[Editor’s Note: Roberto R. Calderón is my father and a professor of history at the University of North Texas. He was a fan and a friend of Carlos Guerra and wrote this tribute to Carlos when he retired last year, in September of 2009, right before he joined Carlos in Port Aransas for some fishing.]
Four days ago the last column of a great journalist in San Antonio, Carlos Guerra, appeared in the pages of the San Antonio Express-News. The original title to the column I saw was “Time for New Ventures for This Old Columnist,” which was transformed to “Carlos Guerra Retires,” in the currently posted version of the same. Carlos worked as a columnist, as he explains in San Antonio for a total of 18 years, beginning with the now-defunct San Antonio Light, and when this newspaper folded, continued in the same capacity with the Express-News. In the many thousands of columns researched and written since and the hundreds of thousands of words that crossed his desk, goes a significant part of the history of San Antonio, the region, state, and nation. His was a particularly hard-hitting, sage, and always politically informed view of the world.
Originally from Robstown, Texas, Carlos was full of fight while still in high school where he was an academically high-achieving student who nonetheless participated in organizing what amounted to the first student-led walkouts at his town’s high school. He has many wonderful stories to tell of his experiences related to this set of events and many others that followed. He attended the then called Texas A&I University in Kingsville (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville – TAMUK), when A&I was a gathering point for many young Chican@ college students from throughout South Tejas who would later go on to leave their mark in the movimiento whether in the arts, politics, education, law, writing and more. Most of this Chicano generation, who attended college in the mid- to late-1960s, are now in their sixties. They continued and continue to achieve in their many different areas of professional and leadership activity. We know that Carlos Guerra will not go quietly into the night, but will instead find new and engaging projects and areas of writing and creative activity generally. It goes without saying that we are one with Carlos in wishing him the very best in all of his future endeavors.
I first began reading him when I returned to Tejas from California in August 1999. I didn’t meet him in person until several years later, and have been fortunate to share an ongoing periodic conversation with him since. Is that a scowl that appears in his photo? Or is it the look of a fierce determination? That of a journalist who always knew that words mattered and that his words, his stories that he told and shared with his tens of thousands of readers in particular, carried far beyond the boundaries of the various offices he occupied at the two respective newspapers during the nearly two decades long period that he served as this city’s leading columnist. And while Carlos’s columns ranged over a broad range of topics and it would be unfair to call him a strictly Chicano journalist — he was and is a writer above all — there is no denying that his formative experiences growing up in South Texas and later as a leading activist in the Chicano movement, ultimately brought a seasoned voice and a critical sense of justice to his varied perspectives and approaches taken whatever the subject.
His wit, humor, wisdom, and singularly unique storytelling will be greatly missed. His record will be one that those who call themselves historians of Texas history, of Mexicano South Texas history, why not, will always have to come back to as they work and weave future narratives of what happened in these parts during and since 1991, when he first began to tell it his way. Without question Carlos’s accumulated writings comprise a valuable source for future historians of Texas and of Chicano history in the state and region.
For those who are not familiar with what the Light and Express-News represented during this long turn of the century period, know that these newspapers were widely distributed and widely read across the South Texas region, especially the Saturday and Sunday editions of these newspapers. The audience stretched clear across Tejano South Texas, and from there to the world, lustful wanderers and migrants that we are who hail from this region as we all know.
With that said, le enviamos un abrazo al camarada y gran periodista y ademas le deseamos hoy y siempre que siga logrando todas sus metas y no falta decir, que siga escribiendo para poder seguir leyendo.
[Photo By Roberto R. Calderón]