Legacy Interview – Mario Compean Part 3

Date of Interview: Saturday, July 17, 2017
Interviewed By: Chuy Ramriez
Posted: 04/19/2021

Chuy:   In retrospect, I’ve taken the view that MAYO itself was not an organization with any real sort of formality. That what it really was at that time, and for that short time, was a loosely organized cadre of people of like mind. Does that accurately reflect who we were?

Mario:  I think so. We had a formal structure to the extent that we were incorporated as a nonprofit. As you recall we had some of those board meetings here in San Antonio. But aside from that, you’re right. Each local group for the most part operated autonomously. We had a statewide affiliation and a sense of solidarity and all of that which is very effective. But at the same time, it was very loosely organized in the state and that also helped it a lot. At the general level, it was the same “onda”. The local chapters applied their activity, “la onda”, to their local conditions.

Chuy: Right

Mario:  That probably explains why those walk-outs mushroomed. If you recall “Los diez puntos de MAYO”, it says, ‘If you’re called, you go.” Something happens and you’re there “hasta la esquina”.

Chuy:  Right. Tell me. Remind me of “Los diez puntos de MAYO. What was that?

Mario:  I haven’t looked at them for a long time but they are in the book…I think the only source that has them published is Armando Navarro’s book on MAYO[14]. It has them in the Appendix. Those were meant to be the rules, the principles around which… I guess as groups say it now…our core values…the basic content. If we had an ideology, that’s what governed it. You followed those rules. As long as you did that, you were okay. You didn’t have to report.

Chuy:  But if I’m in San Juan in 1968, I have taken on the imprimatur of a MAYO member, I am not a dues-paying member. I don’t get to necessarily vote at any convention or anything like that. And whatever structure we have at the local community, that’s what flows. But I think, more importantly, though, is that there is that identity, loosely as it were. There is an identity with some structure and there is a search for developing a philosophy. We didn’t necessarily have a cogent philosophy, but it’s part of the developing of that philosophy.

(Laughter from both men.)

Mario:  We did not have an extended statement, nomas what it was. No Plan de Ayala.

Chuy: (Laughter)Exactly…nor the many other Planes.

Mario: The closest one that we can point to and not necessarily MAYO, but as a Movimiento General, was what came out of Del Rio, called the Del Rio Manifesto.

Chuy:  Okay, tell us about the Del Rio Manifesto.[19]

Mario:  Well, it basically captures the reasons why the demonstrations are going on and what we intend to do. That was like our counterpart of the Plan de Aztlan.

Chuy:  Okay, so who were the principal wordsmiths, the drafters of this manifesto?

Mario:  I know I didn’t have a role in writing it. I don’t recall if Jose Angel did, but two guys that did were Church guys.

Chuy:  Really?!

Mario:  A Protestant minister. I think he was from Austin, Jorge Lara Braud.

Chuy:  I remember that name, Lara Braud.

Mario:  And one local priest here, no longer a priest, Henry Casso.

Chuy:  Henty Casso. Is he still around?

Mario:  Father Henry Casso. I heard recently that he passed away.

Chuy: Oooh, my gosh!

Mario:  He left the Church and got married and…

Chuy:  He was an orator.

Mario:  Yes, he had a good voice.

Chuy:   Si, and he was a short man.

Mario:  Yes, the short, squatty type, the stereotype of a Mexican in Gringo literature.

Chuy:  But what about Lara Braud?

Mario:  I don’t know. After that event, it seems that he disappeared. I don’t know where he went.

Chuy:  Well, in talking about Jose Angel. Jose Angel seemed to me, had two virtues I guess you

could call them or abilities or skills. On the one hand, he was extremely articulate, compared to the rest of us, probably the most educated among us, formally. And also, he had a sense of what attracted news stories, what attracted publicity. And as a result, I think, there naturally developed a sense that Jose Angel was the leader, certainly of MAYO and perhaps LA RAZA. That’s kind of the way I’ve always seen Jose Angel’s role…that he is not necessarily an organizer with a lot of organizing capability, certainly not beyond the local area where he was born and raised. But certainly, he had the ability to attract attention and to attract the younger aspirants, the uninitiated to introduce them to what we were about. Does that make sense?

Mario:  I think you’re right. He had that ability to be able to speak publicly and make a cogent case, with all the necessary details, the right inflections at the right time, but always on his toes with the media especially. I had one of the local reporters for the radio station, the Mexican radio station here. He covered everything and then said, “Mario, Mario, dame un statement, porque Jose Angel se las va a hechar, pero grandotas.

(Laughter)

Chuy:  Yeah, sometimes, being down in South Texas, every time Jose Angel would say something, someone would come up and say to me, “What does he mean by that?” I remember one of the things that really got me upset. I just did not want to deal with it was… When I was in high school, I was arrested by orders of the County Judge. A march was organized. And frankly, I was not the type to want publicity. I was not interested in that, but there was a MAYO group who came down, I don’t know where they were from. But there was a march and they were shouting, “Kill the Gringo”. It was, “Gringo, matenlo.”  “Gringo, matenlo.” I’ve always thought of myself as an organizer and when you’re an organizer, in my view, you need to have a lot of respect for people. You cannot get into a situation where you’re not explained. That gave me a lot of concern. But in any case, I was interviewed by the press at the time. “What do you mean by that?” “What does Jose Angel mean by that?” “Your leader is espousing.” And of course, much like Trump supporters now, you have to explain las pendejadas of the President. So, I don’t remember what my explanation was, but it’s very uncomfortable to be in that situation.

Mario: Oh, yeah.

Chuy:  Now, you, I remember, in the old days, we’d come up to San Antonio and the GGL was a big villain here and it was big money and it was big power. I am willing to bet that, unless you lived through that era, you have no idea how powerful those people were. Am I correct?

 

Mario:  Right.

Chuy:  It was just amazing the power they wielded in this community. So, how old are you when you first run for mayor? And we covered some of this the last time. How old are you when you first run for mayor and what did you and your supporters accomplish, Mario?

Mario:  I was 28.

Chuy:  The year? What year was that?

Mario:  It was early ’69. The election was in April, but my birthday falls in September. So the following September after the election, I turned 29. I was 28 years old, dropped-out from St. Mary’s University. In fact, I dropped out to run for…that’s part of the reason I dropped out and put my undergraduate education on hold. What did I accomplish with it? I think it provided a catalyst for all the activity that had been going on for almost five years here in San Antonio.

Chuy:  Nobody had ever done that before…Mexicano? Not even the experienced politicians?

Mario:  No not since the days of the Republic of Texas when Juan Seguin was mayor, who got chased out by the Gringos.

Chuy:  And that was a very small San Antonio back then.

(Laughter)

Mario: Oh, yeah. I mentioned earlier this activity that was going around the employment discrimination.

Chuy:  Right.

Mario:  So you have those guys looking for something, number one. But then, the incumbent mayor that I ran against… There had been several incidents of confrontation with the City Council. That elderly gentleman, Mr. Rodriguez, and others, had the newspaper man constantly on their case, criticizing and to a large extent, he played a significant role in organizing La Onda with that newspaper.

Chuy:  The Inferno?

Mario:  Right. At the County Commissioners level, there was a guy that was very racist and he made some nasty comments about the Chicanas on Welfare. So, you have that and you have the mayor on national TV for that report that’s called “Party of the Americas, CBS. The mayor was to make asinine stereotypical comments about La Raza. He said, “My Mexicans are nice people. They love flowers. Blah, blah, blah. There is no hunger here. They are very happy.” That set up a very harsh reaction against him which manifested itself in boycotting demonstrations. Daily, people were demonstrating with picket signs for a period of probably two months in front of his main building. He was the owner of what’s called The San Antonio Savings and Loan Association.

Chuy:  SASA

Mario:  SASA. So, his main headquarters were in a building downtown on the corner of Soledad and West Commerce.

Chuy:  Yes, big building.

Mario:  Tall skyscraper. It’s not there anymore. So, those demonstrations were there daily for a period of two months and many of the demonstrators were arrested. People were just angry. So, when I announced I was running for mayor…

 

Chuy:  Whew! There was an automatic audience and group for you.

Mario:  Oh, yeah.

Chuy:  Now, what happens to the then Mexican-American leadership? You have a Congressman, Mexicano, Henry B. You have other people that I remember from that period of time. Was there

Pete Torres?

Mario:  Yes. The City Council had Mr. Torres, Peter Torres, Jr.

 

Mario Compean

To Learn More About Mario Compean

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