For a few brief months during the presidential campaign of 1960, Mexican Americans caught a glimpse of their own Camelot in the promise of John F. Kennedy. Grassroots "Viva Kennedy Clubs" sprang up not only in the southwestern United States but also across California and the upper Midwest to help elect the young Catholic standard bearer. The leaders of the Viva Kennedy Clubs were confident and hopeful that their participation in American democracy would mark the beginning of the end of discrimination, violence, and poverty in the barrio. Although the dream of attaching their own Camelot to Kennedy's ultimately ended in disappointment, these participatory efforts contributed to an identity-building process for Mexican Americans that led to greater emphasis on Americanization for some and to the more radical rhetoric of the Chicano Movement for others.
In Viva Kennedy, Ignacio M. Garc a surveys the background, development, and evolution of the Viva Kennedy Clubs and their post-election incarnation as PASO, the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations. He argues that patriotic fervor of the 1940s and postwar economic expansion spurred middle-class Mexican Americans to strive for full inclusion in American society.
Ironically, those involved in the Viva Kennedy movement showed their militancy in fighting discrimination even as they upheld America's conservative values. They believed that discrimination could be overcome through government actions that recognized their civil rights and through their own political participation.
Garc a describes the post-election problems of the Viva Kennedy reformers, who first saw the Kennedy administration ignore its campaign promises to them and then encountered their own factional squabbles, chronic funding problems, and a growing unease among Anglo Americans wary of Mexican American political power.
Based on research and interviews with key leaders of the Viva Kennedy movement such as Ed Idar, Jr., Edward R. Roybal, and Albert Pe a, Jr., this study unveils a portrait of a people in transition and provides a nuanced picture of twentieth-century Mexican American history.
Ignacio M. Garcia, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, is the author of several books and articles on Chicano politics. He has been a correspondent for the San Antonio Express-News and the Tucson Citizen, as well as editor of Nuestro magazine.