Raul H. Yzaguirre: Seated at the Table of Power

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Raul H. Yzaguirre: Seated at the Table of Power is a biography based on the memoirs of one of America’s Latino civil rights leaders Raul H. Yzaguirre. We’ll talk to award winning author Stella Pope Duarte along with Danny Ortega, former National Council of La Raza Board Chairman about the book.

AWARD WINNING WRITER AND VALLEY NATIVE STELLA POPE DUARTE HAS A NEW BOOK, "RAUL -H YZAGUIRRE: SEATED AT THE TABLE OF POWER", BASED ON THE MEMOIRS OF RAUL YZAGUIRRE, PROMINENT CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, AND PRESIDENTIAL PROFESSOR OF PRACTICE IN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND CIVIL RIGHTS AT ASU. JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT THE BOOK IS AUTHOR STELLA POPE DUARTE. AND, DANNY ORTEGA, FORMER NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA BOARD CHAIRMAN. THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US ON "HORIZONTE." THE BOOK IS FASCINATING IN MANY WAYS INCLUDING HOW IT CAME TO BE. WHAT WAS THE ORIGIN OF IT?

STELLA POPE DUARTE: THE ORIGIN HAPPENED UNEXPECTEDLY. I WAS AT A RESTAURANT OWNED BY MARY WILLCOX AND HER HUSBAND. I WAS SITTING THERE MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS AND THE PLACE WAS GETTING CROWDED. THIS WOMAN CAME UP ASKING IF I KNOW RAUL YZAGUIRRE AND I HAD HEARD OF HIM. EVERYBODY HAD. HE CAME IN TO DO THE PROFESSOR OF PRACTICE AT ASU. I SAID I KNOW WHO HE IS AND SHE SAID HE WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO YOU AND I SAID TO ME? AND SHE SAID YES. I WENT OVER TO WHERE RAUL WAS AND HE STARTED SPEAKING TO ME AND SAYING TO ME I KNOW WHO YOU ARE, I HAVE READ YOUR WORK AND SEEN AN INTERVIEW OF YOU. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND I SAID WHO AM I? AND HE SAID YOU ARE A GIFTED WRITER. I AM SITTING THERE STUNNED.

JOSE CARDENAS: AT THAT POINT HE HAD YOU.

STELLA POPE DUARTE: YES, OF COURSE HE DID. I DIDN'T KNOW THAT WAS HIS STYLE; TO BRING OUT THE BEST IN US, TO MENTOR AND I DIDN'T KNOW HIM AT THAT LEVEL. HE SAID TO ME ARE YOU STILL WORKING? AND I THOUGHT OF ALL THE STUFF I DO, TEACHING AND EVERYTHING AND I SAID YES. AND HE SAID, NO YOU SHOULD NOT BE WORKING LIKE THAT. YOU SHOULD ONLY BE WRITING. THE COMMUNITY NEEDS YOU. AFTER THOSE WORDS, I REMAINED WITH NO WORDS TO SAY AND HE SAID WILL YOU MEET WITH ME AND I WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS A PROJECT WITH YOU, WHICH WAS ON TEXAS. IT WAS IN THE RIO VALLEY BECAUSE THEY HAVE SO MANY ISSUES RELATED TO THE WAY WE LIVE IN ARIZONA. AND THAT PARTICULAR PROJECT ENDED UP BEING HIS BIOGRAPHY. I SAID TO HIM AT ANOTHER RESTAURANT, HAS A BIOGRAPHY EVER BEEN WRITTEN OF YOU AND HE SAID NOT YET. AS SOON AS HE SAID THOSE WORDS, I KNEW.

JOSE CARDENAS: IT WAS A PROJECT SIX YEARS IN THE MAKING?

STELLA POPE DUARTE: YES, SIX YEARS IN THE MAKING.

JOSE CARDENAS: IMPACTED, NOT IN A NEGATIVE WAY, BUT BY THE ONSET OF HIS PARKINSON'S DISEASE. YOU HAD TO GO DO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TO FINISH UP THE INTERVIEWS AND YOU MANAGED TO DO IT BEFORE HIS ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE DECREASED.

STELLA POPE DUARTE: I AM VERY GRATEFUL FOR THAT AND I HAVE DANNY TO THANK FOR THE ABILITY TO GET TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND TRAVEL ALL THROUGH SOUTH TEXAS. I SAT DOWN WITH DANNY AND TOLD HIM I WAS PLANNING TO DO THIS PARTICULAR BIOGRAPHY OF RAUL YZAGUIRRE AND THAT IS ONE OF DANNY'S WONDERFUL LIFETIME MENTORS AND I SAID DANNY, I NEED FUNDING. I CAN'T DO IT WITHOUT FUNDING. HE SAID I WILL HELP YOU. HE DID THAT BECAUSE HE WAS CHAIR AT THAT TIME OF NCLR AND WENT TO THE BOARD, I DID THE PROPOSAL AND EVERYTHING AND DANNY, I GUESS STOOD UP FOR ME AND SAID THIS CAN BE DONE, I KNOW HER. AND WITHOUT THAT FUNDING I WOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN TO THE END

JOSE CARDENAS: AND THIS IS A PICTURE OF THE BOOK SIGNING RECENTLY. THIS IS A PROJECT SIX YEARS IN THE MAKING. THERE YOU ARE WITH RAUL AND HE LOOKS VERY HAPPY. DANNY, YOU HAVE KNOWN RAUL FOR A LONG TIME. AS WE INDICATED, YOU HAD THE CONNECTION AT NCLR AND WE WILL TALK ABOUT THAT IN MORE DETAIL, BUT I WANT TO BEGIN WITH HIS BACKGROUND. IT IS A STORY YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH AND ONE YOU CAME TO KNOW. VERY HUMBLING BEGINNING FROM TEXAS AND THEN HE GETS INVOLVED, AND I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HIS LIFE EXPERIENCE IN THE BOOK, BUT WITH THE FOUNDER OF THE GI FORM, EDWARD GARCIA TELL US WHAT WAS GOING ON AT THAT TIME? IT WAS A LITTLE BEFORE YOUR TIME BUT YOU WERE A STUDENT OF HIS.

DANNY ORTEGA: THIS IS PROBABLY THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THE KIND OF LEADERSHIP WE HAD PRIOR TO THIS MOVEMENT.

JOSE CARDENAS: THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE 50S?

DANNY ORTEGA: THIS WAS THE '50S '60S AND A LARGE PART BORN OUT OF UNDERSTANDING WHAT DISCRIMINATION WAS ABOUT AND THE WAY MEXICANS WERE BEING TREATED IN TEXAS AND THE SOUTHWEST AND MORE IMPORTANTLY WE WERE GOING TO FIGHT IN THE WAR AND COMING HOME AND COULDN'T BE BURIED IN THE CEMETERIES WHEN THEY BURIED THE SOLDIERS THAT DIED. THAT IS WHERE WE GOT HIS FIGHT AND HIS PASSION. THEN ALONG COMES YOUNG RAUL AFTER HE IS ALREADY ORGANIZING THE AMERICAN GI FORM AND HE INSPIRES RAUL. HERE YOU HAVE SOMEONE WHO MENTORED HIM POLITICALLY, MUCH IN THE SAME WAY RAUL MENTORED A LOT OF US. HE LIVED TO BE A MENTOR AND TO BECOME MENTORED.

JOSE CARDENAS: ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS I FOUND ABOUT THE BOOK STELLA, WAS RAUL'S COMMENT ABOUT THERE BEING TENSION AS HE BECAME INVOLVED WITH HIS MENTOR AND OTHERS OF HIS MENTOR'S GENERATION ON THIS OBSESSION AS HE PUT IT WITH BEING WHITE AS OPPOSED TO MEXICAN. THE EMPHASIS MEXICANS ARE CAUCASIAN AND THERE SHOULDN'T BE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHITE AND MEXICAN. I FOUND THAT INTERESTING.

STELLA POPE DUARTE: THAT WAS A HUGE THING GOING ON. DR. HECTOR AND HIM-- THE ONE THING THEY DISAGREED ON IN A VOLATILE MANNER AND HE SAID THIS GENTLEMEN WAS THE PATTERN. HE WAS A CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER BUT ON THAT ONE ISSUE DR. GARCIA WANTED US TO BE KNOWN AS CAUCASIAN BECAUSE HE SAID MORE RIGHTS ARE TAKEN FROM US AND RAUL SAID NO, NO, WE ARE NOT CAUCASIAN. WE ARE CHICANOS. THEN WHEN THE WHOLE CHICANO MOVEMENT STARTED MANY WERE OFFENDED BY THIS GROUP. IT KNOWS BACK INTO THE HISTORY OF OUR CULTURE.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND I AM TALKING ABOUT WHEN HE BECOME THE HEAD OF NCLR IN '74 AND HIS VISION WAS AN ORGANIZATION AS HE PUT IT PAN LATINO INCLUDING MEXICANS AND A BUNCH OF OTHER GROUPS. HE TOOK A BUNCH OF STEPS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN AND THERE IS SOME CONTROVERSY ABOUT IT.

DANNY ORTEGA: THE VISION WAS BRINGING LATINOS, HISPANICS, MEXICANS, PUERTO RICANS TOGETHER TO CREATE A NATIONAL MOVEMENT. WE WERE TOO LOCAL. MEXICANS WITH MEXICANS, PUERTO RICANS WITH PUERTO RICANS AND CUBANS WITH CUBANS. THERE WAS TENSION AMONGST THE GROUPS. HE SAW LEADERS IN HIS TIME THAT ALL OF US TOGETHER- THE WORD HISPANIC, THE WORD LATINO, THE WORD MEXICAN AMERICAN WERE LABELS AT THE TIME AND HE WAS LOOKING FOR A WAY TO BRING US ALL TOGETHER. THE TENSION WAS CLEARLY NOT ONLY AMONGST ACTIVISTS IN OUR AGE GROUP WITH THE OLDER ORGANIZERS BUT ALSO BETWEEN THE GROUPS. YOU ARE DEALING WITH THE SITUATION WHERE YOU HAD TWO TENSIONS. THIS IS ABOUT MEXICANS, NO THIS IS ABOUT PUERTO RICANS. NEW YORK VERSUS CALIFORNIA. FLORIDA VERSUS ARIZONA THOSE TENSIONS EXISTED AND RAUL SET OUT VERY EARLY ON, WHICH IS WHY THEY CHANGED THE NAME FROM SOUTHWEST COUNCIL TO NATIONAL. COUNCIL TO BRING TOGETHER ALL GROUPS OF SPANISH SURNAMES WHO COULD BE CALLED HISPANICS OR LATINOS TO MAKE THIS POLITICAL FORCE.

JOSE CARDENAS: LET ME GO THROUGH PICTURES WE HAVE HERE. THE BOOK IS TITLED SEATED AT THE TABLE OF POWER. WE HAVE A PICTURE OF HIM WITH PRESIDENT JOHNSON. THIS IS IN HIS ACTIVIST DAYS BEFORE THAT BUT WE HAVE A PICTURE OF HIM WITH PRESIDENT JOHNSON. THAT IS HIS MENTOR. AND YOU HAVE PICTURES OF HIM WITH OTHER PRESIDENTS. THAT IS PART OF WHAT YOU MEANT BY THE TITLE.

STELLA POPE DUARTE: YES, THAT TITLE CAME ABOUT BY SOMETHING HE ALSO MENTIONED. THE BOOK BEGINS WITH THIS QUOTE IF YOU ARE NOT SEATED AT THE TABLE OF POWER, IF YOU ARE NOT THERE, YOU GET THE SCRAPS. SO HE SAW IT EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR US TO BE SEATED AT THE TABLE WHERE DECISIONS WERE BEING MADE ACROSS THIS NATION. AND IN ORDER TO DO THAT, HE WAS GOING TO, LIKE DANNY SAID, DEVELOP THIS PAN HISPANIC INSTITUTION BECAUSE HE SAW THIS SPLIT LIKE I AM PUERTO RICAN OR CUBAN OR THIS OR THAT AND HE SAID WE WILL NOT MAKE IT LIKE THAT UNLESS WE UNITE. WE WILL SIT AT THE TABLE OF POWER UNITED.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU HAVE A PICTURE OF RAUL WITH HIS SUCCESSOR. TALK ABOUT THAT TRANSITION OF POWER IT WAS MOTIVATED IN PART, WASN'T IT, BY THE PROGRESSION OF HIS PARKINSON'S.

DANNY ORTEGA: I THINK INITIALLY IT WAS TIME FOR HIM TO MOVE ON AND SOMEONE TO TAKE IT TO A DIFFERENT LEVEL. I THINK WE HAD AN INDICATION THERE WERE HEALTH ISSUES THAT WERE PART OF THIS DECISION. IN ADDITION, I THINK HIS DEEP ROOTED BELIEF IN MENTORING YOUNGER PEOPLE AND HE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THAT AT THE NATIONAL COUNCIL. YOU KNOW, MENTORING TO ME IS IMPORTANT. I WAS MENTORED BY IMPORTANT PEOPLE. I MEAN RAUL WHEN I WAS A SOPHOMORE AT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY IN THE BASEMENT, I MET HIM AND HE WAS AROUND US MORE THAN PEOPLE REALIZED AND ULTIMATELY BECAME THE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTHWEST COUNCIL AND THAT IS WHEN HE STARTED DEVELOPING NATIONAL LEADERSHIP.

JOSE CARDENAS: HE STEPS DOWN IN 2004 BUT REMAINS ACTIVE AND IN FACT WAS INVOLVED IN THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN. WE HAVE A PICTURE OF THAT. THAT LEADS TO APPOINTMENT AS AMBASSADOR AND WE HAVE A PICTURE OF THAT AS WELL TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC CONSULATE. QUICKLY ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE.

STELLA POPE DUARTE: HE SAID I HAVE NO IDEA IT WAS GOING TO BE AS COMPLICATED AS IT WAS- HIS AMBASSADORSHIP. HE IS ON THE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE WHICH IS VERY IMPORTANT AND HE REMAINS ON THE FOREIGN RELATION COMMITTEE BECAUSE IT AS A LIFETIME APPOINTMENT. HE THOUGHT, I HAVE A HANDLE ON ALL KINDS OF FOREIGN ISSUES AND UNDERSTAND THE WORLD CULTURE AND EVERYTHING BUT IT WAS AN INTENSE POSITION AND MEETING PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD JUST TO GET VISAS TO GO IN THERE WAS A PROCESS THAT WAS JUST A VERY DIFFICULT THING. HE SAID I DIDN'T REALIZE ALL THAT IT WOULD BE AND AT THIS TIME OF COURSE, THE PARKINSON'S WAS BECOMING MORE DEBILITATING FOR HIM. THEN HIS DECISION WAS THAT HE WOULD HAVE TO COME BACK TO THE STATES. ALTHOUGH HE WAS VERY HAPPY. THERE I VISITED HIM THERE AND HE WAS EXTREMELY LOVED BY EVERYONE AROUND HIM.

JOSE CARDENAS: HE IS BACK IN MARYLAND?

STELLA POPE DUARTE: YES HE IS IN MARYLAND.

JOSE CARDENAS: LAST WORDS FROM YOU ON HIS LEGACY.

DANNY ORTEGA: I THINK AS LATINOS, MEXICANOS, HISPANICS, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LEADERSHIP BEYOND OUR NEIGHBORHOODS, BEYOND OUR STATES; WE ARE LOOKING FOR A NATIONAL LEADER TO LEAD THE WAY AND BE PROACTIVE ABOUT WHERE WE ARE GOING AS A COMMUNITY. I THINK HE EXLIMPIFIES THAT PROBABLY BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE ON BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER AND HE BECAME A NATIONAL LEADER WE BADLY NEEDED.

JOSE CARDENAS: THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON "HORIZONTE." CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BOOK.

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