Erasmo Wilivaldo Andrade, Mexican American educator and activist, son of Wilivaldo and María (Nieto) Andrade, was born on May 12, 1931, at his family’s ranch near Bruni, Texas. His siblings included José, Lupe, María, Paula, Eva, Oralia, Velia, Alicia, and Helen. He married Sally Virginia Jones of Fort Stockton, Texas, in 1971. This couple had two children, Marisa and Carlos Andrade.
Erasmo Andrade grew up in San Antonio and graduated from San Antonio Vocational and Technical School (now Fox Technical High School) in 1949. As a young man he competed in long-distance track and amateur boxing. In 1950 Andrade joined the U.S. Navy and served as a machinist’s mate during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953. After an honorable discharge, he attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 1957. He entered the San Antonio school district as a teacher at Cooper Middle School in 1958 and continued work towards a master’s in education at North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas). Andrade subsequently earned a Juris Doctor from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in 1977. Early in his career, Andrade also taught English as a second language (ESL) at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. His ESL teaching expanded as a civilian advisor to the Turkish Air War College and the Imperial Navy of Iran, where he taught for the U.S. Department of Defense for three years.
Andrade’s activism began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he started joining organizations representing groups throughout Central and South Texas, including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the American G.I. Forum (AGIF), the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASSO), Texans for the Educational Advancement of Mexican Americans (TEAMA), and Involvement of Mexican Americans in Gainful Endeavors (IMAGE). In addition, he served as executive director of the Federation for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (FAMA) from 1967 to 1970 and participated in the “War on Poverty” movement as a leading member of St. Phillip’s Community Progress in Action and the United Council for Civic Action. As a staff member of the Bishops' Committee for the Spanish Speaking, one of his major achievements was the organization of the Valley Farm Workers Assistance Committee. As chairman of this committee, Andrade supported and helped coordinate the Rio Grande Valley farm workers in the 1966 Starr County Strike. He was able to direct several food caravans to assist the farmworkers as they marched from Rio Grande City to Austin. The United Farm Workers marched for safe work conditions and a state minimum wage of $1.25. Andrade also helped fight for voter rights in the Winter Garden Region as a founding officer of the United Free Voter Registration Council in 1966. Additionally, he became the first director of federal programs for the Crystal City Independent School District. This was a significant role because there had been ongoing conflict between Anglos and Mexican Americans in the 1960s over access to local government positions and school administration in Crystal City, where Mexican Americans constituted 85 percent of the population but lacked representation in local government or school administration (seeCRYSTAL CITY REVOLTS). From 1971 to 1973 Andrade served as executive director of the newly-created Zavala County Mental Health Outreach Program. Under his leadership, this organization established a multi-service community center that delivered youth counseling, senior service, home service, and mental health service programs to the indigent population of the county. In 1972 Andrade co-founded the Zavala County Health Association, which acquired federal funds from the Office of Economic Opportunity to establish a full-service health clinic. While in Crystal City, he also served as a local spokesman for the Raza Unida Party (RUP) and co-chaired the RUP steering committee.
In 1973 Andrade and his family relocated to Austin, where he joined the staff of the Texas legislature's Joint Committee on Prison Reform. He resumed teaching economics, government, and history at Lanier and Austin high schools, and shortly after obtaining his Juris Doctorate in 1977, the Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) Department of Community Education appointed Andrade director of its Stimulating the Neighborhood Action Process (SNAP) program, which he led for five years. Among his accomplishments in this program, Andrade developed student conflict peer mediation teams and he assisted local high school students in their efforts to have a street renamed in honor of César Chávez. He also co-chaired the Austin ISD Tri-Ethnic Desegregation Community Committee and chaired the Austin Bilingual Education Parent Advisory Council. While in Austin, Andrade continued his participation in social service organizations, boards, and committees, where he advocated issues related to housing assistance, independent living for persons with disabilities, international development, children with mental health disabilities, and senior services. Andrade also rallied support for the relocation of the airport to the city's outskirts during the Move It! campaign, and in the 1980s he was chosen to serve on the city of Austin’s Art Commission. Andrade was a member of the Travis County Democratic Party Executive Committee and served many years as a precinct chair. He was also a member of Governor Ann Richard’s Inaugural Committee.
In 1993 Andrade relocated to El Paso, where he taught social studies at Riverside High School until 2002. He continued his dedication to public service in El Paso and served on the city's Civil Service Commission, Appraisal Review Board, Project Bravo board of directors, and advisory committee of the Rio Grande Area Agency on Aging. Andrade also organized and led several projects to bring Peruvian youth to El Paso through Partners of the Americas. He continued serving as an El Paso delegate at state and national conventions of the Texas State Teachers Association and the National Education Association. Additionally, Andrade continued serving as a Democratic precinct chair and election judge, and he coordinated the local campaign for John Kerry in 2004. At seventy-seven years old, he participated in the 2008 Texas Democratic Convention as an Obama delegate. He also remained involved in many other community organizations, including the St. Vincent de Paul Society, AARP, Mission Hills Association, Las Américas Immigration Advocacy Center, the American Legion, and several lay ministries at St. Pius X Catholic Church.
Andrade was a political office seeker throughout his career but was never elected to public office. He appeared on various ballots between 1966 and 1988 at the municipal, county, and state level, as either a liberal Democrat or member of the Raza Unida Party. These included runs for justice of the peace, state representative, and state senator. His last run for office was in 1988, when he unsuccessfully competed for the seat of Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 1.
After a short battle with cancer, Andrade passed away on Friday, March 30, 2012, and was buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso. In line with his dedicated activism, in lieu of flowers Andrade requested that memorial contributions be sent to two El Paso organizations: Las Américas Immigrant Advocacy Center and Hospice of El Paso.
Erasmo and Sally J. Andrade Papers, 1931–1994, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin. Armando Navarro, The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010). Austin American-Statesman, April 2, 2012. Del Rio News Herald, November 5, 1972. San Antonio Express and News, June 3, 1973.
Activism and Social Reform
Texas Post World War II
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