In 1918, José de la Luz Sáenz left his teaching job and enlisted in the United States Army, where he joined thousands of other Mexican American soldiers.
“He wanted to demonstrate that Mexican Americans loved America and would give their lives fighting for it,” writes Tonatiuh. Luz felt that the white people of Texas would start treating Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) fairly after seeing their sacrifice. Once in France, Luz taught himself French and was assigned to the intelligence office to translate communications, but he was not given credit or promotions for this vital work. After the war, he and other Tejano veterans found prejudice against them unchanged. They organized and became civil rights leaders. In 1929, 10 years after the end of World War I, they formed the League of United Latin American Citizens. Together they fought against school segregation, racism, prejudice, and “for the ideals of democracy and justice.” The author’s insightful use of Sáenz’s war-diary entries boldly introduces this extraordinary American’s triumphs and struggles. In Tonatiuh’s now-trademark illustrations, Luz crouches with other stylized doughboys in French trenches as shells explode in no man’s land and mourns a fallen fellow Mexican in a French cemetery. Extensive backmatter includes an author’s note, war timeline, timeline of LULAC’s successful civil rights lawsuits, glossary, and bibliography.
An important contribution to this volatile chapter in U.S. and Mexican American history. (Picture book/biography. 6-8)