La Raza Unida (“The Unified Race”), also known as the La Raza Unida Party, was established as a third political party in Crystal City, Texas in January 1970. Under the leadership of its co-founders, Jose Angel Gutierrez and Mario Compean, this organization promoted “social, economic, and political self-determination for Chicanos, other minorities, and the disenfranchised,” chiefly by engaging in local- and state-level politics.
In its earliest days, La Raza Unida (LRU) tried, with some success, to help Chicanos win county, local, and school-district elections in south Texas. In April 1970, for instance, the party’s candidates won city-council elections in the towns of Cotulla, Carrizo Springs, and Crystal City. Jose Angel Gutierrez and two other RUP candidates were also victorious in Crystal City’s school-board elections.
At LRU’s first state convention—held on October 30, 1971 in San Antonio—delegates from nine Texas counties resolved that the party would field six state- and federal-level candidates, including gubernatorial hopeful Ramsey Muñiz and U.S. Senate hopeful Secundion Salazar, in the 1972 elections. None of the six were elected.
Also in 1972, at LRU’s first national convention, Jose Angel Gutierrez was elected as national chairman of the organization. Other prominent LRU figures of that period included Corky Gonzalez, Reyes Lopez Tijerina, and Cesar Chavez. Pledging to “seek group ascendancy and solidarity among persons of Mexican American ancestry in this century,” the group’s motto was “Re-commit, re-direct, re-organize and re-claim our past Chicano activism.”
Ramsey Muñiz again ran (unsuccessfully) for governor in 1974. And in 1978 Mario Compean and some other LRU candidates made bids for offices at various levels of government, but all were defeated. While those losses effectively marked the end of LRU’s participation in popular elections, the party had nonetheless established itself as an influential political force in certain Texas communities. Moreover, its reach gradually spread to other states as well, especially California and Colorado.
At LRU’s Second National Convention—held in Beirut, Lebanon in 1980—Juan Jose Pena, who maintained that “Chicanos should vote Socialist,” was elected chairman of the organization. Also at this convention, LRU “took the position that our struggle was for the Liberation of Aztlan,” the purported name of a mythical place that LRU depicts as the cradle of Aztec civilization which the United States, in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, unjustly seized from its rightful owners—the people and government of Mexico. By LRU’s telling, Aztlan is composed of five southwestern states: “California, Arizona, Nuevo Mexico, Tejas and Colorado.” In some of its literature, the organization refers to California as “Califaztlan”—a composite of the words “California” and “Aztlan.”
LRU’s current policy priorities are to: promote “democracy” by “maximiz[ing] community participation” in electoral politics; advance “equal rights and fairness for all” by means of compensatory “justice” in the form of affirmative-action preferences (for Latinos) and the reconquest of “Aztlan”; create a “family-friendly economy” by passing living-wage laws; eliminate the “social inequalities” that allegedly oppress nonwhites in America; “provide health care for all” by means of a government-run, single-payer system; use taxpayer dollars to cultivate a “well-funded and expanding public education system”; “halt global warming” by moving away from fossil fuels and toward “renewable energy”; and “support business practices that serve the common good and create common wealth.”
Embracing a philosophy of “revolutionary nationalism,” LRU supports a policy of unrestricted immigration; the effective dissolution of American borders; and amnesty, civil liberties protections, and expanded rights for illegal immigrants already residing in the United States. In fact, LRU declares: “We see no human being as ‘illegal.’ Those who have arrived to the U.S. with heritage indigenous to the Americas, and specifically those crossing the southern border, are migrants on their own continent.”
LRU also professes “a commitment to the advancement of people of indigenous heritage,” an advancement to be achieved by means of “the complete reworking of the current [capitalist] economic system.” The group further advocates “fair taxes for all,” meaning the redistribution of wealth via a progressive income-tax structure and an expanded welfare state. Moreover, LRU exhorts the U.S. government to “drastically reduce the amount of taxes used to fund military purposes,” while ending “the militarization of society, including the borders.”
For additional information on LRU, click here.
 LRU’s earliest activities date back to 1968 (in Tejas, Colorado and various parts of California).
 Emilio Zamora, who served as LRU’s chairman in Travis County (Texas) in the mid-1970s before becoming a University of Texas professor, would later recall: “We were primarily critical of the hat-in-hand, ‘si, señor,’ approach to change.”