June 9, 1967. LBJ swears in Vicente T. Ximenes to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ximenes is the first Mexican-American on the committee, which is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination. LBJ acknowledges the significance of the appointment, which is covered extensively by the Mexican-American press and in Mexico as well. He also uses the opportunity to announce a focus on Mexican-American issues within the Great Society:
"Today, I am releasing a special Cabinet report which tells the story of new opportunities that have been created for more than 5 million Mexican-American citizens.
It shows how far government, business, labor, and community leadership still must go to turn the slogan of opportunity into the fact of reality….
I am going to establish today the highest level committee a President can create, a Cabinet committee on Mexican-Americans…. and I am going to ask Mr. Vicente T. Ximenes to serve as the chairman of that committee.”
Meanwhile, there is growing activism by the Chicano civil rights movement in the Southwest. In Texas strife continues between striking Mexican-American farmworkers and the Texas Rangers, who they accuse of excessive force and illegal arrests. Just six days ago the farmworkers union filed suit with the Justice Department after Governor John Connally declined to intervene. In New Mexico, ten members of the land-grant activist group La Alianza have been arrested. La Alianza’s declared mission is the return of Spanish and Mexican land grants that were lost after Mexican American War: the group staged an armed raid on the Rio Arriba County courthouse on June 5. At the time of LBJ’s speech, there is an intense manhunt ongoing for Reies Lopez Tijernia, the group’s leader.
Top: LBJ congratulates Ximenes on his appointment, LBJ Presidential Library photo C5654-12A. Bottom: Reies López Tijerina and California Brown Berets in 1969, by Mark Bralley via the High Country News.
See also LBJ’s full speech, more on La Alianza in the journal Antipode, and LBJ and Mexican Americans, by Julie Leininger Pryor (Austin UT-Austin Press, 1997). The papers of Reies Tijerina are available at the University of New Mexico.