic; they see it also as a movement against what they believe to be thoroughgoing discrimination against the many Latin-Americans in the Lubbock area. Fernando Gonzales, local leader of the strikers, says that “we want to get MexicanAmericans in Lubbock interested. . . . My wife can’t get her hair fixed in some places in Lubbock.” Other issues are at work in the Lubbock strike. When more than 100 of the workers left their jobs in mid-September, the compress hired Negroes from East Texas to take their places. Tom Brown, compress manager, says that before the strike the Latins were decidedly in the majority among his employees. He says that a few Latins still work at the compress, but now Negroes are the majority. About 40 Negroes walked off the’ job when the Latins began their strike in September, Brown recalls, but some have returned to work since. None of the Anglos left their jobs. Father Howell believes that none of the Anglos voted for the union, but that all of the Latins did. There is no report of tension between Latins and Negroes because of the Negroes replacing Latins at the compress, but the ingredients for such discord are present. One of the workers who replaced the strikers not a Negro, but a Mexican national was found apparently murdered about a month after the strike began. Father Howell says that the strikers deny responsibility for the man’s death and authorities have charged no one, although Marion Ramon, a union field representative from Fort Worth, charges that the Lubbock daily newspaper, the Avalanche-Journal, has “implied that strikers had been involved in [the] killing.” A fire broke out at the compress early