Antonio Gonzales - Visionary

By Mario


I have to wonder what Antonio Gonzales would say about the coincidence that his Los Angeles memorial is being held on the same day as President Bush's Texas memorial.

The juxtaposition of watching the pomp and circumstance surrounding the 41st Presidents memorial with the gathering today of progressive activists and elected officials who will say goodbye to the ubiquitous leader demonstrates the difference in the mission and dedication of Gonzales.

Gonzales was a consequential renegade. While others in recent years have created or joined a multitude of Latino voter registration and civic engagement efforts there is no argument that they create in a space forged by Gonzales. The slogan "su voto es su voz" while widely used was created by Southwest Voter Registration Project.

It is difficult now to imagine a time when only a handful could see the future of the emergent brown wave and even tougher to imagine being one of those who did merely "see" it - Antonio was one of those who conceived it and audaciously went to work to sculpt it. It should never be forgotten that Gonzales created the path of Latino voter empowerment when most scoffed at the idea that Latinos would ever be a force in electoral politics.

Telling the powerful that they are not doing enough is not without cost and Gonzales never complained about his payments. While there are decades of examples of Antonio's deliberate sacrifice for his beloved community one project comes to mind today:

A few years ago Gonzales initiated a project that offered a prize drawing to increase voter participation. Gonzales asked me if I would guide the messaging for the effort. Antonio told me that the project would not only increase voter participation but that the controversy that he knew would surround the project would be the catalyst for the effort and have the additional benefit of drawing attention to the fact that local races were rarely if ever covered by press outlets. I readily agreed to work on the project. As predicted the effort had the planned response as the "experts" criticized the it in the exact way that Gonzales predicted they would. The "negative" press worked to expand the effort's visibility and voter participation increased as planned. In typical Gonzales fashion, the price was paid deliberately and the result was achieved.

While the political establishment commemorates the life of a time gone by today we in Los Angeles celebrate a life that has forged today's political reality and the future course of the country. As usual for Antonio, it will be without pomp, it will be underestimated, and yet it is entirely consequential.


Mario Wire