It’s safe to say that Hollywood rarely makes movies starring Latinos. Case in point: In 2015, there were as many movies made about monkeys as there were about Latinos. So finding out that Hollywood is gearing up to produce Gustavo García’s story for the big screen is kind of like finding out your dad is really into Chance the Rapper. I mean, it’s not impossible that he’s heard of him, but what are the odds? And good for him. García fought for Latino civil rights when no one else did, and for his efforts, he died in obscurity, forgotten by all but the most rigorous history books and scholars. It’s great that he’s getting his own movie, but for someone so remarkable, it’s alarming at how little is known about the man.
What started out as a small-town murder turned into a milestone for Latino civil rights.
Credit: A Class Apart / PBS / YouTube
When Pedro Hernandez murdered his employer in 1951, he was convicted by an all-white jury. This was not a coincidence. At that time, discrimination practices kept Mexican-Americans from serving on a jury in Texas, making it impossible for any Latino to receive an impartial trial. Texas was cool with this violation of the 6th Amendment because this is Texas in the 1950s that we’re talking about. In some cases, Mexican-Americans were denied funeral services because they weren’t white. This didn’t sit well with Gustavo García, who agreed to take Pedro’s case for free.
“My people were in Texas a hundred years before Sam Houston, that wetback from Tennessee.” — Gustavo García.
Credit: Michelle Pedraza / NBC / Youtube
Thanks to the efforts of Gustavo García and his legal team, Mexican-Americans were granted the most basic civil rights in the eyes of the law. Their victory came at a time when ignorance was so widespread that even the judges in the Supreme Court used the term “greaser” when referring to Mexican-Americans. Shortly after the trial, Gus fell victim to alcoholism and mental health issues, and maybe that’s why he’s not celebrated more in history books. But one thing is for sure, without Gus’s tenacity, it’s possible our grandparents, or parents, could have been convicted by an all-white jury, whether they were guilty or not.
What we know about the movie.
There’s so much more to Gustavo’s life than we could hope to touch on here. Thankfully, Sandbar Films is bringing Gustavo’s fight to the big screen under the title “The Texas Boys,” which is likely to come out next year. If you’d like to find out more about Gustavo “Gus” García, check out Isidro Aguirre’s book “Dawn of the Matador,” which is what the movie is largely based on.