Viva Kennedy
Mexican Americans In Search of Camelot
Presidential Studies - Mexican American Studies
6.125 x 9.25, 242 pp.
12 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 01/01/2000
Texas A&M Southwestern Studies
  cloth
Price:        $29.95 s

978-0-89096-917-5

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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2001 Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Award, presented by the Texas State Historical Association

Viva Kennedy

Mexican Americans In Search of Camelot

By Ignacio M. García

For a few brief months during the presidential campaign of 1960, Mexican Americans caught a glimpse of their own Camelot in the promise of John F. Kennedy. Grassroots "Viva Kennedy Clubs" sprang up not only in the southwestern United States but also across California and the upper Midwest to help elect the young Catholic standard bearer. The leaders of the Viva Kennedy Clubs were confident and hopeful that their participation in American democracy would mark the beginning of the end of discrimination, violence, and poverty in the barrio.

Although the dream of attaching their own Camelot to Kennedy’s ultimately ended in disappointment, these participatory efforts contributed to an identity-building process for Mexican Americans that led to greater emphasis on Americanization for some and to the more radical rhetoric of the Chicano Movement for others.

In Viva Kennedy, Ignacio M. García surveys the background, development, and evolution of the Viva Kennedy Clubs and their post-election incarnation as PASO, the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations. He argues that patriotic fervor of the 1940s and postwar economic expansion spurred middle-class Mexican Americans to strive for full inclusion in American society.

Ironically, those involved in the Viva Kennedy movement showed their militancy in fighting discrimination even as they upheld America’s conservative values. They believed that discrimination could be overcome through government actions that recognized their civil rights and through their own political participation.

García describes the post-election problems of the Viva Kennedy reformers, who first saw the Kennedy administration ignore its campaign promises to them and then encountered their own factional squabbles, chronic funding problems, and a growing unease among Anglo Americans wary of Mexican American political power.

Based on research and interviews with key leaders of the Viva Kennedy movement such as Ed Idar, Jr., Edward R. Roybal, and Albert Peña, Jr., this study unveils a portrait of a people in transition and provides a nuanced picture of twentieth-century Mexican American history.

Ignacio M. Garcia, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, is the author of several books and articles on Chicano politics. He has been a correspondent for the San Antonio Express-News and the Tucson Citizen, as well as editor of Nuestro magazine.

What Readers Are Saying:

“ . . . The author succeeds in providing us with a first-rate portrayal of that generation. . . . This is the first political study on this period of Mexican American history, and the book has no competitors . . . a unique and outstanding book. It is the author’s very clear explanation of the historical background, upbringing, ideological mindset, and pursued goals of these leaders that permits scholars to fill the gap in Tejano history between approximately 1960 and 1966. Kudos to the author.”--Arnold De Leon, Professor, Angelo State University

“ . . . The author succeeds in providing us with a first-rate portrayal of that generation. . . . This is the first political study on this period of Mexican American history, and the book has no competitors . . . a unique and outstanding book. It is the author’s very clear explanation of the historical background, upbringing, ideological mindset, and pursued goals of these leaders that permits scholars to fill the gap in Tejano history between approximately 1960 and 1966. Kudos to the author.” --Arnold De Leon, Professor, Angelo State University

“Ignacio Garcia has written a very detailed and scholarly study of the Kennedy era Mexican American Democrats, analyzing with great insight their psychological and political evolution during this crucial period in our nation’s history. This book joins a body of literature on contemporary Chicano political history and is of high quality. There are no competing book treatments of this period or subject. The real strength of the book is the author’s subtle and sensitive understanding of the personalities involved and the very scholarly attention he has given to documenting his statements. This is a very fine example of collective biography i.e., a portrait of a generation. The book challenges some prevailing assumptions and generalization and advances our knowledge of this period to a new level.” --Richard Griswold del Castillo, Chair, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studi

“. . . Garcia has provided the most cohesive and substantive study of the Viva Kennedy Club’s efforts to date.” --The Journal of Southern History

“Ignacio M. Garcia’s Viva Kennedy offers a vivid glimpse into one of the most interesting, and yet least understood, periods of Mexican American political history.” --The Journal of American History
“. . . Garcia breaks new ground by analyzing the establishments and political significance of hundreds of “Viva Kennedy” clubs that emerged among Mexican American and other Latino Democrats during the 1960 presidential campaign. The author is particularly effective in detailing the issues politically engaged Mexican Americans believed to be at stake in the 1960 campaign.” --The Journal of American History
“. . . book provides a provocative insight into the historical underpinnings of the larger debates that continue to drive Mexican American politics today.” --The Journal of American History

Viva Kennedy is important and provocative.” --Choice

“While the importance of these clubs has long been a part of Latino political lore, Ignacio Garcia fills in many blanks with a comprehensive portrait of the operation of Viva Kennedy! . . . provides an important first step in studying the structure of campaigns to win Mexican American and Latino votes and the tensions that these efforts create within Latino communities.” --Journal of American Ethnic History

“. . . the best in-depth survey of the opportunities and the challenges of an earlier generation of Mexican American men and women of the Viva Kennedy clubs.” --New Mexico Historical Review

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