Raza Rising: Chicanos in North Texas by Richard J. Gonzales
In Raza Rising, Richard J. Gonzales beautifully weaves together years of research, his columns for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and more than four decades of dedicated community activism. The result is a panoramic portrait of a forgotten but hugely significant group, the Chicanos/as and Latinos/as of North Texas. Gonzales meticulously details the many challenges facing young Chicanos/as and their families in the schools and in the larger region, moving beyond a deficit-based approach (of what Chicanos/as themselves lack) to explore the roles of discrimination, white privilege, and the dangerous consequences of many Texans' lack of cultural competency. He makes a compelling case that the education of Mexican-origin people is important not only for them but also for all Texans and Americans as the state and nation become minority-majority places. The future, Gonzales argues, depends upon our country's ability to incorporate Chicanos/as as true equals in a new, multicultural America, to understand their contributions to the United States as a whole, [End Page 246] and simultaneously to appreciate the value of their distinct culture. The book's first two sections on education and culture also include passionate and informed discussions of bilingual schooling, innovative teaching, and the accomplishments of Chicanos/as in the arts, literary pursuits, and athletics. Perhaps most important, Gonzales recasts la familia (the family) as a source of strength for Chicanos/as rather than as a reservoir of macho domination.
Raza Rising also stays true to its title, examining the forgotten roots and present-day struggles of Chicanos/as in Texas, a story that spans from indigenous Mexico to recent Chicano/a heroes in the United States. The book's final two sections on history and politics provide readers with examples of the influence of Aztec, Maya, and Spanish/Mexican cultures on Texas and U.S. society, diving deeply, for example, into the history of the poinsettia plant. Another section narrates the story of a southwestern Thanksgiving that predated Plymouth Rock. Gonzales sheds light not only on the lives of household names such as farmworker leader César Chávez, but also introduces general audiences to lesser-known figures like Dolores Huerta (Chávez's top lieutenant), the betrayed Tejano revolutionary Juan Seguín, anti-poverty warrior and Chicano nationalist leader Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales of Denver (no relation to the author), La Raza Unida Party founder José Ángel Gutiérrez, and many others. Along the way, the author ably demonstrates that the Chicano movement opened space for present-day Latino/a political leaders and also helped to create a more inclusive, multicultural Texas. Finally, Gonzales highlights the 2005–06 immigrant rights struggle in North Texas as a key event in which Mexicanorigin residents were remaking the region in their image—thereby helping all residents of the area to gain the intercultural competency needed for future economic prosperity.
Throughout the text, Gonzales weaves in enthusiastic pleas for Chicanos/as to continue the process of uplifting themselves. At the same time, he is unflinching in his criticisms of those who diminish or erase the contributions or potential of his co-ethnics, including the acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns and much of Hollywood. For these reasons, and for recovering so much of the lost history and present of Chicanos/as in North Texas, Raza Rising represents a significant contribution to the scholarship and public discussions of the subject. While a more academic monograph remains to be written, Gonzales's text fills a significant gap in an entertaining, lively, and moving manner. It should be required reading for any Texan interested in the state's past and future. Indeed, Raza Rising reminds us gringos that it is past time to get to know and embrace this fast-growing community. Their future will also be our own. [End Page 247]