Legacy Interview – Mario Compean Part 4

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

Chuy:  So we’re talking about you. You’ve turned twenty-nine years old. You throw your hat in the ring for mayor. You’ve never run for office. You don’t have a team around you: a consulting team, advertising, marketing, money. You don’t have a formal political organization. So, who are you talking to at that age? Who are you talking to about running for office, about a plan?

Mario:  Well, the way the race materialized, the candidacy was ___________.The questions about the organization, the political campaign group, that was not formally established, you could be right about that. But informally, it existed because of all the activity that had been going on since ’67. We had invested time in organizing neighborhood groups and some had sprung up by themselves. Somehow or another, in all the activities that we were carrying on, we would come together and network. As I said, all those demonstrations against the incumbent mayor also ____________ the activity around that. Everyone came around that issue.

Chuy:  Is it fair to say that there was already a strong opposition that needed a figurehead? One unifying point around which to organize?

Mario:  Right. Each group that existed had its own structure, its own base. There was another thing that was going on at the same time. The liberal politicos, Chicanos and gabachos, used to come together at a meeting once a week. It was a loose network of sorts, of liberals. The community people, but also the union types and the few elected officials use to gather every Friday. They called it the Friday Lunch Group. They met on Zarzamora and Commerce. Right now, there is a store there. It was actually Houston and Zarzamora. There was a restaurant there owned by a Karam family, but it was a Mexican restaurant. So that’s where the group met every Friday for lunch to talk about the issues that were going on and what to do and certainly, about people getting ready to run for office. So, some endorsements came out of there. So, we used to go when they started to invite us, los politicos.

Chuy:  When you grew up enough, they started to invite you.

(Laughter)

Mario:  Oh, yeah. Probably either in November or December of ’68, we went to that meeting. We, some of the guys we were working closely with other groups. There was a group called

Barrios Unidos…

Chuy:  Right.

Mario:  …and other groups called Neighborhood Councils that had been organized partly through the Mexican-American Unity Council. The guys from Barrios Unidos and we went to the meeting. I had two guys with me, El Profe and another one from El Paso, who was a VISTA MM, Mario Contreras. They were like my self-appointed body guards.  Everywhere I went, they went with me. We went to that meeting, that Lunch Group, on Friday. Those Liberals were very condescending. At times, they could be worse then…

Chuy:  But you had not filed yet.

Mario:  No, no, this is prior to that. This was right before…

Chuy:  This is in November before the election?

Mario:  The filing deadline was in January of ’69, so we’re talking about December ’68. One of the guys, now deceased, a very high-profile politico here, John Alanis, made a statement. I don’t recall what the issue was, but he said, quote, “Hey, you young radicals, young militants, we need you guys, we need you Kamikazes.” That’s what he called us. So that set me off. So I told him, “Hey, we’re no Kamikazes, we’re going to be around long after you’re gone.” The guy from Barrios Unidos, se quedo bien enmulado and he said, “Let go for a beer.” We were a few blocks south of Zarzamora. There was a bar called Alice’s Lounge. So we sat there from about one thirty in the afternoon to about four drinking beer.

Chuy:  With the aid of the motivational alcohol.

(Laughter)

Mario:  The creative juices.

Chuy:  The creative juices are necessary, yes.

Mario:  We were pissed off at the reaction of those guys, the condescension. There we said, “Let’s run for office. Let’s run for City Council.” The main leader for Barrios Unidos was Mariano Aguilar.  By that time, they called me Chief ______ . He said, “Corre, Chief. You run, Chief.” Dije, Chispas”. So we started processing. When we walked out of there, we had decided we were going to run on a slate of candidates and I was going to be one of them.

Chuy: So, it was a slate that you were looking at, then? All right.

Mario: We were going to have candidates and I was going to be one of the candidates.

Chuy:  So I take it that the first thing you do is you appoint a campaign treasurer to raise all this money. And a P-R person.

(Laughter)

Mario:  What we set out doing was that as soon as we agreed with that, Mariano took off. He was the organizer. He became the campaign manager. We got the other groups around so we recruited two other guys that agreed to run. So, then we had a slate of three.

Chuy:  Who were the other two?

Mario:  Dario Chapa. He is still around. He is still active. A third man called Candelario Alejos. After the race, he dropped out and disappeared and then I heard he was already deceased.

Chuy:  What were their ages, mas o menos, at that time?

Mario:  We were all about the same age…

Chuy:  Same age? Okay.

Mario:  … because Dario was a recent graduate of UT-Austin. Part of his group was el papa de los cuates Castro[20], Jesse Guzman, compadre. He was with Dario Chapa. But Mariano Aguilar took off organizing the campaign. So, we started meeting regularly every week, planning the campaign, assigning tasks. But then we ran…and I don’t know if you remember when we had some of the MAYO board meetings down in the West Side in a building. We had a joint office.

It was a MAYO and a Barrios Unidos office.

Chuy:  Yes.

Mario:  That was the campaign office. All we had was a manual mimeograph[21] machine so that’s where we ran a lot of campaign flyers. Every day, no faltaban volunteers cranking the mimeograph machine. We had a loose network of neighborhood groups, the Southside, the Westside. There were none on the Eastside. So we had the infrastructures to run the campaign.

Chuy:  Let me ask you this. I take it that there were no African-Americans in the Council at the time?

 

Mario:  For that race, I don’t recall that we had any interaction with them.

Chuy:  There is no interaction at all? Any inroads or anything?

Mario:  There was the Democratic based Liberal Coalition, it had Blacks.

Chuy:  Okay.

Mario:  There was one prominent leader at the time, G. J. Sutton.

Chuy:  I don’t remember him.

Mario:  Era muy camarada de Albert Pena. They were all part of that group. But I don’t recall that we personally had any interaction with them.

Chuy:  Did the liberals that you mentioned earlier come out and support you, either openly or not?

Mario:  The Liberals? Oh, yeah. See what we said earlier. You said it and I said it, was that my campaign gave focus, it galvanized all those groups, that rage, that anger against the mayor.

Chuy:  All the disparate groups were attracted to it.

Mario:  All of a sudden…

Chuy:  There were only two choices; there was either McAllister and the GGL or Mario Compean.

Mario: Right. And everybody was on my side. That’s why the voting returns showed that I was short two or three hundred votes or there would have been a run-off with the incumbent mayor.

Chuy:  So she won by 50% + 1 votes?

Mario:  There was a run-off but it wasn’t me. It was one of the other gringos.

Chuy:  Thank you so much. Dios te lo pague.

 

Mario Compean

To Learn More About Mario Compean

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