Medallion Name – YO SOY JOAQUIN
Significance – Corky Gonzales has been honored as the founder of the Chicano movement. He was an iconic leader in the movement for justice and equality for Mexican-Americans.
Inscription – Rudolfo Corky Gozales born in Denver June 18, 1928, son of a migrant worker, helped organize and lead the Chicano civil and human rights movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. He advocated equality, just and self-determination for the Chicano/Mexicano people of the Southwest.
POET – PLAYWRIGHT – LECTURER – POLITICAL ACTIVIST – COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
“I am Aztec Prince
And Christian Christ
I shall endure,
I will endure…”
Location – 39.750116, -104.996004
Details – In the 1960s, people protested to be heard. Hippies protested the Vietnam War. Negroes marched for Civil Rights. Women demonstrated for Equal Rights, and Mexican-Americans picketed for Chicano Power. Former prize fighter Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales led the charge for Chicano identity. His legendary contributions as a community organizer, youth leader, political activist, and civil rights advocate fostered a new spirit of unity and hope among the Chicano people.
Ask anyone familiar with Chicano history and they will tell you that the Corky Gonzales poem, Yo Soy Joaquin /I am Joaquin, was a prime catalyst for the Mexican-American movement. The 1965 epic poem has been called one of the most important literary works to emerge from the Chicano movement.
In the poem Gonzales tells of the historic struggles faced by Mexican Americans in the United States.
Yo Soy Joaquin shares the cosmological vision of the “Chicano”, who was neither Indian nor European, neither Mexican nor American, but a combination of all the conflicting identities. This new “raza” or “race” is rooted in the Pre-Columbian civilizations, but centuries of ethnic turmoil allow for spiritual awakening and freedom for the future, beyond the existence of an oppressed minority in the United States. (Enjoy Yo Soy Joaquin /I am Joaquin here – http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/latinos/joaquin.htm.)
Some scholars have credited Gonzales with authoring the definition of what it is to be a Chicano. “Here, finally, was our collective song, and it arrived like thunder crashing down from the heavens. Every little barrio newspaper from Albuquerque to Berkeley published it. People slapped mimeographed copies up on walls and telephone poles,” summarizes UC Riverside professor Juan Felipe Herrera.
Background: Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was born in Denver on June 18, 1928 to Federico and Indalesia Gonzales. The youngest of five brothers and three sisters, he recalled little of his mother, who passed when he was two years old. Father Federico had emigrated from Mexico to Colorado early in life. He never re-married and ruled his household with a firm hand, tempered with love. He often spoke to Rodolfo about the Mexico’s struggle against Spanish domination and opposition to General Porfirio Díaz, a struggle that culminated in the Mexican Revolution. He conveyed his pride for the Mexican people, leaving little doubt in Rodolfo’s mind about his own identity.
The Gonzales family lived in Denver’s tough “Eastside Barrio,” a neighborhood the truly suffered during the Great Depression. Rodolfo recalled, “Though the Depression was devastating to so many, we, as children, were so poor that it was hardly noticed.”
Since his early days, Rodolfo had a fire inside. His uncle recalls that, “He was always popping off like a cork. So, we called him “Corky.”
The name stuck. Corky attended high schools while simultaneously working in the beet fields. He graduated from Denver’s Manual High School in 1944 at the age of 16. Too young for the military and with no money for college, he started boxing.
Corky Gonzales had a successful professional boxing career compiling a record of 63 wins, 11 losses, and 1 draw. At his peak he was ranked as one of the top three Featherweights by Ring Magazine, yet he never received a shot at the title. He retired from boxing in 1955. (Gonzales was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.)
Gonzales’ success in boxing gave him prominence; his personality made him a leader. Politics came naturally to him. He registered Latinos to vote. Then he led the Colorado “Viva Kennedy” campaign. These experiences and the success of Yo Soy Joaquín led to Gonzales and his wife, Geraldine, to begin an urban civil rights and cultural movement called the Crusade for Justice which advocated Chicano nationalism. Their agenda was creating Chicano identity and social unity. The Crusade for Justice thrived by developing linkages among various movements for social justice. They worked with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers of America, In conjunction with Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Gonzales led a Chicano contingent to the Poor People’s March on Washington D.C. in 1968. Rallying the crowd, he issued a “plan of the Barrio” which demanded better housing, education and restitution of pueblo lands. Gonzales then organized the Annual Chicano Youth Liberation Conference which sought to create unity among Chicano youth. During the late ‘60s and sixties and early ‘70s, the Gonzales’ organized walkouts, demonstrations against police brutality and marches for higher education and Chicano recognition.
Believing that Chicanos could not rely on the “gringo establishment” to provide education, economic stability, or social acceptance, the Gonzales family founded a private school in 1971 with the focus on building students’ self-esteem through culturally-relevant curricula. Escuela Tlatelolc was named after an area of Mexico City that was once an autonomous city-state under the Aztec empire. (This independent school for Chicano and Native American youth in Denver is still directed by the Gonzales family.)
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.”
Chicano political and civil rights activist Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales died at his home in Denver, in 2005, surrounded by family and friends. He was 76 years old.
He was remembered as an invigorating spirit, or “the fist” of the Chicano Movement.
Name of the poem Rudolfo Gonzales wrote that inspired a social movement?
Why did this poem become a communal cornerstone for change?
Who are the Chicano people? What is their background?
What was one of Rudolfo Gonzales’ objectives?
How do we remember Rudolfo Gonzales today?