Image from “The Chicana Conference of 1971: Turning Visions into Action”

In the 1970s, one of the most influential grassroots political movements was La Raza Unida, a Hispanic political party that emphasized Mexican-American nationalism and operated primarily in Texas and Southern California. The movement was particularly successful in Southwest Texas, electing a number of La Raza candidates to city council, school board, and mayoral offices in Crystal City, Cotulla, and Carrizo Springs.

Whereas previous campaigns targeting Mexican-American voters centered around support for (primarily white) Democratic candidates, such as the Viva Kennedy clubs organized to support JFK’s 1960 bid for the White House,  La Raza’s message focused on Chicano independence and ethnic unity, and offered voters a choice beyond the two mainstream political parties.  Mexican-American voter mobilization was a fundamental component of La Raza’s success, as well as an important goal for the overall movement.

Among the women who were prominent in the La Raza campaign in Texas was Maria L. de Hernández, a Mexican immigrant, activist, and radio announcer who had supported or founded a number of grassroots organizations related to education equality and workers’ rights, particularly women workers’ rights, from the 1920s through the 1960s.  In the 1970s, Maria was a keynote speaker for La Raza’s statewide conference held in Austin; she later became the last person to serve as the party’s chair before the group disbanded in the late 1970s.

Another prominent woman in the La Raza movement was Maria del Rosario (“Rosie”) Castro, a San Antonio activist and educator with an extensive background in voter mobilization. (Rosie is also the mother of Julián Castro, a former presidential cabinet member and presidential candidate, and Joaquin Castro, a United States congressman.)

Also noteworthy was Virginia Aguirre Múzquiz, founder of Mujeres Por La Raza, the party’s women’s caucus.  Virginia was frequently tapped as a party spokesperson and counselor for La Raza, especially with respect to her expertise in election laws.

Additional Learning: “La Raza’s Legacy Endures” – from the San Antonio Express