JESiS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control. By Armando
Navarro. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998. Pp. xi+438.
Preface, methodology, acknowledgments, introduction, epilogue, notes,
index. ISBN 0-299-15824-1. $22.95, paper.)
Of all the studies that examine the rise of the Chicano movement and La Raza
Unida party in Texas, this is the first book that provides an in-depth and critical
evaluation of what actually occurred in Crystal City (or Cristal) during the elec-
toral revolts of 1963 and 1970. How and why these political upheavals took
place and the consequences that followed are all probed in a scholarly, well doc-
umented text. Using secondary sources, newspaper articles, and oral interviews,
the author divided the events surrounding the two electoral revolts into four
main parts, with a total of eleven chapters, and an epilogue. For additional read-
ing information on the use of sources (since the book does not contain a bibli-
ography), and clarification of terms (i.e. gringo, Anglo, mexicano, etc.) the
notes section offers the needed explanations.
What brought about the events that led the Chicanos in Cristal to revolt
against the Anglo establishment, in terms of taking over the educational, politi-
cal, economic, and social systems? For years, the Hispanics lived in a segregated
society that was deeply rooted in Jim Crow laws. Cristal had a Hispanic popula-
tion of about 70 percent, however, the Anglos controlled all city, county, and
school board elected offices. In addition, segregation was a way of life, having
separate public and private facilities, including the educational system. Only
three Hispanics finished high school in 1940, and a total of nine graduated ten
years later. As a result, the polarization between Anglos and Hispanics was clear-
ly visible and defined.
According to Navarro, the notion of community control, that is, giving the
Hispanic people the power and the opportunity to become involved in the deci-
sion-making process at all levels (political, educational, economic, and social),
started in 1963 when five Chicanos won seats on the city council for the first
time ever in Cristal. Their victory was accomplished despite the fact that on elec-
tion day, Anglo farmers doubled the wages of their Hispanic workers, a clever
way to keep them from voting. Nonetheless, the victorious election of the five
Chicanos received international coverage and "Texas newspaper editors voted it
the second most newsworthy story of 1963" (p. 37). Two years later, the five
Chicano officials could not repeat their successful election campaign due to a
combination of events.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed March 15, 2014.