The University of Wisconsin Press

Chicano Studies / Biography / American History


The Making of a Chicano Militant
Lessons from Cristal
José Angel Gutiérrez

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

“One of the monumental narratives of the Chicano movement. . . . Gutiérrez has had remarkable influence, not only on the Chicano social agenda, but on formation of minority political parties and the rise of local control over everyday life.”
—Genaro Padilla, University of California, Berkeley

Texas, for years, was a one-party state controlled by white democrats. In 1962, a young eighteen-year-old heard the first rumblings of Chicano community organization in the barrios of Cristal. The rumor in the town was that five Mexican Americans were going to run for all five seats on the city council. But first, poor citizens had to find a way to pay the $1.75 poll tax. Money had to be raised—through bake sales of tamales, cake walks, and dances. So began the political activism of José Angel Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez’s autobiography, The Making of a Chicano Militant, is the first insider’s view of the important political and social events within the Mexican American communities in South Texas during the 1960s and 1970s. A controversial and dynamic political figure during the height of the Chicano movement, Gutiérrez offers an absorbing personal account of his life at the forefront of the Mexican-American civil rights movement—first as a Chicano and then as a militant.

Gutiérrez traces the racial, ethnic, economic, and social prejudices facing Chicanos with powerful scenes from his own life: his first summer job as a tortilla maker at the age of eleven, his racially motivated kidnapping as a teenager, and his coming of age in the face of discrimination as a radical organizer in college and graduate school. When Gutiérrez finally returned to Cristal, he helped form the Mexican American Youth Organization and, subsequently the Raza Unida Party to confront issues of ethnic intolerance in his community. His story is soon to be a classic in the developing literature of Mexican American leaders.

Long overdue, this memoir of one of the giants that led the powerful Chicano movement is provocative, insightful, and extremely revealing. His candid portrayal of his life as a militant activist is a major contribution to the study of Chicano politics.”
—Armando Navarro, author of The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control

José Angel Gutiérrez is founder and former director of the Center for Mexican American Studies and associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is also a lawyer with a practice in Dallas, Texas.

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March 1999
348 pp.   6 x 9
31 b/w illus., 1 map

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