The Longoria Affair: A Soldier’s Burial That Became a Symbol of Mexican-American Rights

The Longoria Affair: A Soldier’s Burial That Became a Symbol of Mexican-American Rights

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer

“The whites wouldn’t like it,” was the response the director of a funeral home gave Private Felix Z. Longoria’s widow after the soldier died serving the U.S. while fighting against the Japanese during World War II. 

Longoria was a native of Three Rivers, Texas, and his remains were returned from the island of Luzon in the Philippines in 1948, around four years after he was killed on a volunteer mission during the last days of the war.

His body was sent to the small Texas city for burial at the Three Rivers Cemetery, where Beatriz, Longoria’s wife, was denied the use of the funeral chapel and was told that her husband’s body would be laid to rest in the “Mexican section” of the cemetery, which was separated by a barbed wire. The Longorias were, of course, a Mexican-American family.

In a short matter of time, the case became known as the Longoria Affair.

The Longoria family spoke to Dr. Hector García, an activist and founder of the American G.I. Forum, on January 10, 1949, who also called the funeral home director just to be turned down.

After the denial of the soldier’s proper burial, García sent several telegrams of a protest meeting and letters to Texas representatives, where Senator Lyndon B. Johnson offered to arrange Longoria’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony took place on February 16, 1949.

Following the funeral — and García’s and Johnson’s alliance — the activist actions became a force for the Mexican-American community. The G.I. Forum also gained credibility and was established as a state organization capable of mobilizing crowds. 

Read more: Guy Gabaldon, The Chicano Hero Who Defied All Odds

What’s going on with ‘The Longoria Affair’ today?

The Longoria Affair certainly became a catalyst for other civil rights issues in the following years, giving Latinos the power to unite and become a force for the first time. 

Today, activist Santiago Hernández is making efforts to name the Three Rivers post office after Longoria. However, this issue has been stalled in Congress. 

Share This Story!

Follow Us

Stay In Touch