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the downtown offices of MALDEF, the Mexican-America Legal Defense and Education Fund. I went along, probabiy because I was hungry for something sardonic. MALDEF, you see, is an organization of liberal attorneys, liberal legal secretaries, and just plain old liberals. They wear business suits, sip Margaritas, and are usually to be found chattering light-heartedly, but with seemingly sincere titillation, about “programs,” elections and racism. Marx had a phrae for this sort of people: lie called them “beer-quaffing philistines.” But Cantti and Kuntsler, who hold themselves out as Marxists begrudgingly accept them as kin. I took refuge with Luis, Mario’s cousin, the one person present who I was sure would not mention “programs,” elections, or race to me. Luis was there to serve tacos. I ate several of the tacos, which were brought over from the restaurant. They were good. Rallies, old friends When the Margaritas were gone, those of us in Mario’s lengthening train piled into cars and went over to a protest rally being held on his behalf at the Mexican-American Unity Council’s big office in that grand old pinkish building on Commerce. I don’t know what the Unity Council does, but it is to be commended for preserving that building, a monument to a graceful time in San Antonio before the military bases were big, back in those pre-war days when the city’s leading daily was the Spanish-language La Prensa. I urge the reader to take a close look at the Unity Council’s building someday. Titans should live there. On the west side of the Unity Council’s building is a large cement courtyard. That’s where Mario’s forces had set up their rally. More than a half-dozen invited speakers sat on the outdoor stage, a big protest banner above them. To their left was a canopy, where chalupas compuestas were served, and in front of them, some 20 rows of 10 folding metal chairs each. I sat down in one of those chairs, next to Romulo “Chacho” Munguia, a thin, sixtyish man who has been Mario’s confidant for 35 years. We listened as one by one, speakers came to the microphone and made their addresses. The speeches bored me, and they made Chacho mad. Chacho is a Republican, and he is not at all ready to agree with what radicals say about America. Herman Baca, or else Corky Gonzales Denver’s Mario Cantti summed up most of the speeches in a single phrase: “It’s not Mario Cantu who is on trial, it is the system that is on trial.” Chacho and I don’t agree about politics, but we did agree that there wouldn’t be any judges going to jail after the morrow’s hearing. Chacho has aided Mario by writing leaflets and giving advice for most of the ten years since Mario became a radical. He had done so, not through love for Mario’s domestic ideology, but because of his strong feelings for Mexico. Chacho’s own parents were radicals, refugees from the Mexican revolution in its latter days, when it became radical to be honest in office. As Chacho and many other second-generation San Antonians see it, Mario has inherited the mantle of his Mexican parents. The Mexican government has taken on the legacy of the thieves who drove the honest people out. I suspect that Chacho would stop short of advocating the overthrow of Mexico’s government, but I cannot be sure: all sons and grandsons of that nation believe sins go uncounted there. When the bombast from on stage passed the limits of his tolerance, Chacho began telling me of his relationship with Mario. It was a saddening account. Although Chacho had aided in the defense campaign, he had done so only out of personal loyalty. The idea of a show trial ran counter to his very conser vative instincts. During the months Canal had been back in San Antonio, Chacho said, neither man had made overtures to the other. Chacho felt that Mario owed him first courtesies; Mario, I’m sure, knew that Chacho wanted to discourage further protests, and didn’t want to hear that advice. Their old friendship had grown distant, and that distance promised to become vertical when Mario climbed on stage. Chacho went home before Mario’s speech. Mario said what all of us expected. He talked about the suppression of political liberties in Mexico and of Mexico’s economic subservience to American interests. If his words were not exceptional, his tone promised hope. Mario stood back from the podium, leaned towards it and spoke with timidity. He appeared to be thoughtful, or frightened: it was hard to tell which. Perhaps Mario is tired, I told myself. But I knew better: Mario is tireless in politics. It was his supporters, men like Chacho, who were tired. The Hearing I was bleary and still tired when I walked into the federal courthouse on Durango the morning of April 3. The architecture of the place did nothing to cheer me up. The courthouse is made of pre-fab, textured concrete, and it is newy-newish and white. I am sure it was intended as a judicial tribute to airports. Just inside its plate glass entrance, security guards sit around a metal detector. There are no smoking sections in the public areas of the courthouse, not even in the foyers. An absurd sort of decorum was in force in the courtroom. As I entered, I pulled off my leather jacket. Before I had it in my hands, however, an individual in a polyester suit grabbed me by the shoulder and told me, in command voice, that I’d have to put it back on. Many of the males who came to wish Mario well were without coats. Someone in the foyer outside passed coats around, while the supply lasted. As a result of federal lending, several men in the courtroom soon were attired in topcoats, all-weather coats and raincoats. I’m sure the men in the raincoats looked over at me and whispered, “who’s that petit bourgeois in the motorcycle jacket?” At ten o’clock sharp, Judge William B. Sessions strode in from a door off to the side of the room, buttoning his cloak as he came so as not to waste a second. Judge Sessions is a thin, white-headed, fiftyish man, whose pronunciation is precise, and whose eyes are clear blue attentive. He is one of those rare individuals who really does sit erect, all the time. He promptly began to page through the letters sent to him about the case, noting each one for the record. Several of the some 50 letters came from prominent San Antonians: Archbishop Patricio Flores, grocery king Eloy Centeno, and three legislators, including Rep. Matt Garcia, presumptive nominee to head the immigration service. Other letters came from Chicano movement leaders: LULAC chief Ruben Bonilla’s name figured among them. Most of these letters, which I’d heard read at the rally the night before, were of a similar tone. They said that their authors, while often in disagreement with Cantti, believed his conviction had been unjust and that his absence had caused a hardship on his family. They said Mario was of an honorable character, and that he merited mercy. Letters of a different sort came from radicals like Angela Davis. Several of these letters said that the judicial system is racist or otherwise unjust. Without showing any offense at all, Sessions noted his exception to such statements. Ruben Sandoval asked the judge to pardon their authors, on grounds that they were laymen at law. Sessions said he hoped ignorance accounted for the tone of those letters, and then proceeded to count the petitions which Mario’s supporters had signed. Sandoval presented the judge with some 500 additional signa THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7