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Austin 6 6 OFTEN MEET young men and women whose parents or grandparents went without shoes, went with hunger, and went with insults and discrimination so their children could have it better than they did,” State Sen. Gonzalo Barrien tos, D-Austin, told a group of students gathered for a conference on Chicano politics at the University of TexasAustin recently. “There is nothing wrong with making money and driving a Mercedes, but many individuals of 20, 23 or 24 have not been told how things were for their parents. They’re spaced out and they don’t give a damn. They have no idea that 20 blocks away from here [the UT student union] on the East Side, people are still hungry, and the kids are five grades behind in reading,” Barrientos said. The subject was the future of Chicano politics, and the challenge for these students, as posed by Barrientos, was to fend off the lure of “Chicano yuppieism” to remember their roots. Interviewed following’the conference, Barrientos recalled a conversation with a Mexican American college graduate. “She was talking about doing all these things like going to New York or going to Hollywood, and it really caught my attention when she said she was going to work for the Republicans. “It’s not a question that I want everybody in the world to be a Democrat. It’s not a question that I want every Hispanic youngster to. be a progressive liberal. As long as people know the facts and make up their minds, hey, it’s a free country,” Barrientos said. “Study the ancient Romans, study the Greeks and Beowulf. But study Delgado v. Bastrop I. S. D .” HE FACT that Republican candi date Roy Barrera garnered 33 percent of the Mexican Ameri can , vote this year has not been lost on traditional Chicano leaders, or on the students who attended the November Mary Lenz, a former reporter for the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News, is now a freelance writer in Austin. conference. The students say that, with more job opportunities for some, with more prosperity for some, the old Democratic Chicano voting bloc can no longer be taken for granted. Miguel Guajardo, Francisco Guajardo, Charlie Renaud, and Carlos Gomez members of the Texas Union Chicano Culture Committee, which organized the conference identify themselves as “hard-line Democrats.” But they say they are not able to swear to the party loyalty of all of their fellow Chicano students, or to deny that the Yuppie way of life has some appeal. They say the reason is that the university system molds young people to a standard American mindset that is difficult to resist. “You think American,” said Miguel Guajardo, a senior from Elsa, who plans to become a Willie Velasquez teacher. “You think money. You think individualism. You become self-centered, and you leave your culture behind. Your culture practices, the community, the group participation, and the extended family. It’s kind of ironic that you become educated, yet you become apart.” Carlos Gomez, a sophomore history major from Fort Worth, said: “You go to school and you put so much time and effort into subscribing to the American dream, and then you become successful. It’s much easier to go out into society and make it and get everything you want, than to say, hey, I’ll take a job that pays less because I want to help my community.” Francisco Guajardo said he and Miguel grew up as “migrant kids.” But many of their fellow Mexican Americans at the University of Texas are from middle-class backgrounds. “They are not about to graduate and go out and earn less than their folks. These are the people we need to reach out to address issues like the immigration bill and voter registration,” he said. With the help of Dr. Ricardo Romo, a history professor, these students organized the conference and invited such speakers as Jose Angel Gutierrez, founder of La Raza Unida Party, Willie Velasquez of ‘the Southwest Voter Registration Project, Hector Rodriquez of Valley Interfaith, and Northa Cantu of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “We wanted to raise consciousness; we wanted people who are angry, people who know the facts, people who will ten you straight out without fear of political backlash,” Gomez said. The message they got was in some ways encouraging, and in some ways discouraging. Barrientos said that Texas leads the nation in the number of elected public officials with Hispanic surnames, ahead of New Mexico and California. Velasquez said Mexican Americans are not only the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., but the fastest growing group in terms of voter registration. Ruben Bonilla, state chairman of Wall Street or Guadalupe Street By Mary Lenz THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5