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MUJERES POR LA RAZA

MUJERES POR LA RAZA. Mujeres Por La Raza, the women's caucus within the Raza Unida Party, represented the merging of Chicano nationalism and Chicana feminism and advanced the political interests of Chicanas during the Chicano movement. Its development corresponded with the rise of the Chicana feminist movement in Texas. Women had belonged to the Raza Unida Party from its beginning at the county level with Ciudadanos Unidos in Zavala County in 1969. The group elected Luz Gutiérrez as its first Raza Unida county chair in January 1970. At the founding state convention in October 1971 in San Antonio, thirty-one of 104 attendees were women, and Evey Chapa helped write the party platform, which asserted the significance of La Mujer, La Familia, and equality for women. That the platform provided for a state executive committeewoman and for equal rights for women should probably be attributed to Chapa. Several women-in addition to the state committeewoman-held leadership positions at the Texas and national levels of the Raza Unida Party. Virginia Múzquiz, who ran for the Texas legislature in 1964, served as Raza Unida Party national chair from 1972 to 1974, and María Elena Martínez was the last Texas chair (1976–78). Nevertheless, sexism permeated the organization, and most of the Raza Unida Party's leaders and candidates were male. Even while women fought for inclusion in the party leadership, some men in Raza Unida considered women "groupies" or hangers-on. However, women in the Raza Unida Party believed that since local organizing efforts were carried out by women, they should assume leadership roles. Consequently, in 1973 women decided to form the Mujeres Por La Raza caucus to obtain leadership positions for women in the Raza Unida Party and to elect Chicanas to office. Raza Unida Party activist Ines Hernández Tovar has credited Ino Alvárez, Evey Chapa, and Marta Cotera as founders of Mujeres.

Mujeres largely organized through Conferencias de Mujeres Por La Raza Unida. They held conferences on August 4, 1973, in San Antonio; on September 19, 1973, in Corpus Christi; and on December 1, 1973, in Crystal City. The first conference referred to itself as "la primera conferencia politica/educativa de Chicanas Activas en el Movimiento Pro-Raza Unida en Tejas." The conference program was in Spanish. Organizers included Chelo Avila, Evey Chapa, and Irma Mireles (San Antonio); Marta Cotera (Crystal City); and Juana Bustamante y Luera (Laredo). Sessions included "State and Local Political Structure"; "How to Organize in Rural, Semi-Rural Communities"; and "How to Organize in Urban Areas." María L. de Hernández, an orator since the 1930s, facilitated one workshop. Attendees passed a resolution condemning the use of public funds for the Texas Ranger Hall of Fameqv. Apparently at the same event they also passed a resolution against "unwarranted acts of violence and death at the hands of law enforcement agents," a reference to the death of Santos Rodríguez, a Dallas youth killed by the police. On September 19, 1973, Mujeres sponsored a conference at Lorenzo De Zavala Elementary School in Corpus Christi to "help educate the Mexican American women in the local community and surrounding areas in religious, political, and educational involvement." Topics included "Consciousness and Women's Development"; women in education; community organizing; and how to run a campaign. Múzquiz, Zavala county chair at the time, was a speaker. Mujeres also organized in their own localities. They could be found in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Laredo, Corpus Christi, and the rural and semi-rural communities of Crystal City, Temple, and Mercedes. High school and university students were also involved. La Delegación de Mujeres del Colegio Jacinto Treviño presented resolutions in support of the Farah strike, the National Farm Workers Union, and the right to bear arms in self-defense.

Mujeres also battled racism and classism among Anglo women. They obtained the Texas Women's Political Caucus endorsement of Alma Canales, a Raza Unida Party candidate for lieutenant governor in 1972, but the TWPC failed to work for Canales's campaign. Consequently, at the December 29, 1973, Raza Unida convention, Mujeres voted unanimously to withdraw from the Texas Women's Political Caucus. And in solidarity with Chicanas in New Mexico, they also withdrew from the National Women's Political Caucus. Mujeres identified Raza Unida Party candidates and supported Chicana campaigns. In addition to Canales, statewide candidates included Marta Cotera in 1972 for State Board of Education (see TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY), and María Jiménez and Orelia Hisbrook Cole in 1974 for state representative. Cole ran on a platform of child care, equal justice, ecology, and a progressive corporate tax. The caucus also supported the campaigns of Chicanas and Chicanos for offices on school boards and at the city and county level. The efforts of Mujeres Por La Raza also led to more women becoming involved at the local level in organizing and participating in conferences and campaigns. Women ran local offices, worked on the petition to allow the Raza Unida Party on the ballot, and generally became more politically active and aware. The statewide Raza Unida Party headquarters and all dissemination of related information was run and operated by Evey Chapa. In 1975 "Mujeres Raza Unida," apparently still an informal group, held an organizational meeting in Austin "to organize a statewide mujeres caucus" within the Raza Unida Party. The caucus was still active in 1976; Angelita Mendoza of Austin served as state secretary. Apparently Mujeres declined when María Elena Martínez became Raza Unida Party state chair in 1976 and when the Raza Unida Party failed to win 2 percent of the vote for the governor's race in 1978. The state required this percentage for the Raza Unida Party to retain status as a party and to receive state funds for the primary. Mujeres Por La Raza died with the Raza Unida Party.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Ignacio M. Garcia, United We Win: The Rise and Fall of La Raza Unida Party (Tucson: University of Arizona Mexican American Studies Research Center, 1989). Raza Unida Party Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin.

Cynthia E. Orozco

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Cynthia E. Orozco, "MUJERES POR LA RAZA," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/vimgh), accessed October 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.