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‘El Prieto’ — The State Representative
Speaker of the House Byron Tunnell, administers the oath of office to Raul Muñiz as his proud parents and three of his sisters and a brother-in-law look on.
Apple Pie and SalsaNovember 27, 2013 3,879 views 24 comments
He knew, at the tender age of 14, while picking cotton in the fields of Arkansas and Missouri, that he definitely did not intend to make his living that way.
My brother, Raul, took his family one summer to work in the fields. “El Prieto,” as family and friends called him, was the oldest of six children at that time. He was named after his father but no one ever called him Junior. El Prieto relates that in Arkansas they were housed in a former World War II German prisoners of war camp. They didn’t fare much better in Missouri, where he says they were housed in a dilapidated barn. That’s when he thought, “I’m going to get me a desk job!”
El Prieto considers himself very fortunate that his parents allowed him to stay in school. In those days many parents pulled their children out of school to go to work and contribute to the family earnings. He graduated from Floresville High School in 1950 along with 55 others, 12 of whom were Mexican Americans. My brother Rufo was one of them. El Prieto credits the “exceptional” teachers of that time for giving him a solid foundation in his educational journey. Soon after graduation he left Floresville for El Paso to further his education. Uncle Sam interrupted his college career. He was drafted in 1954 and served in Korea with the Corps of Engineers. Before that he had changed his original goal and enrolled instead at Texas Western College. After his discharge in 1956 he returned to Texas Western to continue working on his degree in history, which he obtained in 1958. He later earned a master’s degree and certification as a counselor.
He was in his sixth year of teaching when he received a call from a certain Malcolm McGregor, a member of the Texas Legislature. McGregor informed Raul that he was going to run for the Senate and wanted him to seek his vacant seat. Says El Prieto, “I was in shock. I had no idea where this was coming from!” Perhaps his avid interest in political science and current events had earned him a reputation in political circles. Raul had actively campaigned for Gov. Connally in his first bid for the governor of Texas.
He remembers clearly that it was a Thursday morning when he got the call from Mr. McGregor. He had never met the man but that afternoon they met. McGregor had brought reporters with him. The next day a brief biography and photo of Raul appeared in the El Paso Herald Post. We can assume that El Prieto had accepted Mr. McGregor’s invitation to seek office. Before he knew it, he was wrapped up in a political campaign, and in November 1964, he was elected to what he calls the “elite” Texas House of Representatives. El Prieto comments, “Wow! From the cotton fields to the state chamber. It was the experience of a lifetime.” He became the second Mexican American to be elected to the House from El Paso County. He served under two governors, Preston Smith and John Connally. He remembers being invited by Gov. Connally to his chambers for breakfast along with other members of the House and Senate. El Prieto had an edge on the others, being from the same town as the governor. He got to sit at the same table with him. He remembers telling the governor that since being in Austin he was beginning to eat tacos with a fork, which got a laugh from Gov. Connally. El Prieto served in the House a total of eight years, after which he went back to teaching.
In the early 1990s he returned to Floresville to be closer to his ailing father. While he was here he gave back to his alma mater by serving as counselor at Floresville ISD. After two years he returned to El Paso, where he still resides.
El Prieto is thankful to all his relatives and friends from both Floresville and El Paso for their love and support through the years in many of the events in his long life. (He is not quite a year older than me, and I am 80). We are all so blessed.
On a personal note I have to tell a story about El Prieto which Mamá told many times during her lifetime. She recalled that when our family was living at the Spruce house in the early ’40s Raul (Sr.) and his family would visit us several times a week. Mamá always prepared enough food for everyone. One day when we were sitting at the table, El Prieto started giggling. When he was asked what was so funny, he replied, “Me acuerdo cuando era maromero” (I remember when I was an acrobat). Then it was the adults’ turn to laugh because they had no idea where he had gotten that. Looking back, I remember that during those years when we were growing up, occasionally one of those small traveling circuses would come to town and set up a tent on the outskirts of town. Perhaps El Prieto had a chance to watch some of the performers. I don’t know why that incident stuck in Mamá’s mind and then in mine.
In case we haven’t said it before, we are very proud of El Prieto, alias Raul Muñiz (Jr.) -- my nephew.
Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her new email is email@example.com.
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