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Cold Anger

A Story of Faith and Power Politics

Mary Beth Rogers

Publication Year: 1990

"Cold Anger is an important book about the empowerment of working-class communities through church-based social activism. Such activism is certainly not new, but the conscious merger of community organizing tactics with religious beliefs may be. The organizing approach comes from Aul Alinsky and his Industrial Areas Foundations (IAF). . . . The book is structured around the political life of Ernesto Cortes, Jr., the lead IAF organizer who has earned recognition as one of the most powerful individuals in Texas (and who has been featured on Bill Moyers' "World of Ideas"). . . . Cortes fashioned a hard-ball Alinsky approach onto the natural organizing ground of church-based communities. The experiment began in San Antonio . . . and was successful in the transformation of San Antonio politics. Such dramatic success . . . led to similar efforts in Houston, Fort Worth, El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and New York, to mention only a few sites. Expansion beyond San Antonio meant organizing among Protestant churches, among African American and white, and among middle-class communities. In short, these organizing efforts have transcended the particularistic limits of religion, ethnicity, and class while maintaining a church base and sense of spiritual mission. . . . Rogers's clearly written book will be of great value to the scholar, student, and layperson interested in urban politics, ethnic relations, social movements, or church activism." Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Table of Contents

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pp. e

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pp. i-iv

As Mary Beth Rogers reminds us, when the magazine Texas Business published a list of the most powerful Texans a couple of years ago, it included H. Ross Perot and T. Boone Pickens, U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, and the then-Mayor of San Antonio, Henry Cisneros. It also listed Ernesto Cortes...

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pp. 1-10

Cold Anger is a story about a new kind of intervention in politics by working poor people who incorporate their religious values into a struggle for power and visibility. It is about women and men-like Ernesto Cortes, Jr.-who promote public and...

Part One

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pp. 11-64

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1. Moses and Paul: The World’s Greatest Organizers

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pp. 13-17

"Anybody remember Moses?" Ernesto Cortes Jr. asks a group of farmers and farm activists from 40 states who have come to Dallas to discuss their problems and hear Cortes speak at a Farm Crisis Workers Conference. 1 A few members of the...

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2. We Are Willing to Sacrifice

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pp. 19-22

Five hundred miles south of Dallas is La Meza, Texas. A desolate little stop on a back road, La Meza is a Rio Grande Valley colonia, a neighborhood of 65 Hispanic families, perhaps 400 people in all. It is just outside of Mercedes, which has a...

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3. We Need Power to Protect What We Value

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pp. 23-31

Charles "Lefty" Morris and I spot Ernie Cortes walking ahead of us into the Texas French Bread Bakery and Deli. We are going to meet him for a late lunch. Morris is a successful attorney and former president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association...

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4. You Feel Like Your Work Is a Ministry

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pp. 33-39

I drive for almost an hour through the suburbs and shopping centers in the rolling hills of northwest San Antonio before I find Mary and Jesse Moreno's home near the University of Texas Medical School. Jesse has worked for almost four years...

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5. The University of COPS

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pp. 41-46

The doors to the old elementary school on the grounds of the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish on the West Side of San Antonio are locked. Only the small red, white, and blue lapel button taped over a doorbell gives me any assurance that I am...

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6. Anger Gives You Energy

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pp. 47-54

"Pastor Sinnott, please leave the room and wait in the hall!" Edward T. Chambers, teacher, issues the command, and the Reverend Thomas Sinnott, student, follows it. Chambers, director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, is...

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7. The First Revolution Is Internal

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pp. 55-64

I wait for Sister Christine Stephens in the coffee shop at the Ramada Inn, one block from the State Capitol building. She is about 20 minutes late for our appointment, and when she finally arrives, it is only to pause long enough to apologize for the...

Part Two

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pp. 65-101

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8. The Black Hand Over San Antonio

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pp. 67-78

It is two weeks before the May Democratic Primary election. University of Texas graduate student Ernesto Cortes has recruited his aunts and neighbors to join him and other college students to stuff envelopes and go door-to-door for a Mexican-American...

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9. Tactics Is the Art of Taking

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pp. 79-92

Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago has pulled out all the stops to turn out a huge Democratic vote for Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in the November presidential election. He has lined up most of the city's black organizations to cooperate in...

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10. When People Act on the Gospel Values

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pp. 93-101

When Ernie Cortes came to the Industrial Areas Foundation Training Institute in 1971, Saul Alinsky was conspicuous by his absence. Edward Chambers was fully in charge, struggling to build a program to attract and train professional organizers...

Part Three

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pp. 103-154

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11. Leave Them Alone. They’re Mexicans.

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pp. 105-126

Father Edmundo Rodriguez was one of those activist priests who seemed to be everywhere. 1 For him, there was no shortage of good causes-civil rights, bilingual education, police brutality, welfare rights. A Jesuit, he once in the 1960s organized an...

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12. A Theology That Does Not Stop

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pp. 127-142

Sister Maribeth Larkin has only a small role to play today at city hall when members of a new East Los Angeles community group make their presentation to the city council. All she has to do is to translate from Spanish to English the words of the local...

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13. We Are Not an Illusion of the Moment

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pp. 143-154

Houston, Texas, is a city true to its past. It grew out of a land development scheme in a hot, humid, mosquito-infested marsh in 1836 when two imaginative entrepreneurs- J.K. and A.C. Allen-persuaded Texas hero Sam...

Part Four

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pp. 155-192

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14. Is COPS Coming to Your Neighborhood?

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pp. 157-170

Texas Lieutenant Governor William P. Hobby Jr. and I share a cab to La Guardia Airport on a crisp fall afternoon. It is one of those interminable rides out of Manhattan, with the mix of high speed, quick stops, and long waits that sends most Texans...

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15. We Are the Only Alternative

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pp. 171-182

"Most people have come into our communities to destroy them ... the Klan ... the dope dealers ... the developers .... The people have looked to their ministers to defend and protect them."1 The speaker is the Reverend Nehemiah Davis, the...

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16. There Is No Substitute for the Fire

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pp. 183-192

Ernie Cortes and I join Ernie's wife Oralia and several of his Texas organizers in the bar of the Ramada Inn on the south bank of the Colorado River. The hotel is old, rather shabby, and off the beaten track for the legislators and lobbyists who...

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pp. 193-199

Ernesto Cortes values politics. So do I. It is one of the magnets that drew me through life, as well as to the pursuit of this story. But Cortes has moved the practice of politics to a plane higher than that on which our most experienced and powerful...

Chapter Notes

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pp. 201-211


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pp. 213-222

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414363
Print-ISBN-13: 9780929398136

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 1990

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Cortes, Ernesto.
  • Hispanic Americans -- Texas -- Politics and government.
  • Texas -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • Hispanic Americans -- Politics and government.
  • Community organization -- United States.
  • Community organization -- Texas.
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