Old Viva Kennedy! campaign buttons of civil rights leader and G.I. Forum founder Dr. Hector P. Garcia

Old Viva Kennedy! campaign buttons of civil rights leader and G.I. Forum founder Dr. Hector P. Garcia

From civil rights to Selena

For most residents from bigger Texas cities, the South Texas city of Corpus Christi has always been a day-trip destination for a quick beach getaway. But often overlooked are the coastal city’s deep roots in Mexican-American history, some of it wrapped up in the civil rights movement.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For most residents from bigger Texas cities, the South Texas city of Corpus Christi has always been a day-trip destination for a quick beach getaway. But often overlooked are the coastal city’s deep roots in Mexican-American history, some of it wrapped up in the civil rights movement.

And while Corpus Christi doesn’t have a huge number of museums or landmarks connected to Latino history, visitors can find plenty of interesting things to see, from an exhibit about a physician and civil rights leader to a statue of the late Tejano star Selena.

Corpus Christi was formally founded in 1839 as a trading post, but it’s likely that shipwrecked Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca explored the city’s shores in the 1500s with African slave Estevanico.

The shipwrecked travellers became famed healers among American Indians, visiting the sick in villages throughout what is now Texas, which historians later characterized as an early example of a multiracial effort.

Little physical evidence of that voyage exists in the city today, but the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History offers an exhibit of artifacts from another excavated Spanish shipwreck which includes a section of the ship’s wooden keel and verso guns.

In more recent times, Corpus Christi served as the launching pad for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), once the largest Latino civil rights group in the nation.

Founded in 1929 by World War I veterans, the group served as a key player in some of the most dramatic moments in the Mexican-American civil rights movement.

The group helped raise money for a legal team led by San Antonio lawyer Gus Garcia and Houston attorney John J. Herrera to successfully take a case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 challenging a ban on Mexican-Americans serving on juries in some parts of Texas.

But there’s no tangible tribute to LULAC’s history in the city, other than an education centre and apartment complexes bearing the name.

“It really bothers me,” said Nick Adame, current president of LULAC Council No. 1, who is working to build a South Texas Civil Right Museum in Corpus Christi. “There are museums for everything else. We need to change that because this city was so important to the movement.”

There does exist, however, a nice exhibit to the late Dr. Hector P. Garcia at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The physician and civil rights leader founded the G.I. Forum and helped bring national attention to a funeral home in Three Rivers, Texas, that reportedly refused to offer chapel services for a Mexican-American World War II soldier killed in battle.

(A graduate student later argued that the funeral home owner didn’t want his chapel used not out of racism but because of a dispute between the widow and the soldier’s father-in-law, a story that at least three historians said has been proven false).

Garcia also played a role in organizing Mexican-American World War II veterans who raised money to pay for poll taxes and later led the Viva Kennedy Clubs in Texas to help elect John F. Kennedy to the presidency. Garcia also provided health care to thousands of poor Mexican-Americans, sometimes at his own expense.

The exhibit housed at the school’s Mary and Jeff Bell Library displays Viva Kennedy memorabilia, letters from various presidents and photos from the Mexican- American civil rights movement.

Also kept at the library are Garcia’s papers, which are popular among historians writing about the civil rights movement in Texas.

“Dr. Garcia kept everything,” said Grace Charles of the library’s Special Collections & Archives. “He left a trail that tells us a story of his time.”

In addition, every year in January on Garcia’s birthday, dozens of Latino veterans come to Seaside Memorial Park, where he is buried, to pay their respects.

But by far the most visited place in Seaside Memorial Park — and possibly all of Corpus Christi — is the resting place of slain Tejano singer Selena.

Born Selena Quintanilla Perez, the rising Mexican-American star was killed in March 1995 by a distraught fan. Her death at age 23 was mourned all over Texas and has brought thousands of visitors to her resting place, where many leave money, lipstick and flowers in her honour. Her slaying came just as the Tejano star was attempting to crossover into mainstream music with hopes of becoming the most popular Mexican-American singer of all time.

Not far from Selena’s resting place is a museum dedicated to the star. Operated by her family, the museum displays some of Selena’s dresses, her Porsche, and music memorabilia.

There’s also a Selena statue at the seawall where fans leave notes and take pictures. It’s as if they’re saying, “At least you will not be forgotten.”

Just Posted

Trains no longer blow leading up to the controlled crossing at 49th Avenue in Innisfail. (Photo contributed by the Town of Innisfail)
Innisfail says goodbye to train whistles

Whistles eliminated at four crossings

Red Deer College has been upgrading roofing, mechanical control systems, and lighting with $13 million in capital maintenance funding from the province. (Photo by Advocate staff)
$13 million in maintenance work underway at Red Deer College

Projects improve teaching, learning, and working spaces

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waits to take his seat at the EU-Canada Summit Monday June 14, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to visit Pfizer on final day of international pandemic trip, begin quarantine

WTO looks at making it easier for developing countries to import expertise, equipment and ingredients for vaccines

Houses under construction in Toronto on Friday, June 26, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CMHC says annual pace of housing starts rose 3.2 per cent in May compared with April

Starts for apartments, condos and other multiple-unit housing projects rose

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2013 file photo, customers leave an IKEA store in Plaisir, west of Paris. A French court has ordered home furnishings giant Ikea to pay more than $1.2 million in fines and damages Tuesday, June 15, 2021 over a campaign to spy on union representatives. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, FIle)
Ikea fined $1.3 million over spying campaign in France

Convicted of receiving personal data obtained through fraudulent means in a habitual way

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Opinion
Opinion: Governments should come together to collaborate paid sick leave in Canada

If we let our guard down, COVID-19 is highly transmissible and will… Continue reading

Finnish players celebrate with their fans after the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark, Saturday, June 12, 2021. Finland won 1-0. (Friedemann Vogel/Pool via AP)
Finland plays Russia with Euro 2020 knockout stage in reach

Finns played in their first ever game at a major soccer tournament

Scotland’s Allan Dell (1) is tackled by Canada’s Matt Heaton (7) and Lucas Rumball (6) during first half action of men’s international rugby in Edmonton, Alta., on June 9, 2018. Heaton, of Rugby ATL, Ben LeSage and Lucas Rumball, both of the Toronto Arrows, will co-captain Canada next month for rugby test matches in Wales and England. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canada names 30-man roster for July rugby internationals against Wales, England

July test marks the first games for Canadian men since October 2019 at the Rugby World Cup

Montreal’s Deanna Bowen, seen in an undated handout photo, has won the $50,000 annual Scotiabank Photography Award. Award organizers say Bowen’s family history has been a central part of her work since the early 1990s. She’s descended from Alabama and Kentucky-born Black Prairie pioneer families from the central Alberta communities of Amber Valley and Campsie. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Courtesy of the artist
Montreal’s Deanna Bowen wins $50,000 Scotiabank Photography Award

Bowen to receive solo exhibition at 2022 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

Treena Mielke
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) blocks a shot by Vegas Golden Knights left wing William Carrier (28) during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday in Las Vegas. (Photo by The Associated Press)
Canadiens take 4-1 loss to Vegas Golden Knights in Stanley Cup semifinal opener

Golden Knights 4 Canadiens 1 (Las Vegas leads series 1-0) LAS VEGAS… Continue reading

Philadelphia 76ers' coach Doc Rivers yells to his players during the first half of Game 4 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, June 14, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Young leads Hawks’ rally past Sixers with Embiid hurting

Hawks 103 76ers 100 ATLANTA — Trae Young overcame a cold start… Continue reading

Most Read