When JFK wooed Latinos

AP reported a genuinely new JFK story on Sunday. It turns out that JFK met informally with members of Mexican-American civil rights group in Houston the day before his death. It was the first time an American president had ever recognized Latinos as a voting bloc. First Lady Jackie Kennedy spoketo the group in Spanish. JFK had learned of his wife’s political appeal to Spanish speakers when her speeches charmed Mexico City during JFK’s successul trip there in June 1962.

While many observers said that strong support among Latinos helped President Obama win re-election, Ignacio Garcia, author of “Viva Kennedy: Mexican Americans in Search of Camelot” and a history professor at Brigham Young University, said “The Latino vote did not come of age the night Obama was re-elected. It came of age Nov. 21, 1963.”


1 thought on “When JFK wooed Latinos”

  1. This is from a post I made to usernet nearly 10 years ago…
    Joe Molina went to Crozier Tech High School, did time in the navy during WWII, came back, got married and went to business college. This lasted 5 months before he had to quit and get a job due to his wife becoming pregnant. The job he landed in was at the TSBD.

    Having at least a basic education, and landing a job that did not involve back-breaking work for $60.00 a month made Molina one of the luckier men of Mexican extraction at that time, in that place: Dallas Tx, February, 1947.

    The blatant injustices of the era (where, for instance, signs saying “no dogs, no Mexicans allowed” were commonly seen in shop fronts and public amenities), led Dr Hector Garcia to form the American GI Forum in 1948.

    From its beginnings in a tiny Corpus Christi school room, it soon spread nationwide.

    But it was an incident one year later that launched Garcia and his GI Forum into the national spotlight. That year, a Mexican-American war hero’s wife was refused the use of a funeral home to wake her deceased husband, Felix Longoria, in Three Rivers, Texas. Garcia interceded on her behalf and a media storm ensued. It wasn’t long before Garcia had Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson arranging for Longoria’s internment in Arlington.

    From then on Garcia had the ears of politicians, and the status among his people equal to that earned by Martin Luther King, Jr in the African-American community. Maybe most important though, was his burgeoning friendship with LBJ.

    In 1960, despite being labelled an agitator and receiving death threats, Garcia co-founded the Viva Kennedy Club in support of Kennedy’s presidential campaign. This effort helped him gain the reputation of “someone who understands delivery systems in this country”. In a nod to Garcia’s help in that narrowest of victories, Kennedy appointed him ambassador to a West Indies treaty-signing.

    Disillusionment with Kennedy among those Hispanics who had campaigned so successfully on his behalf however, soon set in. A few appointments here and there were seen as tokenism, and the relationship between Kennedy and the Hispanic community represented by Garcia stagnated.

    LBJ’s sudden ascension to the throne, however was seen as favorable.

    more here:

    If Kennedy met with Mexican-American Civil Rights groups during the Texas trip, it had the same purpose as the rest of the trip – mending relationships.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top