Interview – Dr. Tatcho Mindiola, professor, author, activist

Date of Interview: October 25, 2020
Interviewed By: Chuy Ramriez
Posted: September 21, 2021

Dr. Tatcho Mindiola, author, formerly of the University of Houston, discusses the early efforts to establish Mexican American studies at the University of Houston during the 1970s (see also book review, Race Talk in a Mexican Cantina).  As many others similarly situated, Tatcho Mindiola took great risks which could have affected his professional career.  As an aside, the University of Texas at Austin just announced that Hispanic enrollment at the University exceeded 25%.

CHUY:  So, today is October 25, 2020. We’ve got Tatcho Mindiola here in Houston at Eric’s Café at the Hilton, at the University. So, what I had said was that I wanted to determine how you would answer if your grandkids or mine were to come up and pose to you these questions. How would you begin to address that? That is, what was the motivation for the creation of Mexican American Studies or Chicano Studies, Latino Studies? What motivated that generation of scholars to advocate for that and what has resulted from that? Where are these programs now?

TATCHO:  Well, I think the impetus for the program, of course, came out of the 1960s. Racial consciousness was part of the Black Power movement, civil rights movement of the1960s to get Blacks more integrated into our society, voting, housing and so forth and so on. The Viet Nam War played a significant role in sparking protest. The 1960s was an era of protest and we were part of that group. Cesar Chavez in California, Reyes Tijerina in New Mexico, Corky Gonzalez in Colorado, and Jose Angel Gutierrez  in Texas. Those are the Four Horsemen, sort of speaking. I know it was conscious-raising—very much an identity movement for us. I remember the debate here on campus about, “What do we call ourselves? And there was a debate over, “I don’t want to be a hyphenated Mexican-American. That kind of thing.

CHUY:  Let me follow up on that because I think you said two things—very important—here at the get-go—and one was the identity.

TATCHO:   Yes.

CHUY:  Why was identity—what were the circumstances under which all of a sudden Mexicanos were wanting to identify themselves or re-identify themselves or affirm themselves?

TATCHO:  Well, I think identity has been an issue in the United States in English. If you asked someone in Spanish, you ask us, “¿Qué eres?” “Pos yo soy Mexicano.”  You and I know without equivocation. It’s only when you have to answer that same question in English that causes the negativity associated with the noun “Mexican”. So, you look back at that history, for example, the first organization, The League of United Latin American Citizens

(LULAC), a civil rights organization. And if you read their documents, they deliberately avoided the term Mexican American because of the negativity in English. And then, their association—they wanted to break the association with Mexico—make sure they were seen as U. S. citizens, speaking English and all that emphasis on good Americans.[1] And we had to emphasize patriotism. That we were proud Latin Americans. My dad told me that when we were kids. “If you’re Latin American, don’t let anyone push you around and so forth and so on.” But when I was out on the streets nobody said, “Hey, you damned Latin American. They said, “You damned Meskin.”  You know?

CHUY: (Laughter) Unintelligible.

TATCHO:  So, identity. We’re Latin Americans. By the time the 1950s hit, I mean ‘60s hit, identity is an issue. Blacks went through it: Negro, African American, Afro American, Black. If you read their literature, “I don’t want to be called “Black”, and so forth and so on. We had the same issues—ethnic issues in an English-speaking white dominated world. So then, the word “Chicano” surfaces. When they joined the movement, people did not want to be called Mexican American. They liked the term “Chicano” for several reasons. It was indigenous to the group, right?

CHUY:  Um-hmm.

TATCHO:  And two, it gave us a clear definition, but it was a term—nobody knows where the term came from. I did some research one time. I discovered that there was a small town around some Mayan ruin in Mexico called “Chicana”. So that’s a possibility. Another is that the state of Michoacan has a long history of sending immigrants to the U. S. and that they were known as “Michoacanos” and that over time it got shortened to “Chicanos”. I don’t know where the truth lies, but the point is there is no equivocation that the term is indigenous to us. However, it has lower-class association.

TATCHO:  Development Center of Mexican American Chicano Studies rose out of that. I think that is one of the lasting contributions of the Movement. We have Mexican American and  Chicano Studies all over the United States now. That was one of the accomplishments. We all had struggles doing it, but we are well integrated into the institutions of higher education in California, in New Mexico, in Texas, even in Michigan, so forth and so on, we have these academic programs. The one here in Houston, we started in 1972. The one at Texas University, I think in 1970. The oldest one is in California, I think…they’re actually Chicano Studies.

CHUY:  Um-hmm.

TATCHO:  I think in 1969 they established the first academic journal that dealt with our  issues—Aztlan.  So Aztlan, again, is another movement term. We were from Aztlan. Well, what the hell is Aztlan? I don’t even know where we learned the theory that Aztlan was a mythical homeland of the Aztecs. They came from somewhere in the Southwest.

CHUY:  Um-hmm.

TATCHO:  So, we adopted that term. So, you have Aztlan, the journal, and you have some other  really nice journals. The Hispanic journal…what is it? The one that publishes all that stuff on psychology. It’s a very excellent journal. So, in other words, we look thirty, forty years later, all these institutions up and down California which has the most. In Texas, I think the University of Texas probably has the best one—it’s superb. We’re up there. We’re a B+, an A- kind of program. El Paso has a great program. I don’t know much about the one in the Rio Grande Valley. Dallas has a program. So, there are many of these programs now. They’re twenty-five, thirty years old.

CHUY:  Yeah.

TATCHO:  They’re institutionalized. And we’ve institutionalized our courses. Now, it’s like everthing in academia. We have good history departments, we have great history departments, we have mediocre ones. You find the same thing in Chicano Studies. Funding was a big issue. When they initially set up the program here, it was just to satisfy The Man.

CHUY:  Let me ask you this while you’re munching. Identity seems to me, the way you describe it…the search for identity or the affirmation of an identity, of chosen…self-chosen or self-designated identity…seems to have been a critical phase of the movement.

TATCHO:  No doubt about it.

CHUY:   And was it a necessary step? Was it necessary for everything that has followed,  including in academia? And this is what I mean by that. You know, in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, at the first rung are the primordial needs—feeding yourself. And at the highest level of the hierarchy is self-actualization. In the 1960s, with the Chicano Movement, there was such a focus for identity, finding roots for the Aztecs and Aztlan and so forth. Was that a necessary phase that Mexicanos or college students had to go through?

TATCHO:  Well, yes, I think it was necessary, but I think more, it was inevitable.

CHUY:  Okay, good point. How is that?

TATCHO:  Well, your in-group, out-group differences are world-wide and as old as history. And everybody prefers their own group. I prefer my group to your group. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you. Okay? We’re no different from that.

CHUY:  And so, Mexicanos in Texas and elsewhere in the Southwest in the ‘60s…they were already identified, but you said it was kind of a negative connotation.

TATCHO:  We were searching for an identity separate from the English…not from England. We are Hispanic. Do you follow me?

CHUY:  Um-hmm.

TATCHO:  And I don’t know what Hispanics means or where it comes from. But it’s been adopted by the middle class. They love it. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Houston.

CHUY:  Right.

TATCHO:  Probably one of the most successful organizations in Houston right now—The Hispanic Chamber. There’s another organization here—The Institute of Hispanic Culture. And every year, they have this big banquet where some of the outstanding middle-class, upper-class Mexicanos here in Houston represent various countries and they come dressed in traditional costumes. Some will come dressed as…

CHUY:  Venezolanos.

TATCHO:   Yeah, and from Spain and from all these countries. Then at the end, someone is crowned the King and Queen and they represent Spain. I mean, it’s the most…

CHUY:   Like colonial…it’s almost colonial.

TATCHO:  The point is that it’s a celebration of the Hispanic culture.

CHUY:  It’s still very ambiguous, then.

TATCHO:  Well, of course. When a white man…I’ll say this and then I’ll add a quote. White folks don’t say, “You damned Hispanic.” Except that kid who went to El Paso and shot all those people. He apparently left a note that he wanted to kill the “Hispanic scum” or something like that. I thought, “That’s interesting.”

CHUY:  It’s a modern…

TATCHO:  Right, right.

CHUY:  It’s modern connotation… interesting. I had not thought of that.

TATCHO:  It hit me right away. He’s calling us Hispanic. He’s mad at us. He’s going over to kill us, but he’s calling us Hispanic. Damn, every time I hear the word Hispanic, I want to get on a horse and feel like I’m a knight or something. (Laughter) Anyway, identity issues… okay. Now, the most recent one is LatinX. Okay? Have you ever…?  And this is what I’m getting at.

CHUY:  I’m somewhat familiar with that.

TATCHO:   Yeah, and have you ever seen this Chicano slash a, or Chicana and the a’s got a circle?

CHUY:  What does that tell you?

TATCHO:  It’s telling me that they’re trying to find a gender-neutral term and that the Spanish language with its masculine “Chicano”…

CHUY:  …is insufficient for them.

TATCHO:  Right. Right. Now, but it’s interesting. I don’t know if Mexicano is masculine gender only because you can say “American”. That’s everybody. There are a lot of Mexicans in Mexico. So, I don’t know. It’s avoiding of the term “Mexican”. I used to raise these issues in my class. The Los Angeles Times, which had one of the largest numbers of Hispanic readers was consistently being criticized when they would not identify which group was doing whatever crime or whatever thing they were reporting on. It was always Hispanic, Hispanic, Hispanic. So, they eventually stopped. They didn’t stop using the term, but if there was a group of Salvadorans committing gang violence, that’s what they’d say.

CHUY:  Sure.

TATCHO:  They would say Salvadoran gangs. They would not say, “It’s Hispanic gangs.” They would use the general term—it was either Latino or Hispanic. The general term when they were using “the growth of the …,” They would say, “These people who have this common language, another ancestry, are growing” and that kind of stuff.

CHUY: In some ways, I was trying to remember when I first heard the term Hispanic. It always has to do, in my mind, with some kind of marketing or messaging and it usually does not come from us. It usually comes from the business sector or from politicians. So, for instance, you know, I was talking earlier before we began recording, about the President Carter years and one of the things that happened around that period of time was the Mexican American Democrats. You know, ironically, there were never any Mexican American Democrats until there was a Raza Unida Party. It kind of forced somebody to come up with the Mexican American Democrats. But, as soon as Carter won, now there was pressure to be more inclusive. And rather than having Puerto Rican organizations and so forth, they wanted everybody within one realm. So now, the pressure was, “Well, we can’t be Mexican American Democrats anymore. We have to be Hispanic American Democrats.” And the joke was, you know, “We’ve been HAD.” We were MAD and now we’ve been HAD, right? But I think Hispanic has become the term. Now, to what extent do you suspect that the term “Hispanic” is now playing the same function that the word “Latin” was playing in the early LULAC years? That there is an intent to distinguish yourself, still, from a particular country or from México. That kind of makes it more palatable.

TATCHO:  Well, I haven’t heard Trump use the term “Hispanic”.

CHUY:  He has not?


CHUY:   He calls everybody a “Mexican”.

TATCHO:  Right.

CHUY:  Interesting.

TATCHO:  I haven’t heard him use that term, you know. Ah, I don’t know. When people ask me what I am, I say, “I’m a Mexican.” “Oh, you’re from Mexico?” “No, you figure it out.”

CHUY:  Yeah.

TATCHO:  But that’s what I hear a lot. “Well, we’re not from Mexico.”  When we used to talk about identity in my class, we used to talk about race because the Census Bureau always reports a significant number of Mexican Americans mark the “White” race box. There was a study—I can’t remember the woman’s name. She had the Census run a special sample of all the Southwestern states of how many people marked they were “White”. Sixty-five percent in Texas said they were white. That’s b—sh–. Okay, they’re saying they’re “White”. So, that’s a whole other issue because we range in complexion, right?

CHUY:  Well, yeah!

TATCHO:  And so, I had one woman in the class I thought was very perceptive. We argued, “We’re White. No, we’re not White.” And, she says, “Look at my skin. I’m fair and a lot of people think I’m White, but I know I’m not.” And she was bilingual, fluent and all of that—involved in the Movimiento.  She said, “I consider myself white, but not White like the Anglos.”

CHUY:  So, she made that nuanced distinction.

TATCHO:  Yeah. So, I thought, “Okay, okay.”

CHUY:  Well, you know. I think it was up til about 1950 or maybe even later, in the Census, there was no Brown, there was no—we were “Spanish-speaking Whites”.

TATCHO:  There’s questions they would ask you. Are you Hispanic? And the second question is, “What kind.” You can mark “Mexican” and so forth. And then there’s a race question so you can get tabulations; how many people said they were Mexicans?

CHUY:  How they self-identify. Yeah, yeah.

TATCHO:  And some do. You’re a very fair color. You can easily be Italian; you could be Greek.

CHUY:  Sure.

TATCHO:  We’re like that, but most of our people, say over fifty percent, maybe as high as seventy percent are shades of brown.

CHUY:  Well, my wife is fifty percent indigenous, Mexicana. I think I’m up there in the thirties indigenous. But there was no difference in the way they treated us—the public schools, okay?

TATCHO:  Well, your name comes into play too.

CHUY:  Absolutely. So, going back to (Chicano) identity. Was that also a way to try to put an end to or to try and unify Mexicanos to a point that would be stating, “This is what we are, by golly. Accept it, build on it. It’s something we can generate a movement on. Something that we can use to socialize and empower?”

TATCHO:  Well, I think, Chuy, you know, that there are Mexican American studies. There are more programs called Mexican American Studies than are called Chicano Studies.

CHUY:  Right.

TATCHO:  There’s a couple in California called La Raza Studies. They’re a little bit more confident apparently. We have a very diverse raza group out there, you know.

CHUY:  Sure, sure.

TATCHO:  And there are some Hispanic Studies programs which take somewhat more of a broader view. So, I guess the issues remain, you know, the group issues remain. Again, it’s “in- group”, “out-group”. What do we call ourselves? You know, you’re born in the U.S. You go to these schools. By the time you’re out of high school, you’re well assimilated.

CHUY:  Take us back to that era. You begin college, Doc, what year?

TATCHO:  ’62.

CHUY:  ’62. Okay, you were in college or maybe—I guess you probably were in graduate school or whatever. But that’s when this so-called movement began.

TATCHO:  It was a great time to be on campus. (Laughter)

CHUY:  Yeah, exactly.

TATCHO:  That’s the Student Center (pointing across the street).

CHUY:  Right here. Wow.

TATCHO:  Let me tell you something. Every Wednesday they used to put—it wasn’t as fancy as it is now—here in the front it was more open. Every Wednesday, they’d put a mike—this is in the ‘60s—called “Sound Off”. Anybody could go up there and take that mike and sound off. And there was a lot of sounding off. Viet Nam was dominating the day. But Black power—oh, s—t. Talk about a phrase to scare White people—Black power. They did not know what it meant, but they knew it couldn’t be good for them. So, all this was going on. After a while, people kind of got tired of it. Well, one day a young kid went up there and started ranting and raving about the Bible and he says, “Next Wednesday, I’m going to come up here and I’m going to burn the Bible.” So, he drew a pretty big crowd. And he showed up with a Bible and he tried to burn it. The police were there with fire hoses—not fire hoses, fire extinguishers. Put it out, went home.

A couple of weeks later—and that was the biggest crowd I had ever seen at that time. A couple of weeks later, three young ladies started ranting and raving about male chauvinism and they said that the following Wednesday, they were going to burn their bras. God d–n crowd was three times as big. (Laughter) That was such a great time to be on campus. So great, huge crowd and they showed up carrying bras. I remember those days. There were a lot of protests on campus. It was just so, you know.

CHUY:  So, your generation of MexicanosI’ve developed a narrative that I want to bounce off of you. And I interviewed Alberto Luera here, the second interview yesterday.

TATCHO:  How’s he doing?

CHUY:  He’s doing great.

TATCHO:  He has his eyesight gone.

CHUY:   It’s gone but he’s doing accounting, bookkeeping on his computer—so he’s very productive. And the narrative that I suggest is why Mexicanos decide at that particular time to become active. And of course, you’ve explained that was the nature of what was going on throughout the country, right? So, to some extent, they’re emulating, they’re learning from the Black Power Movement, the student movement. But who were these people? Can we categorize them in any way? And I’ve tried to argue that what was happening in the Mexicano community was that Mexicanos who were in college at the time, were probably the most educated cohort of any generation of Mexicanos. They were the most assimilated generation of any Mexicanos. They were bilingual, they were bicultural. Even though they were off to college they were living within a short distance or commuting. They had one foot in the Anglo world and one foot in the enclave and they were, of their family, probably the first ones who had broken through that glass ceiling. And they had imposed on themselves obligations which nobody else had before. That is, “I’m going to have to make this change.” React to that.

TATCHO:  Well, I think that bilingualism was an asset. It’s still an asset. And there’s always been, ever since we started coming to the U.S.—there’s always been organizations that fought for our values: The Sons of American, the roots of LULAC go back to the ‘20s and so forth and so on. The difference is that at that time they had to move cautiously because they couldn’t be seen as behaving too aggressively. But their whole thing was to have the U.S. see us as Americans and accept us as Americans. And the thought was, “We’re going to prove that we’re American with our vote. We’re going to pledge allegiance to the flag.”

CHUY:  We’re going to go out of our way to show you.

TATCHO:  That’s right. So, I think the ‘60s hit and puts a brake on that. It puts a brake on that ideology.

CHUY:  That paradigm was reconsidered by young people.

TATCHO:  Right, reconsidered because what do we call ourselves? It was a big issue during the Movement. “Don’t call me a Chicano, don’t call me this, don’t call me that.” What’s that old saying in Spanish? I don’t know it is Spanish but it’s, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t forget to call me to eat.”  How do you say it in Spanish? (Llámame cualquier cosa, siempre y cuando me llames a comer.)

CHUY:  I don’t know.

TATCHO:  That kind of thing. But a lot of students did not give a s—t, those who were active. Then the whole thing about the masculinity—Chicano. All those issues were floating around and still are issues.

CHUY:  Sure.

TATCHO:  So, it was a break. It was an ideological break that said in the face of Anglophobia, “Hey, I am to serve who I am and I’m going to participate as a full American. I’m going to protest like the constitution says I can.”

CHUY:  It was also a testing of…

TATCHO:  That’s right, of the system. And more importantly, at these institutions, I can’t go to a class and hear about my history. I can’t go to a class and hear about my culture. I can’t go to a class and hear about our writers and so forth. And you’re a bunch of racist bastards. Except how come you don’t teach our history. When we went to the library, we’re going to show you, we couldn’t find the books. They weren’t there and they weren’t there because they hadn’t been written, okay?  There were only about a handful of professors when we were at school at that time: Emilio Zamora, Julian Samora, out of Notre Dame, the gentleman, what’s his name, the famous scholar from UT?  Americo Paredes.

CHUY:  Paredes. Castañeda.

TATCHO:  Castañeda was in law school.

CHUY:  Galarza in California.

TATCHO:  Yeah. Okay. They were just…

CHUY:  A handful.

TATCHO:   Right, a handful, six or seven. Now, I can’t even count the number. And history, thirty years of history is a short period of time. So, it’s been a significant gain. Along with the gain came this consciousness. We’re going to teach our courses. We’re going to have our programs. I left the center over here—one of my biggest regrets. And I still would like to complete establishing a major in Mexican American Studies. “What do you do with a major in Mexican American Studies?” People would say, “What do you do with a degree in English?” That’s right. What do you do with those degrees? You know. I want to know. It’s the same thing. I got my degree in Sociology, but I was going to go on.

CHUY:  What is now denominated as dual-language instruction has raised challenges for advocates. I have two kids who are as educated as they want to be. And I have grandkids and their primary language is English.

TATCHO:  The process of assimilation.

CHUY:  Yes, what’s the message for them on dual language?

TATCHO:  Well, I think a lot of people who can’t speak Spanish well or can’t speak it, you become assimilated. I think for some, it’s a concern. They feel embarrassed by it. Some say, “That’s who I am, what the hell.”

CHUY:  But what if you market dual language in the way that the gringos are adopting it and that is, “It is a learning tool just like any other gifted and talented program.”

TATCHO:  Well, I think that you have to integrate courses with your Mexican American Studies program that serves some useful purpose. Obviously, you’re not going to be on the computers. You’re going to be on Social Sciences and the Humanities, Social Work and that kind of thing. Set the degree in Mexican American Studies aside.

CHUY:  Um-hmm. Right.

TATCHO:  I think the courses that we offered and the students who took them benefitted—like an anthropology course entitled Mexican American culture. Literature class that taught Mexican American, Chicano/Chicana literature, same thing with History. Probably in the area of history is where we made our academic progress. At one time I could keep up with all the books. I can’t do it anymore. There’s too much coming out. Times has established a publishing outfit.

It publishes several hundred books a year and it’s big on children’s books and bilingual writers—there’s been a dramatic change. The issue for us here is budget. When I became the director, (the program was established in 1970). I came back from graduate school in ’74. So, the program was already established, and Lupe Quintanilla was the director. But she was wearing three hats. She was also the Director of Bilingual Education, the Director of Mexican American Studies. She had won a White House Fellow and so she chose to do it here.

CHUY:  Oh, wow!

TATCHO:  She was doing the Fellowship, and you know, there were a lot of complaints about it. So, she stepped down and it was just a small group of us. I was one of the first Mexican Americans hired in Sociology. Everybody was a first. There never had been one in any of the departments, you know.

CHUY:  Right, right.

TATCHO:  And so, Margarita Melville who was just excellent in History, she was Mexican American. She married an ex-priest. I can’t remember if she was Rodriguez. Melville was her married name. She became the director for a year. But she was coming up for tenure and she wanted to spend more time with her publisher. So, she left, and I think one of your compañeros from the Valley, Cisneros, what’s his name, the historian? El güero. Victor.

CHUY:  Oh, Victor Nelson Cisneros.

TATCHO:  Cisneros. He was working on his dissertation out in UCLA, something about labor in the Valley.

CHUY:  Um-hmm.

TATCHO:  And he needed some money. So, they hired him for a year. He would go down and do research. But after about a year, he gave it up. He wanted to spend full time doing research. So, this is about four years with three different directors.

CHUY:  Continuity, lack of continuity.

TATCHO:  So, we had a meeting. There was, let’s see, there was a lawyer, myself, Margarita, a guy Gonzalez, in History. He’s passed, though. About six, seven of us, we had a meeting. And we talked and they said, “Tatcho, you’ve got to take it over.”  I was active in helping develop the courses and I didn’t want it because I was worried about tenure, and I was in the middle of a tenure fight. I took it anyway, all right? And it was worse than I thought, budget-wise.

CHUY:  Right.

TATCHO:  I had a part-time secretary who hardly ever came, less than $5,000 worth of money that I could use.

CHUY:  Wow!

TATCHO:  All our courses on it were paid, of course, but I just didn’t have anything, anything.

CHUY:  To administer, yeah.

TATCHO:  What am I going to do—just sit here? But I was committed to the program. We were all committed to the program. So, I was naïve. We put together these grand proposals and sent them up to Administration asking for some money, right? I got to be a kind of a rote kind of thing. I’d get called in, “Tatcho, man, this is such a good idea, but we just don’t have the money.” And I heard it two or three times. And because I had been with Raza Unida and we had run a candidate against Ben Reyes who was in the state House, I couldn’t go to them for any support.

CHUY:  Yeah.

TATCHO:  So, they had this political race here and a young man who was a protégé of Ben Reyes, Roman Martinez, young guy, out of Yale, got elected state rep. So, I took a shot—just called him—asked for a meeting. He called me back, “What do you want to meet about?” I said, “Your budget.” So, anyway, we met. And the first thing he told me was, “You know you don’t stand good with…

CHUY:  …the powers that be.”

TATCHO:  Yeah, yeah, Ben Reyes and all the Democrats.

CHUY:  The king.

TATCHO:  I said, “Yeah, I know that.” Anyway, we spent a little time and he said, “Tell me, how can I help you?” I said, “Roman, I need a budget.” And I told him, “They’re not giving me anything.” He said, “Okay, I’ll try to help you.” Well, at first term he didn’t do anything. Just finding where the restrooms are, you know. But the second term, because he was a really slick politician, he got on the Appropriations Committee. Yeah. Now remember, it’s two-year terms and they leave for six, seven months and I’m waiting all this time, submitting proposals.

CHUY:  Two years, two years.

TATCHO:  I got twenty thousand dollars because I kept begging them (the administration). I got twenty thousand dollars to do recruiting of students or something like that.

CHUY:  Yeah, sure, something generalized.

TATCHO:  Yeah. So, I get a call from Roman Martinez at three o’clock in the morning. I’ll never forget it. “Tatcho.” I said, “What?” “I wasn’t able to get your line item.” I said, “Oh, man.”  He said, “Look, this is what I did. When the University’s budget came through the Committee, I tagged it. I said, “What does that mean?”  He said, “I took a couple of hundred thousand…I took two hundred thousand from Continuing Education, which is run out of this building, and marked it for Mexican American Studies.

CHUY:  Wow!

TATCHO:  He said, “It was a battle, but I did it.” “Wow,” I said, “what’s next?” “Keep it quiet. I’m telling you because it still has to clear the Committee.”

CHUY:  Don’t go out and have a press conference. Por favor.

TATCHO:  That’s right. So then, I remember I couldn’t go back to sleep. I was already spending the budget. (Laughter.) “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.” It was crazy.

CHUY:  I can imagine.

TATCHO:  It was so crazy. Well, it goes through, all right, at the end of the session—May or something like that. He says, “Hey, it’s cleared.”  I’d called Roman, “Well, what do I do?”  He said, “Well, go ask for your money.” So, I go up the chain of command. I go to the Dean, the guy who’s been saying he doesn’t have any money. And I said, “Dean, State Representative Roman Martinez called me and said he had allocated some money for the program. I want to know how I get it. He said, “What?” I said, “Yes, isn’t that great news?” “Tatcho, I don’t know anything about that. Let me find out.” I said, “Okay.” The next day I get a call. The Dean wants to see you right away. So, I go in there and he is f—-ing red in the face and he starts shaking his finger at me. He now knows what happened.

CHUY:  Sure.

TATCHO:  What your friend did was illegal. He says, “You did not follow the chain of command and blah, blah, blah.” So, I just listened to him. He was mad. I said, “Dean Pickering, I don’t know what happened there. All I know is that I got a call and I want my money. But, Sir, let me make this clear, how many proposals have I submitted, blah, blah, blah. You never have the money. Now I’ve got money and I’m just trying to understand how to get it.” “What he did was illegal.” So, I said, “Okay.”  I went and called Roman, and he said, “You tell that SOB that that is a piece of legislation—it’s law.”

CHUY:  Yeah, it’s law.

TATCHO:  “And when you go and ask them again and they don’t give it to you, tell them that you’re going to call me.” That’s what I did. Well, by this time everybody’s mad. The Dean’s mad, Provost is mad, Continuing Education hit the ceiling.

CHUY:  Well, yeah, you took their money.

TATCHO:  Everybody’s mad at me and I don’t give a s—t. I didn’t give a s—t, but I played it cool and never lost my temper. I just kept saying, “How do I get my money?” That’s what I kept saying. So, finally one day—this is about two weeks of this turmoil—I meet with the Provost. I met them here. And the lawyers say, “No, what he did is legit. It’s an amendment. You pissed the Dean of Education off.” I said, “Well, I don’t know the politics, Sir.” So, I get a call one day. “Dr. Mindiola, this is President Bishop’s office. He’d like to meet with you.” I said, “Okay.” “But here’s one hitch. He can only meet with you on Sunday because he’s leaving Monday on a trip.” This is like a Friday afternoon. “Would you be willing to meet with him on Sunday morning?” “Yes,” I said. “That’s okay.”

CHUY:  Right after church.

TATCHO:  (Laughter) I should have said that, right? I put on my suit and met him on Sunday morning. And he was a tall guy—Ed Bishop, South Carolina—big, tall, six-three, bald-headed guy. So, I walk up and knock on the door, and they let me in. I walk in and he gets up and shakes my hand and says, “Tahchoh Meendeeohlah, I sure have been hearing a lot about you lately.”


CHUY:  Right out of a movie.

TATCHO:  “Well, I hope it’s good.” “Well, some of it is,” he says. “Sit down, sit down.” And he was just as gracious as he could be. He says, “First of all, let me ask you. Would you be kind enough to set a meeting up between me and Roman Martinez. Obviously, he’s got an interest in the University of Houston.” I said, “I’d be glad to, Sir.” He said, “Okay. Well, you know I have a political issue on my hands?” I said, “Well, I assume so, Sir.” He said, “Well, this is what I propose to you, and I would appreciate your cooperation.”

CHUY:  (Chuckles) Kind of a charming guy.

TATCHO:  Oh, was—Southern accent—the whole ball of wax. What it was—he had an oil-generating revenue fund. It’s a fund from all the investments they’ve got. And he says, “If I give you your money from the Melrose-Thompson funds in the same amount, then you get your two hundred thousand and Continuing Education gets to keep his two hundred thousand. And you have my word that on the next legislative session you will be a priority for a line item.”  I had already been submitting requests, but I couldn’t get a hold of the schedule. So, I said, “Dr. Bishop, I have…

CHUY:  You give me the money from wherever you can.

TATCHO:  Yeah. I said, “Dr. Bishop, off the top of my head, the only thing I ask you is to let me run it by Representative Martinez because he’s the one who did the work.”  He said, “Oh, of course, of course. You just get back to me as soon as you can.” So, I called Roman right away. He said, “Tatcho, it’s up to you. If you get your money, you get your money.” So, that’s what I did. But here’s the catch. And this was a major catch. I had two hundred thousand dollars. I knew what I wanted. The first thing I did was set up a visiting scholar program. I brought in Arnoldo De Leon, and he was here a whole semester. He wrote the first history of Mexican Americans in Houston. And we tried to hire him, but he didn’t want to leave San Angelo. It’s a long story but anyway that’s what I did. Right away, I set up a recruitment program. Austin High School was right over here. To meet Roman’s demands—Roman had said, “All I want you to do is recruit.” So, I set that up.

CHUY:  Especially from his district, by golly.

TATCHO:  Yeah. But here is the deal. I learned it when I brought in Arnoldo De Leon. If I had state monies like the ones I was going to get from the Amendment, they would have picked up all of Arnoldo’s benefits.

CHUY:  The fringes (fringe benefits).

TATCHO:  Right. Since this was coming from a private fund, I had to pay them. So, it was his salary, plus. And it was a nice chunk of money.

CHUY:  Wow, out of your budget.

TATCHO:  I said, “I f—-d up. I didn’t know that.” But I didn’t b—h about it.

CHUY:  A deal’s a deal.

TATCHO:  A deal’s a deal. So, before the next session, Bishop left, and another guy came in. And so, he was briefed on everything. But the guy who briefed him said, “You’ve got to watch Tatcho, man. He’s kind of a radical.” (Laughter) “He doesn’t follow the rules” So we met with him. Roman and I met with him. It was a very gracious meeting. Roman said, “I want to help the University, but I am also very committed to the Mexican American Studies Program. So, we worked it out. I was third. First was the Energy Lab. Second was the Small Business and Center for Mexican American Studies was the third line-item request.

CHUY:  Wow. Excellent.

TATCHO:  Yeah, so that’s when I started going up there, lobbying. Roman had wanted me to go up during the legislature. Well, during this time, I’m in this tenure fight. So, the caucus is going to come to Houston to go to the rodeo.

CHUY:  To go where?

TATCHO:  Go to the rodeo. All the mexicanos will be there. I’d go to Austin and that’s when I started seeing all the legislators. Roman would take twelve students.

CHUY:  What year was this, más o menos?

TATCHO:  1980, ’81. Something like that. So, I got to meet lots of legislators and I got to meet the legislative caucus. The Chairman was Al Luna.

CHUY:  Sure, from here. Big Al.

TATCHO:  From here, yeah. And so, they all came here, and I already knew a lot of them. I came here and invited them for lunch. We sponsored lunch. “Center for Mexican American Studies Welcomes the Mexican American Caucus”. And of course, President Bishop was going to speak. And so, I get up there and welcome the group and Roman gets up there and Al gets up there. “This is our city.” Somebody introduced Bishop, big man, tall. He gets up there and he takes the mike, and he tells me, “Thank you, Taco.” (Guffaw) I wrote this up. So, everybody is kind of stunned.

CHUY:  To you it’s like an Italian name.

TATCHO:  Yeah, yeah. There was a little rumbling and grumbling. I’m standing against the wall and there’s the caucus, half of them hung over. (Laughter) So he goes on and talks about all the great things—big rosy picture. Right? And then he looks over at me—ten, twelve minutes into the speech—he looks over at me and says, “Now, Ah know that I am not going to be able to leave this mike without supporting publicly Taco’s request for a line item.”

CHUY:  Again.

TATCHO:  And he looks at me and says, “Taco, I assure you…” Then Al Luna stood up and he said, “It’s TATCHO, not Taco. TATCHO. And you’re not going to get your appropriations next year until you say it right.”

CHUY:  Wow!

TATCHO:  Wow! The crowd just clapped and clapped. (Laughter) And I looked at Bishop and not only was his face red, but his bald head was red.

CHUY:  (Laughter)  Boy, that’s a good one. Pero es Italian, hombre.

TATCHO:  That really helped me though, that incident. This was still months before the session started so right before the session started, months later, I was up there. Roman had said, “Come meet the legislators to see what we need to get this line item.” So, he arranged for me to address the caucus, right? I told them about what the center was doing and then I mentioned the line item. And the first question I got was, “Does the University support this?” I said, “Well, I think they’re on board, some of them may not be.” I had to be honest. Somebody asked, “Well, who’s the President of the University?” And I said, “His name is Ed Bishop.” Someone asked, “Who is he? Have we met him before?” Al Luna said, “That’s the Taco Man.” Then Barrientos, what was his name, from Austin?

CHUY:  Gonzalo.

TATCHO:  Yeah, Gonzalo Barrientos says, “Oh, yeah, The Taco Man. Tell that story.” So, I told them the story. (Laughter) And a lot of them remembered it. “Oh, yeah. You were there.” We’re going to help you with your line item. Don’t worry about it.”

CHUY:   You know, what you’ve just done is that you’ve made that connection of the evolution of Mexicanos through education and the political system. In ’68, that would never have happened.

TATCHO:  Right.

CHUY:  So, by that time, you’ve got a caucus. You know one of the things that I learned very early en la pólitica is that I don’t care how small you are as a political group, depending on the neighborhood or the city or the school district or the senatorial district, the politician is going to listen to you. Now, he may not always necessarily agree with you, but he’s going to listen to you. And one of the things that happened during that period of time is that the Legislature could now have, as a group, could now have a role in electing the Speaker of the House.

TATCHO:  That’s right.

CHUY:  And any legislator, como dices tu, any legislator can just go ahead mark a piece of legislation. “Let’s send it to a committee. Maybe it will die there.”

TATCHO:  Yeah. It might not get a hearing.

CHUY:  There’s a lot of bargaining that takes place in that system. Understanding that system is important. And for Mexicanos, particularly back in the ‘60s, was basically non-existent. You had one or two people in the Legislature. So, how about the current financing for these programs?

TATCHO:  I got the line item, and I was able to do a lot of things. I expanded the undergraduate recruitment program. We started a program at Austin High School where I picked up a group of students that left middle school and we stayed with them all the way through—forty or fifty students. But we picked them up too young. Anyway, we cut that program. Instead of picking them up when they were going into the ninth grade, we picked them up when they were going into the tenth grade. We stayed with that same cohort—about fifty, sixty students. Now here’s an interesting way that that happened because students starting appearing, they just heard about it. We accepted them anyway. Let’s say our goal would be sixty. Well, there would be seventy, seventy-five. Fifteen students would show up, “Well, Maria told me about the program.” So, we kept them, and I had money to give them scholarships. The deal was you had to attend the workshops that we were holding over there at Austin, every day. I was paying somebody to go over there everyday.

CHUY:  And do what?

TATCHO:  Homework.

CHUY:  Teaching homework?

TATCHO:  Well, sitting down with them and help them with their homework.

CHUY:  Really?

TATCHO:  Yeah.

CHUY:  How to study…

TATCHO:  All of that. I’d go over there sometimes and give them a speech. Get them all riled up about college. “This is our time.”

CHUY:  It was basically college recruitment.

TATCHO:  That’s right. And that program is still going on. The first cohort graduated. I think maybe forty-five of the sixty. I can’t remember. Not all of them. Some of them didn’t go. But we sat down and evaluated the program. First of all, it was too long. So, we cut off the first year even though we kept our tutoring that first year over there. Then we would pick the students. That program still goes on. And you know, they’d get here, and they had a scholarship. By that time the center had moved to a larger location. We had a large student room. They hung around there and they had to do mandatory tutoring, all that kind of stuff, supervised. It was a very successful program.

CHUY:  You mentioned bringing in some scholars into the program.

TATCHO:  Yeah, that program continues as well. It had two objectives. Not only to generate research about our community but to hire too. So, we try to get scholars in. “Are you interested in being at the University of Houston when you first year as a visiting scholar ends?” We hired Emilio Zamora, Lupe San Miguel. Angela Valenzuela turned us down. She was a visiting scholar, but she turned us down for a very lucrative position at Rice, but her husband was here on campus. I don’t know, we brought in twenty, thirty scholars over time and hired most of them. We had a great young lady out of Berkeley, PhD in cultural anthropology. Teaches a Mexican American Studies course.

CHUY:  And so, Valenzuela is where now?

TATCHO:  She’s at UT-Austin.

CHUY:  UT-Austin, okay. So, earlier you said that in the 1960s there’s nothing about us in the books, in the stories.

TATCHO:  There is now.

CHUY:  Is that one of the major results of those programs—producing the scholars who then produce the materials.

TATCHO:  Yeah, that’s right. You’re exactly correct. That was the whole thing—to fill the intellectual void. We had to have a mechanism for getting more faculty on campus. The Visiting Scholars program is still going on. That program is now twenty, thirty years old. But the history of the line item got more and more popular because after about two years of that I have all this money, I’m bringing in visiting scholars. I’m having conferences—lots of activity. I agitated for larger space and all that. They had to remove some classrooms. It was a big issue because they took classes out of circulation. There was always some little s—t I was in. But, anyway, we grew. We had a mural painted and it’s still over there at the Student Center. Anyway, I got a call from the Dean, same Dean. “Tatcho, I need to see you right away. Can you come at such and such time?”

I said, “Yeah, okay.” He says, “I need your help, I have a political situation on my hands.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “African American Studies.” They had a little organization of professors called BLN, Black Leadership Network. The Chair was a lawyer who was married to Sheila Jackson Lee. He says, “Some representatives of BLN came to me complaining that your program had been singled out for development and not theirs.” And he said, “They don’t know the history of what you went through to get the line item. Will you meet with them and explain to them what a line item is?” So, I met with the group—most of the membership—because they thought the University came and said, “Hey, here’s this money—develop.” And I told them, “No way.” And I told them the history and the politics behind it. “Oh, wow, we didn’t know that.”

CHUY:  Couldn’t figure that out.

TATCHO:  Yeah, yeah. So, after my meeting after the next couple of weeks, they submitted a request for a line item. And so, a week later, I get a call from the Provost. “Can you come talk to me?” “Yeah.”

CHUY:  What are you doing??

TATCHO:  He says, “Tatcho, I know you met with BLN. We have this request from African American Studies. You know how hard it was to get your line item. We’re wondering if you would share yours.”  Whoa, whoa, hold on here, Brother. I said, “What!!” And he said, “Now wait a minute. Let me explain something. What we’re going to do is make a concentrated effort to double your line item and then share it.” So, you know, I had to go back because I had already formed something called the Latino Faculty Council. So, I met with them, and Lupe was against it. You know, blah, blah, blah. I said, “Well, I’m backed up politically, I don’t want to against the African Americans. “Yeah, but can you trust the Administration?” I said, “I don’t know, you may have to. Hope they’re not stupid enough to try and take our money.”

CHUY:  Sure.

TATCHO:  Well, the first time they couldn’t pull the line item. So, I don’t know what they gave the African Americans. Anyway, the next session they were able to double it.

CHUY:  And everybody’s happy.

TATCHO:  Yeah. So, the first time we split sixty/forty. I think I got sixty percent and they got forty percent. So, I got a little bit more. Then the next time we split the line item split fifty-five/forty-five. And then the third time, equally split and it’s where it’s been since.

CHUY:  You know, I can’t help but have this image created about the evolution from holding a protest sign to being negotiating deals.

TATCHO:  Yeah, that’s right. Well, you can’t do anything without a budget. I wasn’t going to sit there and not do anything. I’m going to try. If I fail, I fail.

CHUY:  I agree with you. The scholarship is absolutely amazing. I tell people that when I was in high school, I wrote a paper on bilingual education and couldn’t find a single source of information except back then Senator Truan’s or Senator Bernal’s legislation that they were trying to push through. Now, we’re flooded with information. People publish all the time, but I think it’s mostly at the university level. The audience is primarily a scholarly audience.

TATCHO:  Well, I think academia—it’s true because the system is set up for you to move on.

CHUY:  And I absolutely understand it. What I’m saying is at the high school level in Texas, there’s this fledgling movement—I forget the name of it. I’ve been to a couple of their conferences. I believe last year there was a request for submissions for textbooks—high school level textbooks on Mexican Americans. There was one that was submitted. One. And it was by a self-published author.

TATCHO:  Yeah, there was some conflict about one that was going to be adopted.

CHUY:  Now this is fifty years removed from the Movement and—my reaction was, “Can’t these guys sit down and figure out a strategy on how to develop a textbook and market it and message it correctly?”

TATCHO:  I thought they were, I’m not sure.

CHUY:  I don’t know that they are or not. But I guess where I see a void or maybe it’s not a void. But where I see a need is, “Is there anything that can be done with these studies where they could be moving into textbook production with high school level texts?”

TATCHO:  I think that some of the history books that they are writing at the high school level—I don’t know if they are being used. They are being used at the university level. You know these programs—we worked really hard to recruit students into the programs. And one of the things that I was able to do there for a while really worked. It really reached kids enrolling in our classes. Kids enrolling in the College of Education, studying to get degrees in Bilingual Education had to take our courses.

CHUY:  Which makes a lot of sense.

TATCHO:  It went on for a number of years. It was very helpful because we always had students in the classroom somewhere. And you can minor in Mexican American Studies.

CHUY: Which I think a minor alone would be absolutely great for a teacher.

TATCHO:  You have to take a course in Mexican American History, a course in Mexican American anthropology and culture. Then you have some electives: Mexican American Social Issues, Demographics. Well, that rolled along. See, here’s the thing. We’re an interdisciplinary program. Departments’ budgets are based in part, on how many students are enrolled in their classes. But for us who were interdisciplinary, we had IDHF courses—interdisciplinary courses which we sponsored ourselves. The Mexican American Literature class, for example, was in English. Mexican American Culture class was in Anthropology and Social Problems was in Sociology. The History Department had two young Mexican American historians. So, they were getting the credit for the courses.

CHUY:  I see.

TATCHO:  And we weren’t. So, I’d snap to that when we were doing Bilingual Education because that was a good program for us. We always had students taking Mexican American Culture and History. It was a part of their bilingual education coursework. Well, a new dean came in and he saw that, and he said, “No, we can do the same thing here in the College.” So, he took it away. They were still required, and they got the credit. We did not so I lost that.

CHUY:  But that becomes part of the regular curriculum.

TATCHO:  Yeah. On enrollment, you’ve got to stay accurate, and we did. We advertised. We did conferences. You stay active. You can’t just sit back.

CHUY:  And so right now, what is the status of the program, relatively speaking.

TATCHO:  I don’t know to tell you the truth. I’ve been retired three years. I’ve kind of lost contact. I don’t know exactly what they’re doing over there. I hear complaints or good things but ya se acabó la onda.

CHUY:   Sometimes it’s best to leave it alone.

TATCHO:  Right. At first, she consulted with me. She’s got different academic interests than I had. I was interested in ground-up stuff, the recruitment of students, the graduate program. We had a graduate fellowship program to help students get master’s degrees. We had the visiting scholar program. We had college career days and all of that. So, I don’t know if she’s still doing that ground-up stuff.

CHUY:  Let me shift a little bit and see if you can talk to me about the, I guess this would have been the 1970 and the desegregation issues.. There was a case, and I don’t recall when it all began. It must have begun at least twenty years prior to 1970 and it was brought by the NAACP here in Houston. And in 1970, it was court supervised. In 1970, I recall, the Court asks for a  desegregation plan, and I believe it was the Department of HEW. The federal government comes in and intervenes or is asked to intervene to develop a desegregation plan. The plan that is developed involves bussing. Well, first we go back to the identity issue where Mexicanos are considered White.

TATCHO:  Well, that goes back to the LULAC case in Lake Jackson. Jury case?

CHUY:  Something like that.

TATCHO:  That we had ourselves declared a special category of White people and it came back to haunt us during integration because officially on paper, I move so many Blacks into White schools and so many Whites into Black schools. That’s what was going on around here. In reality, they were moving Blacks into Mexican schools and Mexicans into Black schools under the guise that we were White.  So, in 1969, what was that case in Corpus?

CHUY:  1970. ’69 or ’70.

TATCHO:  No, we are not White. The Court said, “You’re an identifiable ethnic group with a distinct culture.” So, officially we are no longer White. Officially. I feel a lot better. But I was scared calling myself White. (Laughter)

CHUY:  But in that situation, what’s interesting is that in the scholarship, you don’t see folks considering that experience as part of the activist experience of the Chicano Movement. There seems to be a disconnect, except for San Miguel’s book. But it’s also not…

TATCHO:  Well, I don’t know. This is where I admire MALDEF. I sat on their board for a while. They’re very active in civil rights issues. That White issue is a dead issue as far as I’m concerned. They are still…integration was never fully accomplished.

CHUY:  Right, absolutely.

TATCHO:  It was never fully accomplished. The schools are still highly segregated. There are however, schools in the West End. I went over there a few years back. Man, I was surprised at the diversity of that school. And the new school near the Stamper Way area. Wow, lots of Mexicanos, Asian, Blacks, Whites. When I spoke to the group walking down the hall, wow, this is America.

CHUY:  It is impressive. This is what it should be.

TATCHO:  That’s right.

CHUY:  But in that situation, in that school walkout, prior to that walkout as I understand it, there is not a really strong identification by Mexicanos except traditionalist like LULAC. But the result of that walkout was that coalitions developed and that may have eventually led to Leonel Castillo becoming a leader in history. Talk to me about that.

TATCHO:  Well, Leonel was very active with the boycott because when I tried to integrate the schools, they were using them under the guise of White, mixing Mexicans with Blacks and they let them boycott. And so, I was in graduate school at that time, so I read about it. I wasn’t here. But they formed a community-based organization, The Mexican American Educational Council—MAEC—or something like that. And Leonel was elected the Chair and he was very active and that was his entry into public life. Eventually he became City Comptroller. He ran for Mayor, and he lost. Then he started SER.

CHUY:  Locally here?

TATCHO:  Yeah. He started SER locally and he was involved in establishing the Hispanic Institute. I don’t know it’s still around, the Hispanic Institute—First Hispanic College—or something like that. I sat on that Board and helped write the rules and the incorporation. That was many, many years ago. Then it fell into some hard times, and I lost touch. He was very, very active in setting that up. He had a lot of experience in that kind of stuff, writing proposals and bureaucracy. I think he ran for City Council. I was on the out. I was Raza Unida here.

CHUY:  Sure.

TATCHO:  And we ran. We ran against Ben Reyes. We got our asses kicked. That’s why I turned to Aron for help in legislation. Ben won. Maria Jimenez was our candidate. It was a good experience for me when I look back on it because I was the County Chair. You had to get 2% of the vote in the governor’s race to be considered a political party. And so, Raza Unida got the 2%.

CHUY:  ’72.

TATCHO:  Yeah, we were a legal political party and so we could hold our own elections. And I was the County Chair, and we had a candidate running. And I knew nothing about running elections so I talked to a guy, I can’t remember his name, in the state. I got the rule book and election code and started through it. I had to get precincts machines, get precinct Chairs and all of that. So, we did it. I remember we had a precinct machine right in a cantina really. But it was a room that was off on the side of the cantina. (Laughter)

CHUY:  That’s the only place you could get it.

TATCHO:  That’s right. We had one on a porch. I mean in a park.

CHUY:  I remember all of those experiences we went through too, back then.

TATCHO:  Well, Maria got 17% of the vote. On Election Day, we had people knocking on doors going through the neighborhoods using a bullhorn from a car, “Do not vote for the Communist, John Castillo.” (Laughter)

CHUY:  Whatever happened to John Castillo?

TATCHO:  He passed. I made up with all those guys.

CHUY:  And Big Al? What happened to him?

TATCHO:  Big Al Luna has his own lobbyist firm.

CHUY:  Oh. Yeah, that’s what he would do.

TATCHO:  Roman Martinez, I’m still very close to him. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have had any money at all.

CHUY:  What does he do?

TATCHO:  He retired. He and another guy had Fiesta Cabs and that’s where Ben comes in. Ben was on City Council, and they needed to get those licenses for the cabs. So, he got them twenty, twenty-five of those licenses and they started Fiesta Cabs. He joined with another guy who owned Yellow Cabs and formed a company.

CHUY:  And now they’re probably useless with UBER.

TATCHO:  Yeah, I don’t know what happened. We used to have these scholarship banquet through Roman. He helped me a lot. He introduced me to Steve Parker. Steve came to one of our banquets and like what he saw and started donating money, twenty thousand. It was a real good contact. They split and I think Roman sold his portion of the company back to him. He retired. He had this place outside of Brenham, thirty, forty acres. It’s really interesting because I learned from him that if you have a minimum four cows, you get a big tax break, so he had four cows.

CHUY:  So, you get a tax reduction.

TATCHO:  Yeah, I learned that from him. He had a real nice place. We get together a couple of times a year, still. He started a winery out there. He was telling the story. He invited somebody, some Mexicano who knows how to plant the grape vines and they took. So now he’s planting a lot more. Last time I heard he was ready to make some wine.

CHUY:  Who would have thunk it? 

TATCHO:  Thing is he’s letting his weight get out of hand. He’s growing a big, long beard. Yeah, but we get together.

CHUY:  So, 50, 55 years since. In your wildest imagination, being a student here back then, did you ever imagine the changes we have seen in Texas for Mexicanos? Has anything surprised you?

TATCHO:  Well, it was an exciting time, d—m was it exciting!

CHUY:  It’s almost religious awakening.

TATCHO:  Right. And I think it’s the consciousness. It still goes.

CHUY:  Sometimes the word consciousness is abused by people, and it’s overly used. But that self-awareness and the sense of confidence that came overnight, almost.

TATCHO:  Yeah, because use to love to ask in the classroom, “What are we?” Well, we’re this and we’re that.” We’d really get into it. It was great to raise their consciousness.

CHUY:  Intellectual exercise.

TATCHO:  There was a girl in class that was the last of thirteen. And she said the last three could not speak Spanish and her parents could not speak English. So, all the other sisters and brothers were the go-betweens.

CHUY: Wow, wow!

TATCHO:  Interesting stories. Immigration stories. We had undocumented students—DACA and all that.

CHUY:  Arnoldo De Leon. Where is he now?

TATCHO:  He is retired. He was at the university at Lubbock.

CHUY:  Texas Tech.

TATCHO:  No, San Angelo State.

CHUY:  San Angelo State. He’s retired? He’s up there?

TATCHO:  He wrote the first history. I’ve read everything he’s written. He wrote a book on Texanos and Texas. It’s just excellent. He goes way back—his history. He used to make me laugh. He’d say, “Tatcho, I don’t read anything unless it’s twenty years old.” “Do you read the paper, Arnoldo?” “Tatcho, I don’t read anything.”

CHUY:  I like that. Yeah. There was a—I think his name was Martin De Leon—he was involved in the very early ‘60s in California when they were beginning to have these Mexican American  Education Conferences. This guy, Martin De Leon, his very short article was reprinted in a textbook like an anthology que se llamaba “Mexican Americans”. A&I University when the bilingual thing came to Texas in the early ‘70s, my wife went and got her master’s at Texas A&I and she used that textbook. It was assigned to her. And I had been building a library of all my crap to give to someone and I had that book and I’d never seen it. So, it had her signature. Oh, no wonder. I looked through it and it’s a great book. It’s amazing for the time. So, there’s this Martin De Leon fellow and he writes about assimilation, adaptation, acculturation. And he has these charts about how assimilation works horizontally and vertically. I’ve never seen anything like that. Not that it doesn’t exist. I just never studied the social sciences. And we’ve tried to find him. We can’t find anything other than that.

TATCHO:  Did you look up his name?

CHUY:  Yes, and we can’t find anything. And then, there’s a citation that we found where is may have been used—it says U.S. Government Office. So, I thought he may have been working for some government unit.

TATCHO:  Never heard of the book.

CHUY:  No, it’s an article. I was just impressed with the article. And the other one from that period también—el señor este who was a professor at Austin.

TATCHO:  Historian? Emilio Samora?

CHUY: No, from the ‘50s and ’60s.

TATCHO:  Well, there was Americo Paredes.

CHUY:  No. He would write…

TATCHO:  He would write for education.

CHUY:  Yes. And he would be a guest editor on the Texas Observer.

TATCHO:  That’s right. What’s his name?

CHUY:  He has a great piece also about language.

TATCHO:   Oh, he was fighting the issue in the 1930s, when they were giving IQ tests to the Mexican Americans ‘cause it was in English.

CHUY:   Yeah.

TATCHO:  Octavio Romano in the first little book, El Grito.

CHUY:  Right.

TATCHO: That was a great book.

CHUY:  Well, thank you so much.

TATCHO:  My pleasure.


Tatcho Mindiola

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