Friday, April 15, 2005

On the Passing of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales

Washington, DC - The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., today expressed its deep sorrow over the passing of one of the heroes of the Chicano movement, Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales. The well-known civil rights leader and founder of the Crusade for Justice in Denver passed away yesterday at his home at the age of 76.

"A gifted community leader, an acclaimed poet, and a successful entrepreneur, Corky Gonzales was one of the most passionate and charismatic leaders to emerge from the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s," stated Janet Mur
guia, NCLR President and CEO. Beginning his career as a champion fighter in the boxing ring, he later fought to end discrimination, police brutality, and poverty for all Americans. He left an indelible mark on the Latino rights movement.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family; he will be

"There is no question that Corky Gonzales was an often provocative and controversial figure. We may not agree with everything he stood for but there is no doubt that his commitment to the betterment of the Latino community was profound. On a personal note, I know Gonzales served as a role model and mentor to my predecessor Raul Yzaguirre. I am proud to stand on the shoulders of these leaders as we continue their work to improve opportunities for the Latino community," concluded Murguia.

Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales

The son of migrant workers who himself toiled in the beet fields of Colorado, Gonzales left his career as a professional boxer when he grew increasingly angered by the disparate treatment of Mexican Americans in the barrios of Denver, in the school system, and by law enforcement and city government.

He founded the Crusade for Justice in 1966, which became one of the most respected Hispanic self-help organizations in the country. Among its many programs were a school, a nursery, a theater, and a cultural center. In the mid-1960s, Gonzales published his epic poem, Yo Soy JoaquĆ­n -I am Joaquin, one of the seminal and most enduring works of the Chicano movement which has served as an anthem to several generations of Mexican American students. Inspired by his participation in Martin Luther King's Poor People's March in 1968, he issued the famous "El Plan del Barrio" which called for improved education, better housing, more Hispanic-owned businesses, and the restoration of Spanish land grants.

The overwhelming community response to "El Plan" led Gonzales to organize the first National Chicano Youth Conference in 1969, the largest national gathering of Mexican American activists up to that time.