In 1948, an
incident occurred in Texas that became a defining symbol of the
discrimination that Mexican Americans faced and energized the
Mexican American struggle against second-class citizenship. The
episode was later commemorated in song.
Longoria of Three Rivers, Texas, had been killed in the Philippines
at the end of World War II. His remains were not recovered until
1948, and the director of Three Rivers’s funeral home refused
to allow Longoria memorial service in his chapel because “the
whites would not like it.” In Three Rivers, segregation
persisted even after death. The Mexican section of the local cemetery
was separated from the Anglo section by barbed wire.
A new Mexican
American civil rights organization, the American G.I. Forum, spoke
out, and convinced Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson to intervene.
Johnson arranged for Longoria’s body to be buried in Arlington