This news footage documents a community meeting of the Raza Unida Party held in the aftermath of the death of Larry Ortega Lozano, a 27 year old pretrial detainee who died in Ector County Jail on January 22, 1978. Lozano died from a crushed larynx, an injury obtained in the course of being restrained by Ector County Sheriff's Department officers. Sheriff Elton Faught claimed that Deputy Randy Tenney and Jailer Jackie Perkins used only necessary force to subdue Lozano, who was emotionally disturbed. However, La Raza, in the wake of many Latino-targeted police brutality incidents, claimed excessive force and a violation of Lozano's civil rights. In this footage, the leader of the meeting vows to do whatever it takes to bring the sheriff's office to justice. In 1979, after district and federal investigations, Lozano's death was found to be accidental.
The Raza Unida party (RUP) was established in 1970 in Crystal City, Texas, as a third political party seeking greater social, economic, and political self-determination for Mexican-Americans in the state, where they held relatively no power while often being the majority. The party later came to encompass the same goals for Latinos in general and other minorities, and is associated, along with United Farm Workers (UFW), with the Chicano Movement of the early 1970s. RUP began by fielding candidates for local county, city, and school board elections, easily winning several elections in its first year. In 1971, RUP decided to organize at a state level, holding its first state convention in San Antonio in October of 1971. The decision was made at that convention to place the party on the 1972 general election ballot. RUP had candidates in more than 40 Texas counties running for city, district, state, and congressional offices. The party found a gubernatorial candidate in Waco Lawyer Ramsey Muñiz, and Alma Canales of Edinburg became the RUP candidate for Lt. Governor, signaling the important role women held in the party. Though Muñiz was not elected, he received a significant number of votes, 6 percent, causing Dolph Briscoe's governorship to be the first in Texas history to be won without a majority. In September of 1972, the party held its first national convention in El Paso with more than 1,500 people attendance, and by 1974, RUP was the dominant political party in county and city positions throughout South Texas. Despite its many victories in those community elections, the party never really took hold in state and national elections, nor in major urban areas where most Latinos lived, a population whose support was crucial to the survival of RUP. By 1977, activism had slowed and the party lost much of its membership, many aligning themselves with the Mexican-American Democrats. By 1978, RUP lost its state funding and effectively ceased to be a political party. Though shortlived and not wildly successful on a state or national level, RUP changed the political landscape of Texas, emphasizing Mexican-American community control, bilingual education, women's and workers' rights, new modes of transportation, improved funding of public education, and better medical care.