Mexican tapestery pattern

Search Interviews:


Learn More:

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

Amancio Chapa

Read Transcript

(61 pages)

Listen to the interview


Amancio J. Chapa, Jr., was born in La Joya, Texas in 1946 and raised in Corpus Christi. He graduated valedictorian from his high school in 1965 and earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from the University of Texas in 1970. He worked with Interstate Research Associates until the organization moved to San Antonio, preferring to remain politically active in his home community of La Joya. He was elected to the La Joya ISD board of trustees in 1971 and also served on the board of directors for Colegio Jacinto Treviño. He was elected mayor of La Joya in the late 1970s and served a two-year term, choosing instead to return to the school board in 1982. He has served on the Housing Assistance Council board of directors since the mid 1970s and also as its president, and was executive director of both Amigos Del Valle, Inc. for 17 years, and Colonias Del Valle. He was honored in 2001 for 22 years of service on the La Joya Independent School District board of trustees, and served as the district's coordinator for the Center for History and Culture and director of the Fine Arts Department. He was a member of the executive committee of the National Council of La Raza, chairman of the Texas Association of Community Development Corporations, and vice president of the Mexican American Democrats of Texas (MAD), and has been an active member of numerous other community-related boards.

Interview Summary:

Amancio J. Chapa, Jr., begins with his childhood living in the Corpus Christi, Texas neighborhood of the La Armada (the first defense housing project built in 1941, now under the Housing Authority of the City of Corpus Christi) and describes the race discrimination he felt while attending Catholic school there. He talks about his family's ranching background in South Texas, and about the family's move back to La Joya around 1959-1960. He refers often to his relationship with local liberal political leader, Leo J. Leo, who became mayor of La Joya in 1965, Leo's connections with the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASSO), and their mutual ties to the Raza Unida Party. Mr. Chapa provides details of his own involvement in school leadership in opposition to school board chairman, D. B. 'Beto' Reyna, and recounts the student strike over the firing of teacher Olivia Hinojosa in 1963. He relates his first exposure to a number of politicos including Henry B. Gonzales and labor leader Henry R. Muñoz, Jr. He talks at length on his political activities while attending the University of Texas which led to forming the Mexican American Student Organization (MASO) in 1966. He explains the creation of the Mexican American Youth Organization ( MAYO), pointing to MAYO's focus on the Chicano movement and outside pressure from other political groups, particularly the Socialist Worker Alliance (Socialist Workers Party/Young Socialists' Alliance) and his own interest in the Peace movement to end the Vietnam War. He reveals his involvement in the strike against the Economy Furniture Company in Austin and the election campaigns of Santo 'Buddy' Ruiz and Richard Moya. He speaks about meeting Ramsey Muñiz and working in Muñiz' gubanatorial campaign and expresses his reasons for returning to La Joya after earning his degree. He discusses his work with Interstate Research Associates, justifies his continued affiliation with the Raza Unida Party, and explores the dischord in the Colegio Jacinto Treviño and the resulting offshoot, the Juárez-Lincoln Center in Austin. He tells of his work on the La Joya Independent School District board of trustees, his election as mayor of La Joya aided by the support of incumbent Leo J. Leo, and the goals of the political factions in Hidalgo County. He examines the deterioration of the Raza Unida Party and his meeting with San Juan, Texas politicos Jesus 'Chuy' Ramirez and Juan Maldonado about joining the Democratic Party to make a difference. He explains his reticence to join with the Democratic Party until Leo J. Leo's death, when he finally connects with Mexican American Democrats of Texas (MAD) in La Joya. He states his differences with Cheo Sandoval, the executive director of Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), and his brief employment with OEO. He describes his circumstances prior to becoming executive director of Colonias del Valle under the Community Action Program and elaborates on a scandal in Brownsville arising from the Governor's Office of Migrant Affairs (GOMA) under Governor Dolph Briscoe. He discusses his reasons for returning to the La Joya ISD board of trustees as a lone champion for the children of migrant workers and shares his views on education and politics in Texas. He comments on his work with Amigos del Valle, Inc., and on the political activities of William 'Billy' Leo in Hidalgo County.

Locations of residence or activity:

Corpus Christi

Interview Date: