American G.I. Forum

Western Union telegram from Lyndon B. Johnson to Dr. Hector Garcia arranging funeral arrangements for Felix Longoria.

Western Union telegram from Lydon B. Johnson to Dr. Hector P. Garcia arranging burial for Felix Longoria. Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 5, Box 47. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Resolution Letter from American Legion Post# 121 showing their support in the mistreatment of the late Felix Longoria.

Resolution Letter from American Legion Post# 121 showing support against the mistreatment of the late Felix Longoria.

By: Hexiquio (Zeke) Rodriguez Jr.

The American GI forum was a group started by Dr. Hector P. Garcia in March 26, 1948.  This was a start towards the Mexican-American civil rights and the Chicano movement.  This started after World War II in which many Mexican Americans had enlisted and fought in this conflict.  It was when returning back home from duty that Hispanics were being treated wrongfully and not able to receive their GI benefits that they were entitled to for their service.  It was the creation of the American GI Forum that created a revolutionary movement obtaining civil rights for Mexican Americans.  If not for the American GI Forum the Mexican-Americans would not have received their GI Benefits and Mexican-Americans would not have received the medical care, burial rights, schooling, and other civil rights they were denied.

The American GI Forum was created by Dr. Hector P. Garcia because of the discrimination in South Texas towards the Mexican-American with employment, education, and Veteran hospital treatment.  Most of the discrimination was towards Hispanics, but the American GI Forum was focused on the Mexican-American veteran.  In Dr. Hector P. Garcia's first meeting as the American G.I. Forum he made it clear that they were an advocacy towards veteran rights.[1]  Even though the American GI Forum was focused to the Hispanic veteran, this was a start in Hispanic rights in America.  He received many awards for his service during WWII and achieved the rank of Major.[2]   As a veteran himself, Dr. Garcia knew first hand of what Mexican Americans had experienced and achieved overseas.  It was his service and knowledge of those whom served that he led to bring rights that were being denied to.  For instance, Dr. Garica had asked a nurse to move a Hispanic veteran patient to the Anglo ward and would not authorization from the hospital administrator.[3]  Which he pressed forward with and got the administrator to end segregated wards at Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi.  It was incidents like this that lead him to create the American GI Forum.

 It was the American GI Forum that created a pivotal point in rights to Hispanics, when a veteran, Felix Longoria, body was recovered and refused burial in Three Rivers, TX. Were Dr. Hector P. Garcia applied his own technique of activism where he did not put down the Anglo people but bring the wrongfully discrimination of Mexican Americans to the public eye.[4]  This discrimination of Hispanics reached the nation and to other Hispanics being treated wrongfully, and became a spearhead of the rights of Mexican Americans.  Even American Legion Post 121 out of Waco, TX. Sent a resolution letter to Dr. Garcia appalled by the treatment of Felix Longoria.[5] With this letter they apologized of the Un-American treatment and “hang their heads in shame” and sent this letter to Congress, Texas Legislative, and to the Governor that Three Rivers honor the burial of Felix Longoria.  With this injustice gaining attention amongst the nation, Lyndon B. Johnson even acknowledge the prejudice of this event in a Western Union Letter.[6]  In which he tells the American GI Forum that he made arrangements for Felix Longoria to be buried in Arlington Cemetery with full military honors at no cost to the family.  This was first big win for the American GI Forum and their precedence acknowledged amongst the nation.

The American GI Forum with the win of the Felix Longoria incident created them to be a force to be reckoned with.  With the help of Felix Longoria and the American GI Forum, this created a driving force in the Chicano movement.  With the nation recognizing the discrimination of Hispanic veterans, the discrimination toward Hispanics in general had to be dealt with accordingly.  With the help of the American GI Forum and Dr. Hector P. Garcia letters of education, jobs, election, and voting were acknowledged and led to the fair treatment of Hispanics.[7]  Such as helping to create a Veterans Hospital in South Texas, a vocational and education program at A&I Kingsville(TAMUK) and creating a better facility for Mexican Americans in Labor Camps in Mathis, Texas.[8]  With Hispanics being acknowledged amongst the nation they were finally given the same rights as those of the Anglo race making them equal.

[1] Rosales S. Fighting the Peace at Home: Mexican American Veterans and the 1944 GI Bill of Rights. Pacific Historical Review [serial online]. November 2011; 80(4):597-627. Available from: America: History & Life, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 20, 2018.

[2] Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 3, Box 44. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

[3] Carroll, Patrick J. Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2003.

[4] Carroll, Patrick J. Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2003.

[5] Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 5, Box 47. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

[6] Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 5, Box 47. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 5, Box 47. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

[7] Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 6, Box 54. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

[8] Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 6, Box 54. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Bibliography 

Rosales S. Fighting the Peace at Home: Mexican American Veterans and the 1944 GI Bill of Rights. Pacific Historical Review [serial online]. November 2011; 80(4):597-627. Available from: America: History & Life, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 20, 2018.

 Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 3, Box 44. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Carroll, Patrick J. Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2003.

Carroll, Patrick J. Felix Longoria's Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2003.

Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 5, Box 47. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 5, Box 47. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 5, Box 47. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 6, Box 54. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Collection 6, Box 54. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

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