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Felix Longoria

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.

Private Felix 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 National Cemetery.

Cuando el cuerpo del soldado
llegó con sus familiares,
la mortuoria de su pueblo
le negó sus funerales.

Eso es discriminación
para el pobre ser humano;
ni siquiera en el panteón
admiten al mexicano.

Johnson siendo senador
por el estado de Texas,
se le ablandó el corazón
al escuchar nuestras quejas.

When the body of the soldier
arrived with his next-of-kin,
the mortuary in his town
denied him a funeral.

That is discrimination
against a poor human being;
not even in a cemetery
do they allow a Mexican.

Johnson being a senator
for the state of Texas,
felt his heart soften
when he heard our complaints.

Source: Manuel Peña, "Folksong and Social Change: Two Corridos as Interpretive Sources."
Aztlán (1982) 13: 13-42

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