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Organizing in Ozona, By Don Bolding Ozona Ozona, seat of Crockett County, is your typically small, conservative West Texas town maybe a little more typically conservative than most. The town of several thousand souls has never incorporated, because the big ranchers and small tradesmen try harder than most to hold to the frontier ideal of solving their problems through voluntary community effort, with no outside help. They do a passing good job of it, in most respects. But something’s come up lately among the chicanos with whom the anglos work side by side, though the two groups seldom really work together. Ozona is typical of small West Texas towns in that respect, too: the two ethnic communities, and a small minority of blacks, spend generations in peaceful coexistence with no trouble, with nothing like the racial divisions that draw lines of demarcation in larger cities, and any anglo or any chicane can name dozens of friends on the other side of town. Because it’s a small place. Pedro is the foreman at Mr. Jones’s ranch, and it’s been that way since Pedro’s grandfather was the foreman for Mr. Jones’ grandfather, and they know everything about each other and each other’s families, and they exchange presents at Christmas. But Pedro is the foreman; it’s Mr. Jones’ ranch; and there is “the other side of town.” NOW THERE IS the Mexican-American Community Organization, and most of the anglos, and some of the chicanos, see in it militancy, creeping socialism, and any number of other ills that rural America feels in urban America. Some also see Crystal City in it. But the Mexican-American Community Organization, says its president, high school teacher Tomas DeHoyos, only seeks to improve the lot of local poor folk. MACO is a home-grown outfit, and much talk in its biweekly meetings is centered around obtaining federal funds for civic improvements. Right now, the meetings are biweekly, while the 40-odd members and their nine directors work to obtain a state charter as a nonprofit corporation. Later, the board will meet monthly and the membership will meet monthly with the board. In the meantime, four committees are Bolding is the former state editor of The San Angelo Standard-Times. 10 The Texas Observer working on various goals: The housing committee is working on a survey to find housing deficiencies. This would ‘be one of the key focal points of any applications for federal funds, said DeHoyos. The social services committee will try to help persons on food stamps and-Social Security to a closer contact with government and other agencies that can help them. DeHoyos points out that a representative of the Social Security district office in San Angelo visits Ozona one day a week, but MACO contends the visit isn’t enough. Many of the older chicanos are not articulate in English, and many are inhibited about displaying the aggressiveness necessary to make their needs known to agencies that might otherwise have programs ‘to help them. The social services committee also would try to start a Planned Parenthood operation and talk with Crockett County commissioners about a public-supported health clinic. The civil rights committee will attempt to decrease segregation. In these days, little or no formal, written-policy segregation exists anywhere. But because of tradition, chicanos and anglos take their tea separately. For example, chicano youngsters swim in a pool on the south side \(“Mexican town” is known as anglos have a pool on the north side, although both are public. For another example, a fence separates “Lima Cemetery” from the final resting places of anglos. The education committee will work to encourage chicano youths to finish’ high school and then continue their education in vocational school or college, DeHoyos said, “instead of doing what most of them do now quit or finish high school and hang around the pool hall, dig ditches, work at gas stations. We want to make them aware of opportunities such as grants and scholarships and encourage them to take advantage of them. I’m not criticizing the school program here; I’m a teacher, and I know the counselors do a good job. But there is more than can be done.” Now, Ozona being a typical small West Texas town, the problems of its chicanos are probably no worse than the problems of chicanos in other such towns. But in a town that is demonstrably less federal-fund minded than its incorporated, regional-planning-council-member neighbors, how did this thing come to pass? And how do the people take it? It started with a redistricting controversy. The county commissioners, one of whom is a chicano, up and asked the attorney general whether they needed to redraw their precinct lines and provided him with figures that showed they did . population variations were too great and his office said yes. Naturally. So they redistricted last year. Most of the paperwork apparently was done by Commissioner Jess Marley, who emphasized, when asked, that all the commissioners had a hand in it. But both DeHoyos and County Judge Troy Williams said Marley drew the lines the commissioners accepted. Naturally, the other commissioners had a hand in it, in that they furnished him with information on their precincts and then voted on the plan. IT TURNS OUT that before redistricting, Marley’s precinct contained a good part of the Lima territory, with the rest of Lima belonging to the precinct from which the lone chicano commissioner was elected. The redistricting put nearly all of Lima in one precinct. It also turns out that Marley had opposition in a previous election from one Armando Reina, who, after he lost, filed suit on the contention that Marley did not live in the precinct. Marley, a rancher, has a home in town and one in the country, and the district judge ruled he did in fact live in town. It also turns out that an undetermined number of chicanos who were moved into the new Lima precinct were thinking of running against Marley in the next election, including one candidate with strong support among both chicanos and anglos. So in November of last year, an informal group of chicanos appeared at a commissioners’ court meeting to complain about being herded into one precinct. They were told that August is the legal time to talk about redistricting, and were asked to get their facts together and come back. Judge Williams said that if they can show, as they contend, that the Lima precinct has more people in it than the figures show, then the redistricting will be done over. But he also said later it can be done without giving as much of Lima back to Marley’s precinct as it had before. Word of this stew reached a former Ozona chicano, one Ediberto Gutierrez of San Jose, Calif., now a staffer of the federal Model Cities program. Gutierrez got leave from his job and came back to Ozona for a while to see what he could do. He called the first informal meeting of the movement that turned out to be MACO and suggested the very four-committee program the group adopted. At the next meeting, about four months ago, the 40 or so people who attended the first meeting organized and elected their nine-member