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Funded in part by a grant from TexTreasures and by the UT Arlington Library.

Ruben Bonilla

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(60 pages)

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Ruben Bonilla, Jr., is a first-generation Mexican American raised in Calvert, Texas in Robertson County. He moved to Corpus Christi in 1960 and graduated from W. B. Ray High School in 1964. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in 1968, and his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the UT School of Law in 1971. He served as state chairman of the Mexican American Democrats of Texas (MAD) in 1985, as Texas State Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) from 1977 to 1979, and as National President of LULAC from 1979 to 1981. Named LULAC 'Man of the Year' in 1977, he has served as a Port Commissioner for the Port Authority of Corpus Christi since 1998 and as Port Commission Chair since 2002. He is a partner in the law firm of Bonilla & Chapa, P.C.

Interview Summary:

Ruben Bonilla, Jr., begins with his role in the Mexican American Democrats of Texas (MAD) and talks about the politics of Mexican Americans and their organizations in Texas, particularly the Raza Unida Party, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), MAD, Tejano Democrats, the American G.I. Forum, and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. He states his concerns for the lack of action on the issues of Mexican American gangs, dropouts, and juvenile crime and shares his family's background in Calvert, Texas. He tells about the politics and economic development in Corpus Christi, Robstown, Mathis, and Nueces County, and derides Richard M. Borchers, elected to a number of Nueces County offices, who failed to create opportunities for Mexican Americans and local residents. Bonilla notes particularly the instance Borchers opted for the Linebarger (now Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson) law firm in Austin over local bidders, and laments the decision of Judge Raul Gonzales regarding a case against the Linebarger firm. Ruben Bonilla shares his opinions on the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the involvement of the Hispanic American organization Comisión Mixta in trade issues between Mexico and the United States, and describes the purpose of the Alliance (an organization formed by the merger of the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation and the Visitors and Tourist Bureau) in Corpus Christi. He provides information on Mexican American politicians Annette Hassette, Lauro Olivárez, and Hugo Berlanga who were elected to public office in Corpus Christi, and gives details on the judicial appointment of Hilda Tagle, with additional commentary on the success of Mexican American women in politics. He commends African American politician Mickey Leland, berates local Mexican American politician Solomon Ortiz, and refers to his friendship with American G.I. Forum founder Dr. Hector P. Garcia. He expresses his hope for a Mexican American owned newspaper and discusses the media's influence on the public's opinion of Mexican Americans. He briefly mentions his own participation in the West Texas march with Ruben Sandoval against police brutality and his experiences with race discrimination, and comments on prominent Mexican American politicos such as Tony Canales, Dan Morales, and Victor Morales.

Locations of residence or activity:

Calvert/Corpus Christi

Interview Date: