culture, opinion, Uncategorized, Veteran

Does it end?


HISPANIC VETERANS AND ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION
Richard Soto / Bilingual Weekly
It was a warm summer day in August of 2003 and I had celebrated my 37th year mentally scarred but home from the tragedy of VietNam and my war time experience as a Navy Surgical Nurse attached to the U .S. Marine Corp.
I had just purchased my copy of Felix Longoria’s Wake —written by Patrick J. Carrol with a foreword by noted Chicano, Cultural Folklorist Jose E. Limon— and I was settling in to read this tragic story of a forgotten WW2 Veterano who became a Mexican American Martyr.
Fast forwarding to Friday, November 5th, 2010 and a packed Community Room at the UOP Library where over 100 elderly Hispanic veterans, families and young adults came to see the recently released documentary by producer director John Valadez of the Felix Longoria affair.
Felix Longoria was a young Mexican American 25 years of age when he enlisted in the U.S. Army, left his wife Beatrice and 4-year old daughter behind to go off to the glory’s of war and the Red, White and Blue. Felix Longoria found himself in Luzon, Philippine Islands in June of 1945, he had been in country only several months when he volunteered to search out the enemy and within a couple of days was, literally, blown apart.
The custom during WW 2 was to bury the fallen soldier where he was killed and after the war give the family the option to leave the soldier there, in an American War Cemetery, or to return the soldier to his home for a full military funeral warranted by the ultimate            sacrifice for his country.
“Discriminación a un Mártir”
“Discriminacion a Un Martir” is a corrido written about the tragedy that was to follow the return of fallen Pvt. Felix Longoria to his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas. When Mrs. Longoria and her now eight year old daughter Adela went to ask permission to use the only available mortuary in town, they were told NO!
Tom Kennedy the mortician explained: “We just never did make a practice of letting them {Mexican Americans} use the Chapel,” he said, “and we don’t want to start now.”
Mrs. Longoria, shocked and grieving mentioned this to a friend who in turn called Dr. Hector P. Garcia, also a WW2 veteran, who himself had felt the pains of discrimination when he was initially assigned to a artillery unit —until he could prove that he really was a professionally trained medical doctor. Upon Dr. Garcia’s discharge from military duty he returned to Three Rivers, Texas and opened up a medical practice that for the most part was free to low income families, of which there were many.
Beatrice Longoria’s concern infuriated Dr. Garcia who had been hearing of many incidents of discrimination against Mexican American veterans, such as, denied G.I. Bill for education, denied access to medical services, and having to pay a poll tax to vote. Immediately Dr. Garcia fired off 17 telegrams from, Washington D.C., to local and state representatives, Department of Defense and Lyndon B. Johnson, Senator for the State of Texas and the Good Neighbor Commission.
The responses to these telegrams were quick and furious. Some were in the form of denial, others were in agreement —and many had meager donations to cover the cost of burial and transportation. When Three Rivers continued to refuse accommodations, Senator Johnson was able to secure burial for Pvt. Felix Longoria in Arlington National Cemetery.
The concern generated by this discriminatory action led to the growth of the American G.I. Forum. Chapters sprang up allover Texas and spread throughout the South West. Many chapters are still active and the one in Sacramento and Modesto recently hosted the showing of the recently released “Felix Longoria Affair”.
In a moment of Irony, and through the efforts of Arturo Ocampo, University of the Pacific Assistant Provost, the university also hosted the showing of this exciting and long overdue recognition for Hispanic veterans on Friday November 5th, 2010 and then on Wednesday I attended a musical at UOP entitled “Heroes’ Salute – A Musical Tribute to Veterans” that went to great length authenticating military activities, with Military advising from Christopher Bateman {retired USMC) and Giannmarco Cacciamatta {formerly with the DOD) as well as project advisor Dr. Robert Coburn. This musical went to great length to honor the patriotism of African and Euro American Veterans.
There is a reason why we have Bilingual Newspapers, why we have Bilingual T.V. and why we have our own Veterans Organizations. If we want to be assured of due recognition we have to do it ourselves as demonstrated by John Valadez, producer and director.
On Wednesday PBS broadcast the showing of this excellent documentary at 11 p.m., not exactly prime time T. V.
Tony Sauro, Record Staff Writer did a wonderful job of describing the Felix Longoria tragedy in the LENS B section of the Stockton Record and I encourage you to purchase back issues.
1. Felix Longoria’s Wake, Patrick J. Carroll, University of Texas Press, Austin. 2003
2. AZTLAN International Journal of Chicano Studies Research Volume 13, No.1 and 2, Spring and Fall 1982 University of California 405 Hilgard Avenue Los Angeles, California 90024 U.S.A.
3. The Chicano Experience” {Berkeley: Folklyric Records, vol. 14).
4. The Longoria Affair; A documentary film by J ohn J . Valadez Independent Lens Presents 52 minutes.

About bilingualweekly

Bilingual Weekly News brings you community news in both English and Spanish, covering information such as Stockton News, San Joaquin News, Latino News, Hispanic News, Mexican-American News, Bilingual News, Government News, Political News, Arts News, Tracy News, Manteca News, Lodi News, Modesto News, Stanislaus News, Education News, Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County Office of Education, Health News, Environmental news, and much more!

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