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José O. Mata was born in 1947 in Crystal City, Texas. He dropped out of school to work at the Del Monte Corporation cannery to support his family, later earning his GED. A veteran of the Vietnam War, he served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1969. He served as a member and president of the board of directors of the Ciudadanos Unidos, the foundation of the Raza Unida Party. He was elected to the board of directors of the Crystal City Independent School District in 1972, and to the Crystal City city council in 1982, serving as mayor in 1985. He was the first Mexican American appointed as the Zavala County Road Administrator, was the executive director for the Housing Authority of the City of Crystal City, and worked with the Community Action Agency and Council of Governments.
José O. Mata talks about his family's hardships as migrant farm workers in Crystal City, Texas and how the workers were housed in the former Crystal City Internment Camp. He discusses the political turmoil in Crystal City when he returned from Vietnam and provides the background for the formation of Ciudadanos Unidos (United Citizens). He gives details of his political campaigns and his accomplishments while serving in public office. He explains the underlying reasons for losing his city council seat to an opponent who received financial backing from the Del Monte Corporation. He shares how he started the family business and comments on Mexican American politicos Cesar Chavez, Ventura Gonzales, José Angel Gutiérrez, and Ernesto Olguin.
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