RODOLFO CORKY GONZALES. . . PRESENTE!
VIVA LA RAZA! CHICANO POWER!
And so - Rodolfo Gonzales, a political activist destined to take the lead, set the example, and inspire many people, chose his fight: “The Crusade For Justice”. Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was born in Denver on June 18, 1928 to Federico and Indalesia Gonzales. He was the youngest of four brothers and three sisters, Nattie, Beatrice, Tomas, Esperanza, Federico, Severino, and Arturo. Corky's mother died when he was two years old and his father never re-married, but managed somehow to keep the Gonzales family together. The senior Gonzales ruled his household with a firm hand, tempered with love.
The children grew up in the tough eastside barrio of Denver during the devastating Depression. Rodolfo said, "Though the Depression was devastating to so many, we, as children, were so poor that it (the Depression) was hardly noticed."
Corky's father had emigrated from Mexico to Colorado early in life and often spoke to Corky about the Mexican Revolution, Mexico’s history, and the pride of the Mexican people. Thus leaving little doubt in Corky's mind about his own identity - and possibly his destiny.
With the tremendous obstacles that faced Rodolfo from an early age, it is truly astonishing that he persevered in the Denver educational system to earn his high school Diploma at the age of 16. The accomplishment is magnified by the fact that from an early age, Rodolfo worked in the beet fields and at various other jobs that left little time for study. Corky attended many schools including schools in New Mexico as well as schools in Denver, Gilpin, Whittier, Lake, Baker, West, and finally Manual High School from which he graduated in 1944.
During his final year in high school and the subsequent summer, Corky worked hard to save money for a college education. With a keen interest in engineering, Corky entered the University of Denver, but after the first quarter realized that the financial cost was insurmountable. Rodolfo then pursued a career in Boxing. An outstanding amateur national champion Rodolfo became one of the best featherweight (125 lb) fighters in the world. Even though Ring Magazine ranked Corky number three in the world, he never got a justly deserved title shot.
In the mid-1960's, Rodolfo Gonzales founded an urban civil rights and cultural movement called the Crusade for Justice. Soon he became one of the central leaders in the Chicano movement and a strong proponent of Chicano nationalism. In the late sixties and early seventies, Corky Gonzales organized and supported high school walkouts, demonstrations against police brutality, and legal cases. He also organized mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
In 1968 Gonzales led a Chicano contingent in the Poor People's March on Washington, D.C. While there, he issued his "Plan of the Barrio" which called for better housing, education, barrio-owned businesses, and restitution of pueblo lands. He also proposed forming a Congress of Aztlan to achieve these goals.
One of the most important roles played by Gonzales was as an organizer of the Annual Chicano Youth Liberation Conference, an ambitious effort to create greater unity among Chicano youth. These Conferences brought together large numbers of Chicano youth from throughout the United States and provided them with opportunities to express their views on self-determination. The first conference in March 1969 produced a document, “EL PLAN ESPIRITUAL DE AZTLAN (THE SPIRITUAL PLAN OF AZTLAN)”, which developed the concept of ethnic nationalism and self-determination in the struggle for Chicano liberation. The second Chicano Youth Conference in 1970 represented a further refinement in Corky Gonzales's efforts toward Chicano self-determination, the formation of the Colorado Raza Unida Party.
In many ways, Corky Gonzales has greatly influenced the Chicano movement. His key to liberation for the Chicano community is to develop a strong power base with heavy reliance on nationalism among Chicanos. His contributions as a community organizer, youth leader, political activist, and civil rights advocate have helped to create a new spirit of Chicano unity.
Rodolfo "Corky” Gonzales' life has been a collage of challenges that have been met and overcome. He has never wavered in his commitment to enhance the lives of his people in this country, to change what is not fair, what is not right. As long as there are injustices, double standards, racism, and apathy, Corky's dedication, loyalty, and love of the struggle against these diseases of society will serve as an inspiration for all people to act.
In his column in the Denver Post of January 6, 1988, Tom Gavin wrote,
"He’s grizzled now, and gray,
but he stands tall, Corky Gonzales does,
and taller still, Rodolfo "I am Joaquin" Gonzales.
The one was a pretty good boxer, the other is a leader of men."