Rodolfo Gonzales

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales
Rodolfo Gonzales 1970s.jpg
Real nameRodolfo Gonzales
Super Featherweight
Height5 ft 8 in (174 cm)
Reach71 in (182 cm)
BornJune 18, 1928
Denver, Colorado
DiedApril 12, 2005(2005-04-12) (aged 76)
Boxing record
Total fights75
Wins by KO11
No contests0

Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales[1] (June 18, 1928 – April 12, 2005) was a Mexican American[2] boxer, poet, and political activist.[3] He convened the first-ever Chicano youth conference in March 1969, which was attended by many future Chicano activists and artists;[4] the conference also promulgated the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, a manifesto demanding self-determination for Chicanos.[5] As an early figure of the movement for the equal rights of Mexican Am.

Early life[edit]

Gonzales was born the youngest of Federico and Indalesia Gonzalez' eight children in Denver, Colorado,[6] his father had immigrated to Colorado early in life from Chihuahua, but he retained the histories of Mexico's struggle against Spanish domination and against Porfirio Díaz, a struggle that culminated in the Mexican Revolution, both of which he imparted to his son. His mother died when he was two years old, and his father never remarried.[7]

He and his siblings were raised in Denver's tough "Eastside Barrio", where the Great Depression took an even heavier toll on Mexican Americans.[8][9] However, according to Gonzales, "though the Depression was devastating to so many, we, as children, were so poor that it was hardly noticed", he attended high schools in Colorado and New Mexico while simultaneously working in the beet fields, and graduated from Manual High School at the age of 16. Since his youth he demonstrated a fiery tendency, which caused his uncle to say that "He was always popping off like a cork. So, we called him Corky." The nickname stuck.[10]

Boxing career[edit]

He had a successful professional boxing career and at one time was ranked as a top three Featherweight by Ring Magazine; however he always lost when competing at the highest level and never received a shot at the title. He retired from the ring in 1955 after compiling a record of 63 wins, 11 losses, and 1 draw.[11] Nonetheless, his success in boxing lent him a prominence that he would later capitalize upon during his political career. Gonzales would be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.[12]

Political activism[edit]

I Am Joaquín[edit]

With his poem Yo soy Joaquín, known in English as I Am Joaquin, Gonzales shared his new cosmological vision of the "Chicano", who was neither Indian nor European, neither Mexican nor American, but a combination of all the conflicting identities;[13][14] this new "raza", or "race" found its roots in the Pre-Columbian civilizations, which gave it rights to inhabit the ancestral land of Aztlán. It was strengthened by conceptions such as those of José Vasconcelos, Mexico's Secretary of Education under the Revolutionary Alvaro Obregón, who proclaimed that the hope of humanity lay in the mixed "Raza Cósmica" of Latin America, but perhaps more than anywhere else, Joaquín, the archetypical Chicano, found hope for his future in his own personal and spiritual awakening, a realization forced upon him by his status as an oppressed minority in the United States.[15][16]

Some scholars have credited Gonzales with authoring this historicized, politicized definition of what it is to be a "Chicano";[17] the far-reaching effect of the poem is summed up by UC Riverside professor Juan Felipe Herrera: "Here, finally, was our collective song, and it arrived like thunder crashing down from the heavens. Every little barrio newspaper from Albuquerque to Berkeley published it. People slapped mimeographed copies up on walls and telephone poles." It was so influential that it was turned into a play by Luis Valdez's Teatro Campesino that toured nationally.[14] It is seen a foundational work of the burgeoning Chicano Art Movement that accompanied, complimented, and enhanced the Chicano Movement, and, as the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán exhorted those talented members of the community to use their abilities to advance la Causa ("the Cause"), Yo soy Joaquín provided a strong example

Finding alternatives[edit]

His early political involvement in the Democratic party centered around campaigning for mayor of Denver Quigg Newton in 1947, registering Latino voters for the Democratic party in 1950 and leading the Colorado "Viva Kennedy" campaign. Gonzales' unsuccessful efforts to organize for change within the Democratic party became a crucial turning point for his alternative politics and the foundation of the Crusade for Justice in 1967.[1] Gonzales concluded that the two-party system offered little benefit.[1] Believing that Chicanos could not rely on the "gringo establishment" to provide education, economic stability, or social acceptance, he began to look for alternatives.

When he learned of the 1970 founding of the Raza Unida Party in Crystal City, Texas, he traveled there to challenge José Angel Gutiérrez for its leadership. While Gonzales pushed for a National party stating that the binary parties were two in the same and not representative of the Chicanos. Gutierrez wanted unity within the party and to avoid internal politics to break up La Raza Unida Party.[18]

His solution to the educational question was to found a private school (1971) that would focus on building students' self-esteem through culturally-relevant curricula; the school was named after Tlatelolco, an area of Mexico City. During the conquest, it was the site of the last stand of the Aztecs, and witnessed the massacre of thousands. In post-Revolutionary Mexico, Tlatelolco became home to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, which celebrated Mexico's dual cultural heritage, seen as vindication of indigenous Mexico,[19] it was also home to a community of scholars. In 1968, Tlatelolco became the staging ground for massive student protests, and saw yet another massacre, this time by Mexican forces; as such, the school's name evokes the history of duality, reconciliation, and hope for indigenous and Mestizo people.

The school continues to concentrate on its mission of providing alternative education, especially for Chicanos; the nonprofit school and health care center currently operates under the leadership of Nita Gonzales, one of his six daughters.[11]

Violence in Denver[edit]

The success of the alternative school and Gonzales' political achievements were overshadowed in 1973, when a man was arrested for jaywalking in front of the Crusade's headquarters.[20] An organized protest against the arrest led to confrontations between demonstrators and police. A gun battle erupted, and a bomb exploded in the upper floors of the Downing Terrace apartments, which were in the possession of the Crusade.[21] One man was killed and seventeen were injured, among them 12 police officers. Gonzales accused the Denver police department of grenading the facilities, but a detective described the scene of the explosion as a "veritable arsenal".[22] Historians and scholars have yet to evaluate the impact of the bombing, but later prosecutions of Crusade participants diminished the influence of Gonzales and his organizations. Another example of police violence would be the death of Edward Larry Romero. Misinformation about the 19 year old made this particular incident suspect; the cop claimed that the boy ran and that he heard someone shout "he has a gun". The cop supposedly gave a warning shot then fired on Romero fatally wounding him. Later news will come out contradicting evidence like the shot placement or the hostility of the 19 year old; the 19-year-old was Alfred Salazar he was struck by an officer's nightstick and then arrested for disturbance and resisting arrest. Salazar was booked at city jail around 1:00 a.m. on March 8. He had made complaints of his head hurting, but no injury was found, his parents went to Rodolfo Gonzales's bail bond company and arranged for their son's release. Gonzales accompanied the family to the jail, but when they arrived they found that Salazar was incoherent and unable to sign his name. Salazar died that night; the autopsy showed that Salazar's skull was exceptionally thin, half the thickness of an average skull. Because of this, the grand jury ruled his death accidental and cleared the officer (Vincent C. De, Baca).

After the incident in 1973, Gonzales retreated into the private life of his family and Denver's Chicano community, he was still active in the movement, although he maintained a much lower profile.[23]

In 2005, he was diagnosed with renal and coronary distress with acute liver disease.[24] Astounding his doctors, he refused treatment and checked out of the hospital, stating, "I'm indigenous. I'm going to die at home among my family." Per his wish, Gonzales died surrounded by friends and family in 2005.[25][26] He was remembered as an invigorating spirit, or "the fist" of the Chicano Movement.[27]


  • I am Joaquin : an epic poem, (1967).
  • Message to Aztlán: selected writings of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, (2001) Houston: Arte Público Press. ISBN 1-55885-331-6.

See also[edit]

Jose Hugaras



  1. ^ a b c Vigil, Ernesto (1999). The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government's War on Dissent. Madison. University of Wisconsin Press.
  2. ^ Espinoza, Annette; Bunch, Joey (June 19, 2009). "Exhibit honors Denver Chicano activist's work". The Denver Post. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  3. ^ Sahagun, Louis (April 14, 2005). "Rodolfo Gonzales, 76; Prizefighter, Poet and Fervent Chicano Activist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  4. ^ Mariscal, Jorge (April 21, 2005). "The passing of a legend: Rodolfo 'Corky' Gonzales". The Black Commentator. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-08. Retrieved 2010-12-31.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Fletcher, Harrison (January 29, 1998). "Nita Gonzales: All in the Familia". Westword. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  7. ^ Alvarez, Martha (May 4, 2009). "The 40th Annual Corky Gonzales Symposium: The Voice of Activism in Denver". Thomas Jefferson Journal. Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  8. ^ Civil rights in the USA, 1863-1980 - David Paterson, Susan Willoughby - Google Books. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  9. ^ "Picture This: Depression Era: 1930s: Repatriation for Mexican & Filipino Farm Workers". Oakland Museum of California. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  10. ^ Retrieved December 31, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  11. ^ a b "Rodolfo Gonzales, 76, Boxer and Activist, Dies". The New York Times. April 16, 2005. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  12. ^ ""Corky" Gonzales". Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  13. ^ Mariscal, Jorge (April 28, 2005). "Civil Rights Icon 'Corky' Gonzales Dies". New America Media. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Gonzales, Rodolfo (April 15, 2005). "I am Joaquin". Counterpunch. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  15. ^ "Luis H. Moreno". Raza Press Association. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  16. ^ "Yo Soy Joaquín". The Unapologetic Mexican. May 5, 2006. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  17. ^ Hartley, George. "I Am Joaquín: Rodolfo 'Corky' Gonzales and the Retroactive Construction of Chicanismo". Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  18. ^ Navarro, Armando (1998). The Cristal Experiment. University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 110–111.
  19. ^ "About". Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  20. ^ "West High Blowout - 40 years later". June 14, 2009. Retrieved January 31, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Kosena, Jason (March 22, 2009). "West High, 1969". The Denver Post. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  22. ^ Madigan, Michael (February 11, 2009). "March 21, 1969: Poverty meets its match". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on March 13, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  23. ^ "Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales: Biography". The Veterans of Hope Project. Archived from the original on January 3, 2005. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  24. ^ Lynch, Emma (September 8, 2010). "Still in the fight: The Gonzales family". La Voz Bilingüe. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  25. ^ "Chicano Movimiento Leader Corky Gonzales Dies". It's About Time. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  26. ^ [1] Archived July 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Chicano Leader Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales 1929-2005: "He Was the Fist. He Stood For Defiance, Resistance"". Democracy Now!. April 15, 2005. Archived from the original on November 15, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2012.

External links[edit]