The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 320
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
appeal was first introduced to Republican nominee Richard Nixon, who almost
immediately rejected the Viva Nixon slogan. Carlos McCormick, a Kennedy cam-
paign-staff member, picked up on the idea and suggested the creation of Viva
Kennedy Clubs to G.I. Forum founder Dr. Hctor P. Garcia. Mexican American
leaders liked the catchy slogan for three reasons: (1) it would focus national
media attention on Mexican American issues, (2) there would be a possibility of
getting Mexican Americans nominated to the federal bench and high-level
appointments in the Washington bureaucracy, and (3) participation in the Viva
Kennedy Clubs would unite diverse groups and individuals into a powerful polit-
ical advocate for Mexican American interests. Those involved in the Viva
Kennedy Clubs had high hopes that the JFK administration would elevate
Mexican Americans collectively as a group out of the economic plight of the bar-
rios. In essence, Garcia argues that this belief was the Camelot Mexican
Americans were searching to find after the presidential election.
Little support for the Viva Kennedy Clubs came from many Anglo Democrats,
who felt uncomfortable with the Mexican American leaders' new assertiveness.
In Texas, these reformers were: H6ctor P. Garcia, national co-chairman; Albert
Pefia Jr., a liberal Democrat from San Antonio and the first state director; Ed
Idar Jr., who established the first club in Hidalgo County; Henry B. Gonzilez;
George Sanchez; Cleotilde Garcia; William and Tony Bonilla. They would travel
to other southwestern states to promote the Kennedy-Johnson ticket. The Viva
Kennedy Club also established a woman's auxiliary and quickly integrated
women into the club's political activities.
The results of the 1960 election indicated that Mexican Americans in Texas
gave Kennedy "91 percent of the vote or a plurality of 200,000 votes" (p. 105).
Sixteen out of seventeen counties that were predominantly Mexican American
gave Kennedy margins far greater than those in the traditional Democratic Party
strongholds of the Panhandle, Central, and northern Texas. Shortly after the
election, Viva Kennedy supporters had many reasons to celebrate, hoping for
The rejoicing soon ended when the Kennedy administration initially failed to
appoint Mexican American leaders to top-level government positions. A perva-
sive feeling of frustration and disappointment permeated among the Viva
Kennedy leaders. This was certainly not the Camelot the Mexican American
leaders had envisioned. After some of the Viva Kennedy Club leaders openly
expressed their dissatisfaction, the Kennedy administration appointed two
Puerto Ricans and two Mexican Americans (Reynaldo G. Garza and Raymond L.
Telles). None of them were members of the Viva Kennedy Clubs, with the excep-
tion of Telles, who had slightly participated. For two years, however, the Viva
Kennedy Club members had fought to have Kennedy appoint District Judge E.
D. Salinas of Laredo (a Viva Kennedy member) to the federal bench instead of
Reynaldo G. Garza.
The author provides a thought-provoking interpretation of the circumstances
leading to the failure of the Kennedy administration to make significant
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/372/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.