JFK Was First to Acknowledge Latino Voting Bloc, Hours Before He was Killed

Latinos have influenced presidential elections for more than 50 years.

By Jorge Rivas Dec 04, 2012

The night before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the president visited with Mexican American civil rights leaders at a League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) gala in Houston, Texas. Historians believe this was the first time a sitting president ever met with or acknowledged Latinos as a new voting block.

Russell Contreras, an Associated Press reporter based in Albuquerque, N.M., recently published a story that includes interviews with historians and Latinos who were at the LULAC gala.

In the excerpt below, Contreras explains Latinos have been a meaningful voting block for more than fifty years:

On Election Day in 1960, Kennedy won 85 percent of the Mexican-American vote.

But during Kennedy’s first months in office, Latino leaders expressed dismay that the president had failed to appoint Hispanics in his administration. Chavez even openly criticized Kennedy for his lack of appointments; other leaders embarked on a letter-writing campaign over the slow movement on civil rights.

Sensing another close election in 1964 and hoping to ease tensions, Kennedy visited Texas in November 1963. Advisers suggested that he at least pay a quick visit to Mexican-American activists at a Houston gala sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens, then the largest Latino civil rights group in the country.

Kennedy visited the LULAC gala in Houston’s Rice Hotel on Nov. 21, 1963. He was assassinated the next day, November 22, 1963 in Dallas,Texas.

You can read Rusell Contreras’ full story "JFK’S Last Night Recalled As Key Event for Latinos" on AP.org.