Excerpt from "Chicano Nationalism: The Key to Unity for La Raza" (1970, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzdes)

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Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzáles was an influential leader of the Chicano movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Born in Denver, Colorado, GonzNAes was a nationally ranked featherweight boxer before becoming involved in local social service programs. In 1966 he founded the Crusade for Justice, a Denver-based organization that assisted Chicano youth with a school, social center, and a store. In 1969, Gonzales organized the first Chicano Youth Liberation Conference; at the second conference, he began to advocate a Chicano political party, which he called La Raza Unida Party. In this essay, Gonzales claims that Chicano pride and "nationalism" will lead to a stronger party. He wants a united movement working against the system to fight racism, discrimination, and the emulation of Chicano stereotypes within the community itself.

Leah R. Shafer,
Cornell University

See also Hispanic Americans ; Nationalism .

What are the common denominators that unite the people? The key common denominator is nationalism. When I talk about nationalism, some people run around in their intellectual bags, and they say this is reverse racism. The reverse of a racist is a humanitarian. I specifically mentioned what I felt nationalism was, Nationalism becomes la familia. Nationalism comes first out of the family, then into tribalism, and then into alliances that are necessary to lift the burden of all suppressed humanity.

Now, if you try to climb up a stairway, you have to start with the first step. You can't jump from the bottom of this floor to the top of those bleachers. If you can, then you must be "super-macho. " (I don't talk about super-man.) But, you can't, so you start using those tools that are necessary to get from the bottom to the top. One of these tools is nationalism. You realize that if Chavez, or any popular figure in the Mexicano scene decides to run, and if he ran for any party, as popular as, he is, then out of nationalism we would even vote for an idiot. If his name was Sanchez, if his name was Gonzalez, you would walk in and vote for him, whether you know him or not, because you are nationalistic. And we have elected too many idiots in the past out of nationalism, right?

Now, let's take that common denominator, that same organizing tool of nationalism, and utilize it to work against the system. Let's use it to work against the two parties that I say are like an animal with two heads eating out of the same trough, that sits on the same boards of directors of the banks and corporations, that shares in the same industries that make dollars and profits off wars. To fight this thing, you look for the tools.

Now, if Tony is a socialist, if my brother here is an independent, if my sister is a Republicanshe might hit on me laterif one of the others is a Democrat and one is a communist, and one from the Socialist Labor Party, what do we have in common politically? Nothing. We've been fighting over parties across the kitchen table, wives are Republicans and husbands are Democrats, sometimes, and we argue over a bunch of garbage. And the same Republicans and Democrats are having cocktails together at the same bar and playing golf together and kissing each other behind the scenes.

So you tell me then, what is the common denominator that will touch the barrio, the campos and the ranchitos? Are we going to go down there with some tremendous words of intellectualism which they cannot relate to, when they relate on the level of, "We need food. We need health care for our children. I need someone to go down to juvenile court with my son. There is no job for my husband." And the revolution of 15 or 20 years from now is not going to feed a hungry child today.

All right, how do we start this? We start it and call it an independent Chicano political organization. We can use it as Tony mentioned also, under the FCC code, we can use it as a forum to preach and teach. We can gain the same amount of radio and TV time as any phony candidate. We proved it in Colorado. I ran for mayor as an independent, and I campaigned two weeks. Two weeks, because we were busy directing a play and busy in civil rights actions. But, we had the same amount of time on TV as anybody else, and on radio. We were able to start to politicize people. We were able to start to tell about an idea. We were able, even, to sue the mayor and the top candidates for violating the city charter, for spending more money than the city provided for under its constitution. We had that mayor and the most powerful Republicans and Democrats sitting on their asses down in the courtroom. Our method was to take them to court, to take them to task, to show the public that they were corrupt. And we proved that they were liars, over and over again.

We must start off by creating the structurethe concilioby calling a congress sometime this spring, bringing together all those people that believe that it can be done. We understand that when we organize in an area where we are a majority, we can control. Where we are a minority, we will be a pressure group. And we will be a threat.

We understand the need to take action in the educational system. We understand that we need actions such as the "blow-outs," because the youth are not afraid of anything. Because the youth are ready to move. The whole party will be based on the actions of the young, and the support of the old.

Secondly, in the communities where we are a majority, we can then control and start to reassess taxes, to start charging the exploiters for what they have made off our people in the past. You can also incorporate the community to drive out the exploiters, to make them pay the freight for coming into the community, and sign your own franchises. You can de-annex a community as easily as they annex a barrio and incorporate it. You can create your own security groups, and place a gun here to protect the people, not to harass them, but to protect them from the Man who is going to come in from the outside. You can also create your own, economic base by starting to understand that we can share instead of cut each others' throats.

Now what are the tools? We said nationalism, which means that we have to be able to identify with our past, and understand our past, in order that we can dedicate ourselves to the future, dedicate ourselves to change. And we have to understand what humanism really is. We can tie the cultural thing into it, but we also have to tie in the political and the economic. We tie these things together, and we start to use the common denominator of nationalism.

Now for those Anglo supporters, don't get up-tight. For the Black brothers, they are practicing the same thing right now. And we understand it and respect it. And we are for meaningful coalitions with organized groups.

We have to start to consider ourselves as a nation. We can create a congress or a concilio. We can understand that we are a nation of Aztlan. We can understand and identify with Puerto Rican liberation. We can understand and identify with Black liberation. We can understand and identify with white liberation from this oppressing system once we organize around ourselves.

Where they have incorporated themselves to keep us from moving into their neighborhoods, we can also incorporate ourselves to keep them from controlling our neighborhoods. We have to also understand economic revolution, of driving the exploiter out. We have to understand political change. And we have to understand principle. And the man who says we can do it within the systemwho says, "Honest, you can, look at me, I have a $20,000-a-year job"he's the man who was last year's militant and this year's OEO employee [Office of Economic Opportunity]. And now he's keeping his mouth shut and he ain't marching any more. We have to understand that he is not a revolutionary, that he's a counter-revolutionary. He's not an ally, he becomes an enemy because he's contaminated.

You can't walk into a house full of disease with a bottle full of mercurochrome and cure the disease without getting sick yourself. That's what we say about the lesser of the two evils. If four grains of arsenic kill you, and eight grains of arsenic kill you, which is the lesser of two evils? You're dead either way.

We have to understand that liberation comes from self-determination, and to start to use the tools of nationalism to win over our barrio brothers, to win over the brothers who are still believing that machismo means getting a gun and going to kill a communist in Vietnam because they've been jived about the fact that they will be accepted as long as they go get themselves killed for the gringo captain; who still think that welfare is giving them something and don't understand that the one who is administering the welfare is the one that's on welfare, because, about 90 percent of the welfare goes into administration; and who still do not understand that the war on poverty is against the poor, to keep them from reacting.

We have to win these brothers over, and we have to do it by action. Whether it be around police brutality, the educational system, whether it be against oppression of any kindyou create an action, you create a blowout, and you see how fast those kids get politicized. Watch how fast they learn the need to start to take over our own communities. And watch how fast they learn to identify with ourselves, and to understand that we need to create a nation.

We can create a thought, an idea, and we can create our own economy. You don't hear of any "yellow power" running around anywhere. Because they base their power around their church, their house, their community. They sell Coca Cola, but their profits go to their own people, you see, so that they have an economic base. We are strangers in our own church. We have got gachupin [traditional terms of contempt for Spaniards who ruled Mexico for 400 years] priests from Spain in our communities, telling us vamos a hechar unos quatros pesos en la canasta [let's throw four pesos in the collection dish]. And then he tells you, "I'm your religious leader," and he tries to tell you how to eat, where to go, who to sleep with and how to do it rightwhile he's copping everything else out. You know, we're tired of this kind of leadership.

You have to understand that we can take over the institutions within our community. We have to create the community of the Mexicano here in order to have any type of power. As much as the young ladies have created power in their own community. But they have to share it with the rest of us. They have to be able to bring it together. And we are glad when they sit down instead of retreating. It means that we're all one people. It means that we're all one Raza and that we will, work together and we will walk out of here in a positive fashion.

SOURCE: GonzNAes, Rudolfo "Corky." "Chicano Nationalism: The Key to Unity for La Raza." The Militant. (30 March 1970).

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Excerpt from "Chicano Nationalism: The Key to Unity for La Raza" (1970, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzdes)

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Excerpt from "Chicano Nationalism: The Key to Unity for La Raza" (1970, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzdes)