ALAN POGUE Labor Organizer Antonio Orendain meets with Valley farmworkers reported to those left behind. Through these travels and study sessions, they concluded that they should establish an entity of organizers, young activists who would subsist on a minimum of resources. They were to get involved in issues of discrimination, police brutality, labor organizing, and especially education and the treatment of Mexican American students in the schools. Beyond that, they were to foster a new pride in being Chicano. The new organization, they decided, would consist of natural leaders who could be developed without too much training. By the late summer of 1967 the five had recruited a second layer of young men, mostly highschool dropouts. These new recruits came from the ranks of Compean’s acquaintances, although Gutierrez did most of the recruiting. These teenagers had little regard for the society around them and were in fact considered its failures. In the second year a third layer of youth joined the growing group of activists-to-be. They were teenagers in school, mostly from the poorest districts deep in the west side of San Antonio. At the same time, the five began to contact other young men around the state. Most of these recruits were involved in the farm workers’ unionizing efforts or in selfhelp programs in the poor barrios. These men, too, came in for extensive study sessions. Guadalupe Youngblood, a prominent young activist from Robstown, Texas, recalled “long study and discussion sessions in which we talked about what we wanted and how we were going to do it. It was a philosophy based on cultural nationalism.” This philosophy embodied cultural components such as family, Mexican history, music, and the use of the Spanish language as part of the group’s political views. It was also based on a new political rhetoric whose confrontational nature sought to arouse the attention of the Anglos, who would be shocked by it, and to capture the imagination of young Mexican Americans, who would applaud its audacity and valor. “We set out to come up with a lexicon of . . . terms,” said Compean, “terms like ‘La Raza,’ `Chicano liberation,’ . . . and the word `Chicano.’ We began personifying the system through the use of the word `gringo.’ ” These young leaders were bent on discarding what they referred to as the “lone wolf approach” of the old Mexican American political guard: “writing letters, [calling] press conferences, [using] the style of diplomacy . . . very proper, very formal, raising substantive issues, but in a nice voice.” These were the methods of oncefeisty organizations like LULAC and the G.I. Forum, which by the 1960s relied on litigation and support from sympathetic Anglos to achieve their goals. Compean recalled: What we needed was an approach similar to what the Black Movement was using .. . demonstrating, marching in the streets. To that we incorporated a Saul Alinsky component of confrontation, politics. And we said that was going to be the strategy . . . MAYO [Mexican American Youth Organization] was going to be using. Use confrontational politics based on information .. . well-researched, but also foregoing the use of nice language. Gutierrez, Perez, and Compean tried out this approach in the summer of 1967 when they set up an informational picket line outside the Alamo, where a July 4th commemoration was being held. While the band played and patriotic speeches were still ringing in the air, the three chanted and carried signs taunting the crowd. Expressions such as “What about La Raza?” “What about independence for La Raza?” and “When is that coming?” were painted on large signs where the celebrants could see them. There were always substantial numbers of Mexican Americans at these functions, and the three wanted to inaugurate their new rhetoric. For the most part they were ignored, except for a Mexican American veteran who became angry and tried to get them arrested. Nevertheless, for the three the protest was a success. They had THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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