Rodolfo Gonzales

Rodolfo Gonzales
Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzáles
Real name Rodolfo Gonzáles
Nickname(s) Corky, Speedy
Rated at Lightweight
Super Featherweight
Height 5 ft 8 in (174 cm)
Reach 71 in (182 cm)
Nationality United States American
Born June 18, 1928
Denver, Colorado
Died April 12, 2005(2005-04-12) (aged 76)
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 75
Wins 63
Wins by KO 11
Losses 11
Draws 1
No contests 0

Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzáles (June 18, 1928 – April 12, 2005) was a Mexican American[1] boxer, poet, and political activist.[2] He convened the first-ever Chicano youth conference in March 1969, which was attended by many future Chicano activists and artists.[3] The conference also promulgated the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, a manifesto demanding self-determination for Chicanos.[4] As an early figure of the movement for the equal rights of Mexican Americans, he is often considered one of the founders of the Chicano Movement.[5]


Early life

González was born the youngest of Federico and Indalesia González' eight children in Denver, Colorado.[6] His father had immigrated to Colorado early in life from Chihuahua, but he retained the histories of Mexico's struggle against Spanish domination and against Porfirio Diaz, a struggle that culminated in the Mexican Revolution, both of which he imparted to his son. His mother died when he was two years old, and his father never remarried.[7]

He and his siblings were raised in Denver's tough "Eastside Barrio", where the Great Depression took an even heavier toll on Mexican Americans.[8][9] However, according to Gonzales, "though the Depression was devastating to so many, we, as children, were so poor that it was hardly noticed". He attended high schools in Colorado and New Mexico while simultaneously working in the beet fields, and graduated from Manual High School at the age of 16. Since his youth he demonstrated a fiery tendency, which caused his uncle to say that "he was always popping off like a cork." The nickname stuck.[10]

Boxing career

All through high school, Gonzales saved to pay for a college education. When it became clear that his financial status would not allow him to continue his study of engineering after his first semester at the private University of Denver, he went into professional sports.[11]

He soon became a featherweight champion, winning a Golden Gloves title, and the National Amateur Athletic Union bantamweight title in 1946.[12]

Despite his success professional boxing career and being ranked as a top three Featherweight by Ring Magazine, he never received a shot at the title. He retired from the ring in 1955 after compiling a record of 63 wins, 11 losses, and 1 draw.[13] Nonetheless, his success in boxing lent him a prominence that he would later capitalize upon during his political career. Gonzales would be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.[14]

Professional record

63 Wins (11 knockouts), 11 Losses, 1 Draw
Res. Record Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Win 12-0-0 United States Frankie Rivera UD 6 (6) January 7, 1948 NebraskaOmaha, Nebraska
Win 11-0-0 United States Harold Jackson UD 6 (6) December 29, 1947 NebraskaCivic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska
Win 10-0-0 United States Bud Love UD 4 (4) December 15, 1947 NebraskaCivic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska
Win 9-0-0 United States Rocco Joe Romano UD 4 (4) November 10, 1947 NebraskaCivic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska
Win 8-0-0 United States Mel Hammond SD 4 (4) October 20, 1947 NebraskaCivic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska Hammond was undefeated going in
Win 7-0-0 United States Dave Peake KO 3 (1:18) October 6, 1947 NebraskaCivic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska
Win 6-0-0 United States Paul Martinez TKO 4 (0:32) September 22, 1947 NebraskaCivic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska
Win 5-0-0 United States Johnny Martinez UD 6 (6) August 26, 1947 ColoradoMammoth Gardens, Denver, Colorado
Win 4-0-0 United States Spider Webb KO 1 (0:28) July 24, 1947 ColoradoDenver, Colorado
Win 3-0-0 United States Pete Cisneros UD 4 (4) July 11, 1947 IowaSioux City, Iowa
Win 2-0-0 United States Jim Sully UD 4 (4) June 27, 1947 IowaSioux City, Iowa
Win 1-0-0 United States Jim Sully UD 4 (4) January 23, 1947 IowaSioux City, Iowa Professional debut for Gonzáles

Political activism

I Am Joaquín

With his poem Yo Soy Joaquín, known in English as I Am Joaquin, Gonzales shared his new cosmological vision of the "Chicano", who was neither Indian nor European, neither Mexican nor American, but a combination of all the conflicting identities.[15][16] This new "raza", or "race" found its roots in the Pre-Columbian civilizations, which gave it rights to inhabit the ancestral land of Aztlán. It was strengthened by conceptions such as those of José Vasconcelos, Mexico's Secretary of Education under the Revolutionary Alvaro Obregón and the Indian-friendly Plutarco Elías Calles, who proclaimed that the hope of humanity lay in the mixed "Raza Cósmica" of Latin America. But perhaps more than anywhere else, Joaquín, the archetypical Chicano, found hope for his future in his own personal and spiritual awakening, a realization forced upon him by his status as an oppressed minority in the United States.[17][18]

Some scholars have credited Gonzales with authoring this historicized, politicized definition of what it is to be a "Chicano".[19] The far-reaching effect of the poem is summed up by UC Riverside professor Juan Felipe Herrera: "Here, finally, was our collective song, and it arrived like thunder crashing down from the heavens. Every little barrio newspaper from Albuquerque to Berkeley published it. People slapped mimeographed copies up on walls and telephone poles." It was so influential that it was turned into a play by Luis Valdez's Teatro Campesino that toured nationally.[16] It is seen a foundational work of the burgeoning Chicano Art Movement that accompanied, complimented, and enhanced the Chicano Movement, and, as the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán exhorted those talented members of the community to use their abilities to advance la Causa ("the Cause"), Yo Soy Joaquín provided a strong example.

Finding alternatives

Believing that Chicanos could not rely on the "gringo establishment" to provide education, economic stability, or social acceptance, he began to look for alternatives. His solution to the educational question was to found a private school (1970) that would focus on building students' self-esteem through culturally-relevant curricula. The school was named after Tlatelolco, an area of Mexico City that was once an autonomous city-state under the Aztec empire. It was also home to a community of scholars. During the conquest, it was the site of the last stand of the Aztecs, and witnessed the massacre of thousands. In post-Revolutionary Mexico, Tlatelolco became home to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, which celebrated Mexico's dual cultural heritage, rather than uplifting the European and simultaneously denigrating the indigenous, an important step toward the vindication of indigenous Mexico. During the 1968 Summer Olympics, Tlatelolco became the staging ground for massive student protests, and saw yet another massacre, this time by Mexican forces. As such, the school's name evokes the history of duality, reconciliation, and hope for indigenous and Mestizo people. The school continues to fulfill its mission of providing alternative education, especially for Chicanos. Politically, Gonzales recognized the limitations of the two-party system. When he learned of the 1970 founding of the Raza Unida Party in Crystal City, Texas, he traveled there to challenge José Angel Gutiérrez for its leadership. Failing that bid, he returned to Colorado to focus on the Escuela's comprehensive program. The nonprofit school and health care center currently operates under the leadership of Nita Gonzales, one of his six daughters.[13]

Violence in Denver

The success of the alternative school and Gonzales' political achievements were overshadowed in 1973, when a man was arrested for jaywalking in front of the Crusade's headquarters.[20] A protest against the persecution was organized, leading to confrontations between demonstrators and police. Soon, a gun battle erupted, and a bomb exploded in the upper floors of the Downing Terrace apartments, which were in the possession of the Crusade.[21] One man was killed and seventeen were injured, among them 12 police officers. Gonzales accused the Denver police department of grenading the facilities, but a detective described the scene of the explosion as a "veritable arsenal".[22] Historians and scholars have yet to evaluate the impact of the bombing, but later prosecutions of Crusade participants served to diminish the influence of Gonzales and his organizations.

After this incident, Gonzales retreated into the private life of his family and Denver's Chicano community. He was still active in the movement, although he maintained a much lower profile.[23]

Later life and death

Gonzales was involved in an automobile accident in 1987 after suffering a heart arrhythmia. His health continued to diminish until he was hospitalized in 1995 with acute liver disease.[24] In 2005, he was diagnosed with renal and coronary distress. Astounding his doctors, he refused treatment and checked out of the hospital, stating, "I'm indigenous. I'm going to die at home among my family." Per his wish, Gonzales died surrounded by friends and family in 2005.[25][26] He was remembered as an invigorating spirit, or "the fist" of the Chicano Movement.[27]


  • I am Joaquin : an epic poem, (1967).
  • Message to Aztlán: selected writings of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, (2001) Houston: Arte Público Press. ISBN 1-55885-331-6.

See also



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  9. ^ Picture This: Depression Era
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  13. ^ a b The New York Times > National > Rodolfo Gonzales, 76, Boxer and Activist, Dies
  14. ^
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  16. ^ a b
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  19. ^ "Corky" Gonzales & Retroactive Chicanismo
  20. ^
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  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Democracy Now! | Chicano Leader Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales 1929-2005: "He Was the Fist. He Stood For Defiance, Resistance"

External links

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