Last Wednesday was declared a holiday in San Marcos. Mayor Susan Narvaiz proclaimed September 17, 2008 as Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day. Garcia is the founding father of the American GI Forum, an organization that fights discrimination against Hispanic veterans, promotes education, youth leadership and legislation for minority families.The San Marcos chapter of the GI Forum celebrated this occasion with a victory march from their offices to the school administration building, where the mayor read the proclamation aloud and awards were given out to various members of the chapter for their dedication to the civil rights movement. A Hays County constable escorted the parade, and there were many flags waving, proud members honking their car horns and children riding their bikes in and around the procession.
“There is a drive nationally to keep Dr. Garcia’s memory alive,” said Celestino Mendez, Jr., Vice Commander of the Men’s Chapter, as well as an award recipient. “Before it was popular to address civil rights issues he was there.”
Mendez himself experienced segregation growing up in San Marcos, where he attended Southside Elementary, at the time a Hispanic-only school.
One of Dr. Garcia’s daughters was also in attendance. Cecilia Garcia-Akers had just driven into San Marcos from Corpus Christi with her husband, where they, too were celebrating the accomplishments of her father.
“We’re so excited,” said Garcia-Akers. She would like Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day to be known to all of the children in Texas.
“If we have a day that is permanently recognized by the legislature, then the next step would be to go to the Texas Education Agency and make this day part of the curriculum.”
Mayor Narvaiz also spoke of her admiration for Dr. Garcia and the GI Forum.
“I’m honored to make this proclamation official with my signature,” said Narvaiz. ” This is to remind people of sacrifices made decades ago by very strong patriots for the country.”
Among those honored with certificates of achievement were Augustin Lucio, J the most decorated veteran in the county. He is the recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and also spent 19 years on the school board.
Ruben Ruiz, Sr. was posthumously honored for his dedication to the Civil Rights movement in San Marcos as well. He was the first Hispanic City Councilman, first Hispanic Mayor Pro Tem, first Hispanic Planning and Zoning Commissioner, as well as the former State Chairman of the American GI Forum. His daughter received the award.
“My father always said, ‘There’s no excuse not to get an education, it’s in our backyard’,” said Rosina Valle, San Marcos Education Foundation Executive Director.
Robert Cavazos also received an award for his contributions. His acceptance speech was short and to the point.
“Healthcare is a mess, we’re in a war we shouldn’t we be, the schools are in trouble, and the economy is in shambles. Go out and vote.”
The American GI Forum celebrated its 60th anniversary this year.
by MARY DICHARD