Political Action

La Raza Unida Party Agenda – El Paso, TX 1972

Raza Unida 1971 Convention-1 copy

Raza Unida 1971 Convention

With the state party apparatus in place, RUP sought a candidate for the 1972 gubernatorial election, first calling upon such well-known Democrats as state senator Carlos Truán, Hector García (founder of the American G.I. Forumqv), and state senator Joe Bernal. But upon their refusal, the party finally found a candidate in Ramsey Muñiz, a lawyer and administrator with the Waco Model Cities Program. Alma Canales of Edinburg, who had been a farmworker and journalism student at Pan American University, became the RUP candidate for lieutenant governor, although at twenty-four she was too young to take the office constitutionally. Her presence on the RUP slate was considered a sign that women had a crucial role in the party. Although they seemed an unusual match, the two resembled many of the RUP rank and file, who were young and university educated.

In 1974, RUP was ready for another try at the governor’s race, with Muñiz once again its candidate. The party also ran a slate of fourteen men and two women for state representative from Lubbock, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Falfurrias, Crystal City, and other cities. As in the 1972 election, the RUP campaign literature emphasized the party’s Chicano foundation; but it also asserted a desire to “ensure democracy for [the] many, not the few” and the need to preserve “human and natural resources.” In addition, it called for the prosecution of industrial polluters. In his announcement for the governor’s race on January 16, 1974, Muñiz sought to maximize the party’s appeal to a broader spectrum of the state’s voters, stressing RUP’s ideas for new modes of transportation, improved funding of public education, better medical care, and solutions to urban problems. But RUP did not fare well in the 1974 general election. Muñiz got only 190,000 votes and posed no real threat to Briscoe’s reelection. In addition, none of the sixteen candidates for the state House garnered enough support to win.

Crystal City Elections

Crystal City Elections Poster

The party’s sole real victories were in Crystal City, where cofounder Gutiérrez was elected as Zavala county judge and the party successfully defended its dominance of other county offices. Nonetheless, by its numerous victories in South Texas, RUP had achieved Mexican-American political dominance in some cities and altered the state’s political life.

On a local level, Louis Zapata was elected in 1977 to serve as a City Councilman in Fort Worth – the first Mexicano to do so in the city’s history. Zapata served on the Fort Worth City Council for 14 years before losing in a re-election bid to Councilman Carlos Puente. Zapata’s 14 years of service is the longest such term in the history of the City of Fort Worth.


“No, and uh. Trying to make sure that we had a fair shake… You see North Main and you see the Stockyards… Those are things that I was pretty much involved in. Uh, we even had a big flood down here as a result of my doings because I ended up making them put curbs and gutters up the hill. So then the water all started coming down like it should down by the curb, so then by the time it got down here, man… [whooshing sound] The bottom down here was made of bricks and… Yeah, so… We cleaned up a lot of the old Northside bars where people were getting killed and all that. So we kinda cleaned all that up and uh…  We got a lot of money spent here that never was spent here before. I know Boyland turned around and says, “My accountant just looked up how much money has been spent out here.” He said 75% of money spent was spent in your district.” I says, “I don’t know. How did I miss that other 25%?”

Currently, Councilman Sal Espino is campaigning for re-election in District 2. His opponent in the election, Jim Lane, an Anglo, has also previously represented the district as well. Being that Espino is the only Mexicano currently serving Fort Worth’s City Council, this is an important moment in local politics for Fort Worth’s Northside. Polls open Saturday, May 11, 2013.


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