In Defense of My People
First-ever English translation of key civil rights book now available.
by Alonso S. Perales
Edited and English translation by Emilio Zamora
Publication Date: October 31, 2022
Format: Trade Paperback
In 1927, when his letters to two Texas governors about the assassination of Mexican Americans in police custody in South Texas were ignored, Alonso S. Perales wrote to President Coolidge, asking for the Justice Department to conduct an official investigation into their deaths. Perales believed US citizens of Mexican descent had an obligation to their country, “including offering our lives for this Nation when necessary.” He also believed adamantly that the United States had a duty to protect the rights of all its people.
Originally published in Spanish in 1936 and 1937, In Defense of My People contains articles, letters and speeches written by one of the most influential civil rights activists of the early twentieth century. When Mexican-American veterans of World War II were denied service in a South Texas pool hall, even while wearing their uniforms, Perales wrote about the incident for The San Antonio Express. He also exhorted his community to secure an education and participate in civic duties. His form letter, “How to Request School Facilities for Our Children,” helped parents secure schools “equal to those furnished children of Anglo-American descent.”
Alonso S. Perales was the co-founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), an attorney, activist and US diplomat. He has been largely forgotten, in part because his writings were in Spanish. This first-ever English translation of his two-volume publication, En defensa de mi raza, will make Perales’ contributions to equal rights for Mexicans and Mexican Americans available to a much larger audience. A long-lost gem of the civil rights movement, this book is a must-read for historians and anyone interested in the Latino community’s fight for rights, dignity and respect.