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Felix Longoria's Wake

Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism

By Patrick Carroll

Publication Year: 2003

Private First Class Felix Longoria earned a Bronze Service Star, a Purple Heart, a Good Conduct Medal, and a Combat Infantryman’s badge for service in the Philippines during World War II. Yet the only funeral parlor in his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas, refused to hold a wake for the slain soldier because "the whites would not like it." Almost overnight, this act of discrimination became a defining moment in the rise of Mexican American activism. It launched Dr. Héctor P. García and his newly formed American G.I. Forum into the vanguard of the Mexican civil rights movement, while simultaneously endangering and advancing the career of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who arranged for Longoria’s burial with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. In this book, Patrick Carroll provides the first fully researched account of the Longoria controversy and its far-reaching consequences. Drawing on extensive documentary evidence and interviews with many key figures, including Dr. García and Mrs. Longoria, Carroll convincingly explains why the Longoria incident, though less severe than other acts of discrimination against Mexican Americans, ignited the activism of a whole range of interest groups from Argentina to Minneapolis. By putting Longoria’s wake in a national and international context, he also clarifies why it became such a flash point for conflicting understandings of bereavement, nationalism, reason, and emotion between two powerful cultures—Mexicanidad and Americanism.

Published by: University of Texas Press

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. ix-x

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FOREWORD

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pp. xi-xiii

AT THIS WRITING THE United States is making preparations for a military intervention in the Middle East intended to defend our post-9/11 country against "weapons of mass destruction." History-and these days "history" happens quickly-will ultimately judge the moral and material merits of the impending assault on Iraq. But when it does happen, for better or worse, we can be very sure that the Mexican ...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xv-xviii

THIS TELLING OF THE CONTROVERSY surrounding Felix Longoria's wake was a group effort. Others have contributed significantly along the way. I am merely the person to complete the project. Dr. Frederick A. Cervantes, one of the best friends I have ever had, agreed to write this account in 1984, in return for Dr. Héctor P. García's donation of his personal papers to Corpus Christi State University, now Texas A&M ...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-13

AS A GENERAL RULE death brings oblivion, an end to the joy and pain of living, a cessation of facing tedium and danger intermixed with contemplation and pleasure. Not so with the story that follows. Felix Longoria was killed by a Japanese sniper on the Philippine island of Luzon, and if his body had never been brought home to Three Rivers, Texas, in the southern part of the state, he would have been an object of grief for a generation or two, and then generally forgotten.1 And Dr. Héctor García of nearby Corpus Christi, who never knew Longoria ...

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Chapter One: Only in South Texas: Working and Educational Condditions in the Nueces Strip

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pp. 14-53

THE LONGORIA INCIDENT did not occur in a vacuum. It was the product of a particular setting in time and place. The controversy centered at two levels, the broader of which was the "Nueces Strip and South Texas." The Strip was the historically disputed land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande that precipitated ...

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Chapter Two: The Incident

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pp. 54-85

BY THE SUMMER OF 1945, the fourth year of the war in the Pacific, most Americans believed in inevitable victory over the Japanese. As American confidence peaked, military leaders cautiously predicted a more prolonged conflict. Still, American victories on Okinawa and Iwo Jima ...

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Chapter Three: The Principal Actors in the Drama

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pp. 86-112

IN ORDER TO BETTER UNDERSTAND what set the Longoria affair apart from so many other examples of discrimination in postwar South Texas, we must start with the individuals involved. This drama began with three actors-Felix Longoria, Beatrice Moreno Longoria, and Thomas W. Kennedy, Jr. By all accounts, their circles ...

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Chapter Four: Mobilization of Nueces Basin Mexican and Anglo Towns

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pp. 113-146

ORDER TO BETTER UNDERSTAND what set the Longoria affair apart from so many other examples of discrimination in postwar South Texas, we must start with the individuals involved. This drama began with three actors-Felix Longoria, Beatrice Moreno Longoria, and Thomas W. Kennedy, Jr. By all accounts, their circles ...

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Chapter Five: State, National, and International Politics

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pp. 147-177

THE LONGORIA DISPUTE came at a propitious time for Mexican American civil rights activists. The Anglo political culture which had so effectively disempowered Tejanos within the Nueces Strip over the previous century had fallen into disarray due to the development of sharp ...

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Chapter Six: The Burial

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pp. 195-194

IN THE END there was no wake for Felix Longoria. The decision to lay the young soldier to rest in Arlington National Cemetery made the ceremony impractical. Beatrice and Dr. García would have had to arrange it in Washington, D.C., and that was just not possible. Few of Felix's relatives and friends ...

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CONCLUSION

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pp. 195-214

WHY DID THE LONGORIA INCIDENT attract so much national and international attention? There seemed no end to the number of egregious inequalities in the climate of relations between Anglos and Tejanos in South Texas after World War II. Dr. García's inspection of labor camps and school conditions in the spring of 1948 certainly demonstrated this ...

NOTES

Introduction

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pp. 215-216

Chapter 1: Only in South Texas

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pp. 216-221

Chapter 2: The Incident

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pp. 221-231

Chapter 3: The Principal Actors in the Drama

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pp. 231-236

Chapter 4: Mobilization of Nueces Basin Mexican and Anglo Towns

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pp. 236-242

Chapter 5: State, National, and International Politics

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pp. 242-248

Chapter 6: The Burial

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pp. 248-251

Conclusion

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pp. 251-252

WORKS CITED

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pp. 253-261

INDEX

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pp. 263-270


E-ISBN-13: 9780292798595
E-ISBN-10: 0292798598
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292712461
Print-ISBN-10: 0292712464

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 25 b&w illus., 2 tables
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: CMAS History, Culture, and Society Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Texas -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexican Americans -- Texas -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Longoria, Felix -- Death and burial.
  • Texas -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
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