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

Juan Hinojosa

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(43 pages)

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Born in McAllen, Texas in 1946 and raised in Mission, Texas, Juan Hinojosa, nicknamed Chuy, worked with his family as migrant farmers during harvest seasons. He attended Pan American University briefly before he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in Vietnam, and returned to Pan American University to complete his Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science. In 1974, he received his Juris Doctorate Degree from Georgetown University and worked for Texas Rural Legal Aid (now under Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid) as an attorney and later as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas. In 1980, he began his private law practice in McAllen and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, stepping down from public office in 1991 when he was appointed to the Higher Education Coordinating Board by Governor Ann Richards. He was again elected to the Texas House in 1996, and served until his election to the Texas Senate in 2002, an office he still held in 2009.

Interview Summary:

Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa begins with his family's background and recalls their deportation to Mexico by the United States Immigration and Nautralization Services Border Patrol despite his American birthright. He shares numerous incidents of the race discrimination he experienced in South Texas, but praises the school system in Mission. He discusses his education and military service and talks about his run for the Texas House of Representatives against Eddie de la Garza, grandson to U.S. Congressman Eligio 'Kika' de la Garza. He reveals his campaign finances and the grassroots campaign strategy he learned from his mentor John Luke Hill, Jr. He speaks of his efforts in office to unify and strengthen the Mexican American caucus and tells of his budget confrontation with Speaker of the House Bill(y) Clayton in order to keep farm chemical regulation under the Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Hightower. He explains his non-partisan voting record by citing a vote on redistricting and touts his legislative successes. He elaborates on his struggle with the University of Texas System Chancellor, William H. Cunningham, to bring the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) to South Texas. He shares his decision to run for the Texas Senate seat vacated by Carlos Truán and expresses his gratitude for the financial support he garnered in Corpus Christi, Texas to run and win against Tony Canales' granddaughter, Barbara Canales Black. He points out the differences between working in the Texas House of Representatives and working in the Texas Senate, and contrasts the Republican and Democratic Parties in Texas. He talks about a case he tried prior to introducing legislation, with the help of Judith Zafarrini, for victims of Battered Woman Syndrome and tells about the clean up operation of chemical dumping from the Hayes Sammons Chemical Company on the property of Celia Muñoz. He contrasts the camaraderie of his Marine Corps squad in Vietnam to his first-year impressions and discomfort at Georgetown University and refers to the La Raza Law Students Association he started in the Washington, D.C. area as a student.

Locations of residence or activity:

Mission, McAllen, Corpus Christi

Interview Date: