Opinion: Extra Texans ought to learn the way the Raza Unida Social gathering formed state politics – Austin American-Statesman
I lately traveled to Corpus Christi to pay my respects to the departed Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz, who was a buddy and fellow foot soldier within the Raza Unida Social gathering, a short-lived however profoundly influential political motion in Texas through the Nineteen Seventies. His life and work needs to be taught and remembered all through Texas.
Muñiz was an exemplary scholar in highschool and a star athlete, taking part in halfback and nook linebacker on the Class 4A workforce from Roy Miller Excessive College that gained the state championship in 1960. He went on to excel at Baylor College as a scholar, football participant and physique builder, then earned a regulation diploma from Baylor. After regulation college, he was drawn to the Raza Unida Social gathering, which emerged out of the Mexican American social motion in 1970.
Its management and rank and file expressed nice frustration with the continued marginalization of enormous parts of the Mexican-origin inhabitants and took daring motion that may advance change past what the extra average Mexican American teams had been in a position to obtain through the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties.
The Raza Unida Social gathering’s largely younger activists secured the required signatures to put the get together on the poll and fielded candidates for state and native workplaces. Extra importantly, they energized an increasing social motion. Muñiz stood out on this historical past. He was the get together’s candidate for governor in 1972 and 1974, garnering over 120,000 votes in 1972 and about 100,000 in 1974, giving discover to the Democratic Social gathering that it may now not take the Mexican American and progressive vote without any consideration.
Muñiz electrified the get together together with his enthusiasm and untiring marketing campaign work, fueling its success each in garnering nationwide visibility and in democratizing the electoral system in Texas. In a context the place Texas politics had been within the fingers of the largely segregationist Democratic Social gathering for over 100 years since Reconstruction, the progressive Raza Unida Social gathering was instrumental in forcing a conservative flight out of the Democratic Social gathering and into the Republican Social gathering.
The consequence was the beginning of a two-party system in Texas, each in identify and deed, starting in 1978. The Republican Social gathering has since develop into so distinguished in Texas politics that it has, in impact, returned us as soon as once more to a one-party system. Nonetheless, because of the Raza Unida Social gathering, the opportunity of a totally functioning democratic course of continues to be inside attain.
The get together and Muñiz did way more than reform the political system in Texas. They inspired the better participation of Texans, together with Mexican Individuals, within the political course of as voters, candidates, elected officers and members of the Democratic Social gathering. Mexican American illustration within the Texas Legislature — in addition to on college boards, metropolis councils and county commissioners courts all through the state — elevated considerably starting within the Nineteen Seventies. Historical past hardly ever offers such clear proof of a novel ensemble of interrelated occasions.
The institution of the Raza Unida Social gathering, and the fielding of candidates and the soliciting of votes, additionally gave a big variety of younger activists the required coaching and confidence to take part within the momentous modifications that the Nineteen Seventies launched. The get together and its candidates advocated for a few of the most progressive concepts of the time, together with opposition to the struggle in Vietnam and to racial and gender discrimination; and assist for girls’s and employees’ rights, complete immigration reform, Mexican American research and bilingual training.
Political repression, inside divisions and the institution management’s distaste for a progressive get together led by Mexican Individuals contributed to the demise of the Raza Unida Social gathering. Muñiz’s good profession was lower brief by drug convictions, which resulted in his incarceration for over 30 years. Explaining the get together’s demise and Muñiz’s convictions requires a fuller dialog. Muñiz and different former Raza Unida Social gathering members have at all times claimed that he was a political prisoner, framed for his management within the get together. His passing is a chance, nonetheless, to have fun his central position as a Mexican American chief within the enlargement of democracy and democratic chance in Texas.
Zamora is a professor of historical past on the College of Texas.