Border Studies Mexicano Resistance in the Southwest “The Sacred Right of Self-Preservation” By Robert J. Rosenbaum Here is a vivid account of the protest and violent resistance of mexicano residents of the United States against Anglo-American encroachment and domination in Texas, New Mexico, and California from 1848 to 1916. Rosenbaum has written a history from the “bottom up,” using oral history and mexicano folksongs along with a wide range of local documents, archival materials, and Spanishlanguage newspapers. $14.95 The Border Economy Regional Development in the Southwest By Niles Hansen The borderlands region represents a unique laboratory for international cooperation. Both sides of the border exist in a symbiotic relationship that frequently is neither appreciated nor understood in Mexico City or Washington. Hansen analyzes the border economy in terms of the historical role of Mexican labor in the Southwest and finds that Mexican labor, whether legal or undocumented, has been a valuable asset in the growth and development of the economy of the Southwest. $17.95 cloth, $8.95 paper A University of Texas Press PO BOX 7819 AUSTIN. TEXAS 78712 Ramiro Casso and his friends had always been active in the politics of McAllen’s poor south side, where Casso naturally had a following because he had doctored the south side free or at low cost for years. Back in the early sixties, Casso himself went before a grand jury that was investigating election irregularities in Hidalgo County. But in the late seventies, the opposition to the McAllen establishment began to unify, and the doctor and his friends were at the front. The 1981 race actually began with a failed campaign in 1978. As in many small towns in Texas, the McAllen police and fire departments were never covered by the state civil service statutes, a set of laws that give workers in both those departments certain rights. A small group of McAllen firemen and policemen gathered enough signatures on a petition to force an election in August of 1978 to decide whether the departments should be covered by civil service. Their campaign was naive at best, counterproductive at worst, and generally disorganized. A group of former city administrators and businessmen, aided by city hall, screamed that civil service would lead to a police and firemen’s union. That struck fear in the conservative heart of North McAllen, and the Anglo side of town turned out, defeating the proposal 2-1. The campaign had split both the police and fire departments, and now there was a core of highly politicized city employees who realized that they couldn’t fight the policies of city hall they could only turn out those who made the decisions and put their own people in power. But first they needed to discredit city hall . . . to show that it didn’t always get its way. Their opportunity came only a few months later in the unlikely form of a controversy over McAllen’s aging hospital. City hall had decided it was in the town’s best interest to get out of the Hospital Corporation of America. A small group of doctors, including soon-to -be-candidate Ramiro Casso, were completely opposed. Casso and fellow doctor Lauro Guerra filed suit in order to stop the sale, saying the poor would be hurt because a private, for-profit company would not provide adequate health care for the poor. The city commission, led by Mayor Brand, called a referendum to demonstrate to the judge hearing the case the depth of public support for their decision to sell McAllen General. Those who had pushed for civil service the previous summer joined with the doctors in opposition. Also joining in the fray was the United Farm Workers Union, which came in on the doctors’ side, claiming the sale would hurt their poorer members by depriving them of free health care. Another inducement for the UFW to join the battle was the prospect of defeating their long-time enemy, Othal Brand, who is the second half of Griffin & Brand, one of the largest produce growers and distributors in the country, and a long-time opponent of the UFW’s call for collective bargaining rights for its members. The January hospital referendum was ignored in the Anglo suburbs, but extensively promoted on the MexicanAmerican south side. The result . . . a fledgling minority coalition dealt city hall its first defeat ever. By all of 18 votes, the city turned down the commission’s proposal to sell McAllen General. A state court judge used the election results in his ruling when he sided with the two doctors and refused to let McAllen sell the hospital. Given its first breath of confidence, the still-new south side coalition started looking at the obstacles in the way of putting their own people in city hall. Anglos were a distinct minority when you looked at the census count, but made up over half of the city’s registered voters, and getting a respectable vote from that group was deemed almost impossible. Nor was Mayor Brand an Anglo-only candidate. Through the years he had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for community development and projects on the south side; he had built up a hard core of followers, and then there were the people who worked for him in fields and offices. And he had campaign money, more than the coalition could ever hope to raise. There was only one answer, the fundamental rule for any group wanting to win any election: Register your people, then get them out to the polls. The most massive registration drive in the history of the Rio Grande Valley began. Within days of their victory at the hospital election, coalition volunteers were knocking on doors in the poorest parts of McAllen, door to door in the ,colonias south of the airport, where chickens live in backyards that border on a multi-million dollar runway. The workers registered everyone who moved and was 18 or older. By the late spring of 1981, Spanish-surnamed voters made up, not a minority of the total number of registered voters as they had before, but “The Miracle of the KILLER BEES” by Robert Heard. Honey Hill Publishing Co., 1022 , Bonham Terrace, Austin, Texas 78704, $7.95 plus $1.03 tax and shipping. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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