Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Latino Political Power, an FBI Concern Unveiled

Historians are saying that a memo included in recently released John F. Kennedy documents by the National Archives shows that the FBI was concerned about the growing political power of Latinos. According to the 1963 document, an FBI informant closely followed a Dallas Chapter of the G.I. Forum, a moderate group of Mexican American veterans who spoke out against discrimination, at a time when the G.I. Forum had been monitoring another civil rights organization, LULAC – The League of United Latin American Citizens.

“We know that the FBI was monitoring LULAC in the 1940s and 1950s. But this appears to show they were more worried about all of the groups’ growing influence,” said Emilio Zamora, a University of Texas history professor. “Even though these groups were moderate, the FBI was worried because they were Mexican. In their eyes, they could become radicalized at any time.”

The documents show the agency was monitoring the civil rights groups just weeks before Kennedy visited with one of the Hispanic organizations. Kennedy spoke at a LULAC gala in Houston the night before his Nov. 22, 1963, assassination. Historians believe that was the first time a sitting president acknowledged the Latino vote.

Jose Angel Gutierrez, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, said the memo was evidence that the federal government actively sought to divide Latino civil rights groups to thwart efforts to fight discrimination.

Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Kennedy in 1960. Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother, would attribute the election victory in part to the support among Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans.


NBC News