ALAN POGUE Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez in the Twentieth Congressional District of respect for law and order, disruption of democratic process, and provocation of disunity [sic] among our citizens will not be tolerated.” MAYO responded to this action by staging a large demonstration in the town and nailing what they called the “Del Rio Manifesto” to the courthouse door. U.S. Congressman 0. C. Fisher of San Antonio continued the attack. He urged the House Committee on Internal Security to undertake an investigation of MAYO. Fisher accused Gutierrez of being “deeply involved” in the grape strike at Delano, California, and “a prime agitator” in the “Rio Grande Valley disorders which erupted two years ago.” He wrote to the committee, “Since this is a relatively new organization, it would seem to me that your committee may be interested in exploring the nature of its objectives and involvement which would seem to affect the peace and security of the area involved.” All these criticisms, however, did not measure up to the attacks levied on Gutierrez, Compean, and the other three leaders and their organization by Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, Texas’s most famous mainstream Mexican American politician. Gonzalez, a liberal Democrat who once ran for governor of Texas and barely missed getting his party’s nomination, lambasted what he called MAYO’s racism: MAYO styles itself the embodiment of good and the Anglo-American as the incarnation of evil. That is not merely ridiculous, it is drawing fire from the deepest wellsprings of hate. The San Antonio leader of MAYO, Jose Angel Gutierrez, may think himself something of a hero, but he is, in fact, only a benighted soul if he believes that in the espousal of hatred he will find love. He is simply deluded if he believes that the wearing of fatigues .. . makes his followers revolutionaries. . . . One cannot fan the flames of bigotry one moment and expect them to disappear the next. For three days he blasted MAYO on the floor of the House of Representatives. He criticized “older radicals who lend their assent and even support.” The Ford Foundation, which had funded MAUC and thus MAYO indirectly, also did not escape Gonzalez’s fury, nor did the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education of La Raza, which were friendly to MAYO. Gonzalez blamed the Ford Foundation for wasting taxpayers’ money in order to support “brown thugs” who were bent on using racist tactics to divide Anglos and Mexican Americans. Gonzalez was especially indignant about a MAYO press conference in which Gutierrez called for the elimination of the gringo. What Gutierrez actually said was, . some Mexicanos will become psycho logically castrated, others will become demagogues and gringos as well, and others will come together, resist and eliminate the gringo. We Will be with the latter.” He went on to say that a “gringo” was “a person or institution that has a certain policy or program, or attitudes that reflect bigotry, racism, discord and prejudice and violence.” When he was asked by a reporter what he meant by “eliminate the gringo,” Gutierrez responded, “You can eliminate an individual in various ways. You can certainly kill him but that is pot our intent at this moment. You can remove his base of support that he operates from, be it economic, political, or social. That is what we intend to do” Although the threats and subsequent explanations were enough to incense most Anglos, the way the newspapers played the story created a furor. Gutierrez qualified and later attempted to retract some of the militancy but his words were lost in the public debate over the “killing of the gringo.” Gonzalez labeled MAYO leaders “Brown Bilbos” a reference to Theodore Bilbo, segregationist Senator from Mississippi who were practicing a new racism. His was a vicious attack, and it opened the flood-gates for more scathing criticisms of MAYO from both Mexican Americans and Anglos. It also guaranteed that a segment of Mexican American liberals would not only resist MAYO overtures, but work to destroy the organization. A weak Congressman in Washington, D.C. [at that time], Gonzalez nevertheless wielded enormous power in the twentieth Congressional District, which included much of the West Side of San Antonio. His speech became an albatross around the neck of Gutierrez and the organization. The immediate impact of the assault on THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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