The Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) was established in San Antonio in 1967 by José Ángel Gutiérrez, Willie C. Velásquez, Mario Compean, Ignacio Pérez, and Juan Patlán. It held its first demonstration in front of the Alamo on July 4th of that year and was, for a decade thereafter, the most important political organization of Chicano youth in Texas. Its target group for new recruits was mainly Mexican-American teenagers and university students who were committed to the notion of advancing “la raza” [the race]. MAYO actively recruited disaffected youths from San Antonio’s west side, and urban and farm-labor activists from all parts of Texas.
Each of MAYO’s co-founders was strongly influenced by the Chicano movement and the growing political dissent in America during the mid-1960s. They particularly admired the grassroots strategies of the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres (Federal Alliance of Free Communities), Reies López Tijerina’s New Mexico movement, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Characterizing the United States as a nation infested with anti-Hispanic bigotry, MAYO identified its top priority as the quest for social justice. The organization stressed Chicano cultural nationalism and sought to achieve its goals via direct political confrontation and mass demonstration. Rejecting diplomacy in favor of a more aggressive style, MAYO made its official logo an Aztec warrior inside a circle.
According to the April 3, 1969 Congressional Record, Texas Democratic Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez said that MAYO “styles itself the embodiment of good and the Anglo-American as the incarnation of evil.” The organization’s radical leader José Ángel Gutiérrez stated infamously, “We have got to eliminate the gringo [white man], and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to the worst, we have got to kill him.”
MAYO asserted that Mexican Americans had three principal needs: “economic independence, local control of education, and political strength and unity through the formation of a third party.” The organization complained that poverty, employment discrimination, and police brutality disproportionately affected the lives of Hispanics in the United States. Moreover, MAYO demanded the addition of Mexican-American history to school curricula, as a means of cultivating ethnic pride in children of Mexican ancestry.
By the late 1970s, MAYO was losing momentum as the Chicano movement in the Southwest weakened, and the group eventually ceased its operations.