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VIVA KENNEDY-VIVA JOHNSON CLUBS

VIVA KENNEDY-VIVA JOHNSON CLUBS. Viva Kennedy-Viva Johnson clubs were originally partisan groups of Mexican Americans who supported the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency. The Viva Kennedy clubs constituted the first statewide partisan organization of Mexican Americans in Texas. In addition to the election of Kennedy and Johnson, voter registration and the organization of Hispanic voters were major concerns of the organizers. The clubs also served as a vehicle to ensure that Kennedy's campaign promises were fulfilled. Hispanics supported Kennedy because the Democratic national convention of 1960 endorsed civil rights, school desegregation, equal opportunity, fair housing, and voting rights. The platform included comprehensive legislation for migrant workers, the first such commitment by Democrats. Kennedy also promised to appoint a Mexican American to an ambassadorship in Latin America. Kennedy began courting the Hispanic vote in June 1959, when he sent a message of congratulations to the American G.I. Forum national convention in Los Angeles. In June 1960 he joined the Forum. His senatorial staff included Carlos McCormick, a Forum member. McCormick and Hector P. García, founder of the Forum, apparently conceived of the Viva Kennedy movement at the August 1960 Forum national convention. The chairman of the nationalities division of the Democratic National Committee named state chairmen of the Viva Kennedy movement, which was organized in nine states with large Spanish-speaking populations. McCormick served as national coordinator. Texas chairmen included state senator Henry B. Gonzalez, Bexar County commissioner Albert Peña Jr., and García. Many of the organizers were affiliated with the G.I. Forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Even before the movement was officially organized, Mexican-American leaders began campaigning for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket. In September 1960, John J. Herrera asked Woodrow Seales, cochairman of the Kennedy-Johnson campaign, to prepare a pamphlet featuring Kennedy and New Mexico senator Dennis Chávez, the only Mexican-American senator at the time, for distribution among Mexican Americans.

In Houston, the Civic Action Committee opened the first Viva Kennedy headquarters in Texas. Kennedy garnered 85 percent of the national Hispanic vote and 91 percent in Texas. Viva Kennedy literature depicted Kennedy riding a Mexican burro into the White House. Keeping his promise to Hispanic voters, Kennedy appointed Raymond Telles ambassador to Costa Rica, the first Hispanic appointed to an ambassadorship. The Viva Kennedy network also helped elect Gonzalez to Congress in 1962. Some Hispanics who had campaigned for the new president through the Viva Kennedy clubs were, however, disappointed that more Hispanics did not receive major appointments in the new administration. However, Mexican-American leaders realized the potential significance of a national partisan network of Mexican Americans working on behalf of their people. The clubs' success gave rise to the organization that became the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations.

Herrera attempted to revitalize the Viva Kennedy club movement in 1963. When he invited Kennedy to the LULAC State Director's Ball at the Rice Hotel in Houston on November 21, 1963, he informed the president that Viva Kennedy clubs existed in Houston, Corpus Christi, Dallas, San Antonio, Beaumont, Galveston, El Paso, and West and South Texas. Kennedy, who was in Houston for a testimonial dinner for a Harris County legislator, accepted the LULAC invitation over a thousand others. At the event, the Kennedys were serenaded by the Trío Internacional, who had composed a corrido for the occasion. When Lyndon B. Johnson ran for president in 1964, Viva Johnson clubs appeared. Johnson's presence as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1960 had likely helped gain the support of Texas Hispanics, whose support for a Johnson presidency could be counted upon in 1964. Past LULAC national president Oscar Laurel of Laredo served as state chairman of the Viva Johnson clubs. Clotilde García and Mrs. James De Anda headed the State Ladies Viva Johnson Club, which sought to encourage voting among Mexican-American women. Little else is known about the Johnson Clubs. The movement brought greater political participation among Mexican Americans, including increased voter registration, an increase in Mexican-American candidates, the election of Mexican-American officials, and the beginning of national electoral campaigns for the Hispanic vote.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Robert Cuellar, A Social and Political History of the Mexican American Population of Texas, 1929–1963 (San Francisco: R and E Research Associates, 1974). Juan Gomez-Quinones, Chicano Politics: Reality and Promise, 1940–1990 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990). Carlos Muñoz, Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Generation (New York: Verso, 1990).

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, "VIVA KENNEDY-VIVA JOHNSON CLUBS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/wcv01), accessed April 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.