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¡Viva Kennedy!

10 November 2013

While in practical terms, I think LBJ did more for Mexican-Americans than anyone else in U.S. politics, Mercedes Olivara writes on the tremendous impact John Kennedy’s campaign and election had on Mexican-American voters:

The fact that JFK was Catholic, and his wife spoke Spanish, made an impact on Mexican-American voters. More important, though, Mexican-Americans seemed to have made an impact on Kennedy.

He was the first presidential candidate to recognize the importance of the now so-called Hispanic voter: Jacqueline Kennedy’s political ad asking Hispanics for their votes was the first one done in Spanish by a presidential campaign.

“He was Catholic, and an ethnic with an immigrant history,” said Andy Hernandez, a Latino politics analyst.

The similarities were striking. The Irish weren’t considered Anglo even as late as the 1960s and were known for being part of an immigrant group that had also battled discrimination similar to what Mexican-Americans had experienced.

It would prove to be a narrative that won over Mexican-Americans and may have helped push Kennedy into the winner’s column on Election Night.

Hispanic votes were crucial in several swing states, such as Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, and California, where the margin of victory ranged from less than 1 percent to 2 percent.

“Kennedy got 90 percent of the Mexican-American vote – something unlikely to be matched ever again,” said Ignacio García, history professor at Brigham Young University and author of “Viva Kennedy: Mexican Americans in Search of Camelot.”

“Mexican-Americans had never gone out to vote in these numbers before,” García said.

(¡Viva Kennedy!, The Texas Catholic (10 November 2013)

JFK mural at Chamizal agreement (which was actually handed over during the Johnson Administration)

Chamizul National Monument: Although the actual handover did not occur until 1967, the JFK is credited with the Chamizal agreement of January 1963.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 November 2013 4:25 pm

    Yes, I agree that Kennedy can thank the Mexican American community for his presidential victory. However as of today, there is still much anti-Mexican American sentiment in this country, that takes us backwards to the pre-1960 era, in education, economics, and justice. A time when we were not even given the chaff of the seed, much less the seed. Camelots with false promises can be found everywhere, a Camelot with substance is truly a rarity and yet to be found for the Mexican American voter.

  2. Bebe permalink
    13 November 2013 1:46 am

    I listened to Jackie on YouTube…she sounds like an Argentine. Which make sense since Miss Porter’s would prefer French and Italian over Spanish, and she got her college degree in French lit. But, hey, never underestimate the Kennedy mystique to triumph common sense.

    Don’t forget your post this past summer of the pix of Pat Nixon dedicating Friendship Park on the California border and pressing the Mexican flesh after she requested that the barbed wire fence be removed. Did La Jackie ever do that?

    • 13 November 2013 2:11 am

      Argentine accent? I’d have to listen more, but I just don’t hear anything close to the Argentiine accent, more just an “international” Spanish.

  3. Bebe permalink
    13 November 2013 10:57 pm

    I don’t quite hear a castellano accent, except perhaps in the consonants, but her vowels aren’t short but long and the intonation of her phrasing strongly resembles what one would expect in an Italian accent…which Argentines (at least in Buenos Aires) think they all are anyway haha!

    I totally agree that Jackie’s just doing an ad in Spanish for JFK was a first for a US presidential candidate. Still, after my college days and subsequent travels in those parts of the US, I’m quite biased in believing no New England/East Coast American knows much of anything about Mexico, so the deeds of LBJ and Mrs. Nixon trump pretty much everything else.

    • 13 November 2013 11:14 pm

      No doubt it took an SOB like LBJ (and a steel magnolia like Lady Bird) to push through civil rights, but Mercedes’ article, which I riffed off, was just on the sense of “hope and change” in the Mexican-American community represented by the election of a Catholic (with a Spanish speaking wife). The social backgrounds of Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Nixon are too different to really make comparisons. But then, from each according to her ability…

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