Listen to the interview
Mexican American civil rights advocate Alberto Luera was born in 1946 in Laredo, Texas and graduated from Laredo's Martin High School. He attended Laredo Junior College and received a teaching degree from Texas A&I-Kingsville (Texas A&M-Kingsville). On the Kingsville campus, he was active in the Political Association of Spanish-speaking Organizations (PASSO) and the Laredo Club. He began organizing the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) in Corpus Christi in 1969 where he worked for SER-Jobs for Progress, Inc., under Willie (William D.) Bonilla, but was fired from that job because of his political activities. He attended the first MAYO conference held at the La Lomita Mission, Texas in 1969 and moved to San Antonio to serve with MAYO chairman Mario Compeán as MAYO secretary. He was elected MAYO state chairman in 1971 and returned to his hometown of Laredo in 1972 to found Centro Aztlán (a.k.a. Centro Asociación Pro Servicios Sociales Aztlán, Inc., or APSS, Inc.) to provide paralegal assistance. He has since retired as director for Centro Aztlán.
Alberto Luera begins with his family's background and attributes the family's immigration to the United States to the involvement of a relative, Eduardo Hernández, in the Mexican Revolution as a general under Pancho Villa. He speaks of his family's business enterprises and his brief alignment with the Republican Party during the popularity of the Democratic Party's Viva Kennedy Clubs. He assails the patrón system controlling politics in Webb County and South Texas and refers to the long reign of Laredo mayor J. C. 'Pepe' Martin, Jr. (Joseph Claude Martin, Jr.). He stresses his parents' emphasis on education and mentions his occasional foray into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. He contrasts the social differences of Laredo, essentially a Mexican-American community, with that of Anglo-American dominated Kingsville, Texas, and describes his first exposure to race discrimination while at Texas A&I-Kingsville (Texas A&M University-Kingsville). He discusses his participation in the Political Assocation of Spanish-speaking Organizations (PASSO) and the Laredo Club while at Texas A&I and shares his support of Carlos Truan's campaign for Texas state representative. He talks about his efforts to launch the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) in Corpus Christi with Viviana Santiago (Cavada) and Guadalupe Youngblood while they worked for SER-Jobs for Progress, Inc., and notes his efforts on a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) project in the Mexican-American neighborhoods of Corpus Christi. He recounts the circumstances of his firing and that of his colleagues from SER by Willie (William D.) Bonilla for their MAYO involvement. He explains the successful implentation of an action plan stemming from the 1969 MAYO conference held at La Lomita Mission in Mission, Texas and details his role as secretary for the organization with Texas MAYO chairman Mario Compean in San Antonio. He reveals his own election as chairman of MAYO in 1971 and considers the demise of MAYO to be the birth of the Raza Unida Party. He relates his success at getting the Raza Unida Party on the state ballot for the 1972 elections and boasts of the party's successful 1972 voter turnout. He philosophizes about the end of the Raza Unida Party in Webb County and places considerable blame on Ramsey Muñiz's conviction on drug charges. He speaks of the contributions of his first wife, Juanita Luera, to the Chicano movement and highlights his work culminating in the creation of Centro Aztlán (a.k.a. Centro Asociación de Servicios Sociales Aztlán, Inc., or APSS, Inc.). He chronicles Centro Aztlán's financial evolution and growth and brags particularly points of the aid given to political refugees from Central America. He highlights boosting the success of other organizations in South Texas such as Laredo Regional Food Bank, (Azteca) Economic Development and Preservation Corporation, Laredo-Webb Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc., and the unincorporated community of El Cenizo. He mentions his election support of Jim Hightower and laments the dwindling impact of League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense Fund (MALDEF), and American G.I. Forum.
Locations of residence or activity: