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PBS Documentary

The Longoria Affair

Exploring an incident that may have kicked off the Mexican American civil rights movement

Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Héctor García early 1960s

Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Héctor García early 1960s — Courtesy of the Héctor P. García Archives at Texas A&M University

En español | Three Rivers, Texas, 1949. Beatrice Longoria wants to bury the remains of her husband, Felix, a soldier killed in the Philippines during World War II. But the owner of the only funeral parlor in town won’t allow the family to use the chapel because, he says, “the whites wouldn't like it.” So Longoria contacts Dr. Héctor García, a local civil rights activist, who fires off telegrams to elected officials demanding justice. The only response comes from freshman U.S. Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, who arranges for Longoria to be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

So begins The Longoria Affair, a documentary airing November 9 on PBS as part of the Independent Lens series. Director John J. Valadez’s film packs interviews, archival news footage and present-day shots of the Texas town into an efficient, well-balanced 52 minutes. What could have almost been dismissed as an obscure case of past injustice is revealed to have present-day implications when Santiago Hernandez, a musician and activist, tries to honor Felix Longoria by naming a local post office after him and finds the present-day Three Rivers community divided over his legacy.
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