Viva Kennedy

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Viva Kennedy was a political outreach to Latino voters in 1960 organized by Carlos McCormick to rally new support for the New Deal Coalition mobilized in the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. It proved to be important to Kennedy and to Latinos, and remains one of the under-reported stories of the campaign. The Latino outreach effort was active in two dozen states, from New York to Florida to California. Post-election surveys showed overwhelming Latino support for Kennedy, and Latinos provided the winning margin in New Mexico and Texas.

Once elected Kennedy responded by appointing more than forty Latinos to his administration. Almost all were “firsts” for Latinos. These included Arturo Morales Carrion of Puerto Rico as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Reynaldo Garza of Texas as a judge on the Southern District of Texas, and Raymond Telles of Texas as Ambassador to Costa Rica. Pedro Sanjuan of New York served as Assistant Chief of Protocol in the State Department, making him the highest profile Latino on the D.C. social scene. Others assumed management positions. For example, Jose Gonzalez became the Postmaster of Tampa, Florida and Hector Godina was named as the Postmaster in Santa Ana, California. For his part, Carlos McCormic worked out of the State Department and the Democratic National Committee, functioning all the while as Kennedy’s Latino liaison.

Two books provide further insights. Kenneth Burt’s The Search for a Civic Voice (2007) uses an exclusive interview with Carlos McCormick and access to Kennedy insiders like Clark Clifford and John Seigenthaler. He is thus able to paint a portrait of McCormick, the campaign and the administration. Equally important, he show how Latino activism within the Democratic Party’ began with President Roosevelt. The California-oriented book also uses interviews with activists across the country.

Chicano scholar Ignacio García’s Viva Kennedy (2000) focuses on the interaction of the campaign and the administration with Mexican Americans in the Southwest and Midwest, particularly the American GI Forum. He emphasizes that the campaign grew out of developments in the 1950s, and asserts that the campaign served as the beginning of the Chicano movement of the late 1960s. The book has a Texas-orientation based on Texas archival materials and oral history interviews.

Viva Kennedy (1968)

Henry Santiestevean organized Viva Kennedy to rally Latinos for Robert Kennedy in the 1968 presidential primaries. Viva Kennedy played a key role in rallying Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in the Indiana primary, and Mexican Americans in the California primary. Polly Baca assisted Santiestevan in the national office, with key leadership from Bert Corona and the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), and Cesar Chavez and the [[United Farm Workers (UFW).

These "Kennedy Latinos" were more progressive than the "Johnson/Humphrey Latinos;" the latter included the GI Forum and the Mexican Americans in Congress. These rival networks had been united behind John Kennedy eight years earlier but by 1968 were separated by ideology, organizational rivalries and political loyalties.

Burt's The Search for a Civic Voice covers the 1968 election, and backgrounds of Santiestevan, Chavez, Corona, all of whom were intervewd by the author, as were a number of pro-Humphrey Latino leaders. For his part, Santiestevan, the Viva Kennedy head, started as a student activist in Los Angeles in the 1930s. In 1968, he was an aid to UAW President Walter Reuther and the founding director of the National Council of La Raza, funded by the Ford Foundation.


  • Kenneth C. Burt, The Search for a Civic Voice: California Latino Politics, Regina Books, 2007. Excerpts and online search from
  • Mario T. Garcia, "Americans All: The Mexican American Generation And The Politics Of Wartime Los Angeles, 1941-45," Social Science Quarterly 1984 65(2): 278-289.
  • Ignacio M García, Viva Kennedy: Mexican Americans in Search of Camelot, Texas A&M University Press, 2000. Excerpts and online search from
  • Quintanilla, Linda J., “Chicana Activists of Austin and Houston, Texas: A Historical Analysis” (University of Houston, 2005). Order No. DA3195964.

See also