This collection of films, shot in the 1920s by longtime Corpus Christi resident Antonio Rodríguez Fuentes, may well represent some of the earliest produced by a Mexican-American filmmaker about the Mexican-American community in Texas. In the home movie footage, Fuentes captures not only his family but also parades featuring local Mexican-American civil-rights organizations, including the Order of Sons of America and the Obreros y Obreras. Antonio and his wife Josefina were both heavily involved in early Corpus Christi Mexican-American community groups and the social network that these clubs comprised. The couple was also related to numerous local individuals, including Andres De Luna, one of the founders of the League of United Latin American Citizens. This collection comes to TAMI via the Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
Antonio Rodríguez Fuentes (1895-1988) was born and raised on his family's ranch near Montemorelos, Nuevo León, Mexico. He moved to Laredo as a young man, eventually taking up residence in Corpus Christi in the 1910s. He married Josefine Barrera, a Corpus Christi native, in 1918. The couple had five children: Ruben, Ophelia, Mercedes, Antonio, and Carmen.
Josefina and her family were respected members of Corpus Christi Mexican-American society. After her marriage to Antonio, the couple developed their own ties with numerous community groups, including the Obreros y Obreras, Alianza Hispano-Americana, and Woodmen of the World. Antonio also became an active member of several local chapters, holding office and serving as a delegate to out-of-town-conventions.
Founded in San Antonio in 1921, the Order of Sons of America (OSA) was one of the first statewide Mexican-American civil-rights organizations in Texas. According to the Texas State Historical Association, its purpose was to use its "influence in all fields of social, economic, and political action in order to realize the greatest enjoyment possible of all the rights and privileges and prerogatives extended by the American Constitution." To this effect, the OSA served as a mutual aid society, pro-labor organization, civic group, and political association.
Membership was restricted to male United States citizens, either native or naturalized, of Mexican or Spanish descent over the age of 16. (Although the organization's constitution allowed for the establishment of juvenile branches and ladies' auxiliaries, none were ever formed.) The organization founded several chapters, launching councils in Somerset and Pearsall by 1923, Corpus Christi by 1924, and Kingsville by 1927. There were also branches in Alice and Beeville. The San Antonio and Corpus Christi chapters were active in civil-rights activities and civic affairs, fighting for the establishment of Mexican schools, promoting desegregation, and promoting the inclusion of Mexican Americans on juries.
Former OSA members went on to form several other organizations, including the Sons of Texas in 1922 and the Knights of America in 1927. In 1929, the Corpus Christi and Alice chapters of the OSA merged with the Knights of America and the Latin American Citizens League of the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo to establish the League of United Latin American Citizens, the first nationwide Mexican-American civil-rights organization and the oldest and largest continually active Latino political association in the United States.