LatinaLista — One of the most shameful chapters in modern American history occurred in a small Texas town by the name of Three Rivers. It was in that town, sixty years ago, where the only funeral home refused to hold a wake for the decorated Mexican American soldier Felix Longoria who had been killed in World War II.
The funeral home’s refusal sparked a sensation that is credited as igniting the national civil rights movement, as well as, a series of events forever known as the Longoria Affair.
Decorated WWII veteran Felix Longoria
The event also brought together two unlikely allies — Lyndon B. Johnson, a future U.S. President and Dr. Hector Garcia, the eventual founder of the GI Forum. Their alliance impacted the progress of Latino civil rights in U.S. society.
Yet, after all these years, the Longoria Affair is far from over.
Today, 60 years after the Longoria Affair Three Rivers continues to struggle with its past. Santiago Hernandez, a local musician and member of the American GI Forum, proposes honoring Felix Longoria by naming the local post office after him.
Many Anglo residents are angered by the proposal. They believe discrimination against Mexican Americans never existed in their town and that the Longoria Affair never happened.
The past and present collide as Three Rivers struggles to come to terms with a brutal history of segregation that has long haunted South Texas.
Premiering on PBS’ Independent Lens show on Tuesday, November 9 at 10:30 p.m. EST, The Longoria Affair comes to life again for a whole new generation.
The director and producers of the film have been trying to reach out to this new generation by screening the film on college campuses across the country. Feeling strongly that this is a film is about a historic event that not enough people know about, the film will be made available to stream in Spanish from November 11-January 10, 2011 at the film’s PBS portal.
Also, INDEPENDENT LENS will make the English version of the film available for online viewing for a limited time — from November 10-16, 2010 at the film’s PBS portal as well.
Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.