[News] Corky Gonzales, 1928-2005

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 14 08:50:23 EDT 2005

Requiem for a Poeta, Guerrillero, y Carnal!!!         Rodolfo "Corky"
Gonzalez, PRESENTE!!!

The Denver Post
Chicano activist paved the way
"Corky" Gonzales created the Crusade for Justice, a voice for Denver's
nascent Chicano community.
By Claire Martin
Denver Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 13, 2005 -

Iconic Chicano activist Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, who died Tuesday at age
76, was a champion boxer and celebrated poet who founded the Crusade for
Justice, articulating the passion and frustration of Denver's nascent
Chicano movement.

A memorial service is being planned.

"He died surrounded by his loved ones," said his son, Rudy Gonzales. "He
left right at sunset, at 7:42 p.m."

He said his father died peacefully at home.

Gonzales checked himself out of the hospital March 24 after being diagnosed
with congestive heart failure.

He told the cardiologist that he's "indigenous" and that he'd die a natural
death, his wife Geraldine said recently.

"He embraced death the same way he danced with life, and that was with
passion and love," his son said.

Community leaders mourned his passing.

"It's a very sad day in our community," said Denver City Council member Judy
Montero. "He is a legend in the political life of the Latino community, and
he will be deeply missed."

"This comes as a shock, although I know he was very ill," former Denver City
Councilwoman Ramona Martinez said. "He really set the tone for changes,
political changes and community changes. He opened the door for a lot of

The youngest of eight children, Gonzales was born in Denver in 1928. Medical
facilities in his parents' town, Keenesburg, were closed to migrant workers
such as his parents, both Mexican nationals. Raised in the Denver barrio, he
grew up listening to his father's accounts of the Mexican revolution.

Upon graduating from Manual High School, Gonzales literally fought his way
out of poverty, winning the 1946 national amateur athletic union
bantamweight title. Ring Magazine rated Gonzales third in his division in
the world. He was the first Chicano inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall
of Fame.

After working as a bar owner and bail bondsman, he helped run the 1960 Viva
Kennedy campaign for John F. Kennedy. Gonzales became a Democratic district
captain, proving even more adept with words than with boxing gloves.

In 1965, the same year Gonzales published his angry epic poem, "Yo Soy
Joaquin," Denver Mayor Tom Currigan appointed him to run the Denver
Neighborhood Youth Corps.

In early 1966, increasingly disenchanted with the Democrats' approach to
civil rights, Gonzales ramped up his own activism. When Currigan fired him
for allegedly hiring too many Latinos, Gonzales broke off from the
Democrats, calling for Chicanos to unite against police brutality and

"We are on a crusade for justice," Gonzales announced in a November 1966
demonstration outside City Hall where his social activist organization,
Crusade for Justice, was born.

Crusade for Justice, like the produce boycotts organized by farm worker
advocate César Chávez, electrified social and political changes. The crusade
organized a "splash-in" at a de facto white public pool in southeast Denver
and sponsored weekend dances for Chicano teenagers from throughout Denver.

Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gonzales traveled widely to
advocate the rights of indigenous people. In 1970, Gonzales opened Escuela
Tlatelolco, an alternative elementary and secondary school for Chicano

The apex of his political career, and that of the Chicano movement, came
when delegates from 17 states and the District of Columbia met in Texas for
La Raza Unida's sole party convention in 1972. The high point also marked
its collapse.

An acrimonious leadership battle between Gonzales and José Angel Gutierrez
decimated La Raza Unida. In Denver, after a series of local bombings in the
1970s, Crusade for Justice foundered.

Gonzales withdrew from public appearances in 1978 after suffering a heart
attack that caused a car accident, leaving him with permanent head injuries.

For the rest of his life, he remained reclusive, despite scores of awards
for the activism that supporters credit with preparing the way for Denver's
first Latino civic leaders. His daughter Nita Gonzales now runs Escuela

In addition to her, survivors include his wife of 56 years, Geraldine Romero
Gonzales of Denver; his other daughters, Charlotte Gonzales, Gina Gonzales,
Gale Gonzales, Cindy Gonzales and Valerie Gonzales, all of Denver; sons Rudy
Gonzales and Joaquin Gonzales, both of Denver; 22 grandchildren; and eight

Staff writer Jim Kirksey contributed to this report.

Staff writer Claire Martin can be reached at 303-820-1477 or
cmartin at denverpost.com.

The Freedom Archives
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