Announcing the Bidal Aguero Justicia Award
The announcement of the Bidal Aguero Justicia Award took place on November 6, 2014. This is an edited version of the announcement from that evening. We offer it so readers and the community may know why the award was created.
It is my pleasure to be with you tonight and have an opportunity to talk about the life and times of Bidal. On the 5th anniversary of his death, I think it is an appropriate time to reflect on his life and his accomplishments.
There is no doubt that we miss the man whose life and passing have brought us together today.
Some of us miss Bidal as a father, a husband, a grandfather, an uncle and brother. Others miss him as a friend and colleague. I miss Bidal as a friend of 46 years and also as a journalist and newspaper publisher. Bidal and I shared many common interests in the area of civil rights and our political philosophy was similar, and we often talked about how politics impacted the Chicano community.
He was kind enough to publish some of my writings between 2003 and 09 that I submitted to him and I remain grateful to him for that.
When discussing how best to continue Bidal’s mission, and how to make sure that his legacy is carried on, I suggested to Olga that she might want to consider establishing an award in his memory and offered to participate as a founding partner which is the reason I am making this announcement tonight.
Whether family or friend, all of you know varying details of his life and his life’s work and we sincerely appreciate you joining the family on this special occasion.
Tonight, it is my honor to announce the creation of The Bidal Aguero Justicia Award. This award is being established on the 5th anniversary of his passing as a testament to his accomplishments and his life long fight for civil rights. It is being established so that other individuals who advocate for the same ideals as Bidal may also be recognized for their work. We also hope that individuals who aspire to be community activists and who choose to advocate for civil rights and social justice might be motivated by the possibility of receiving this award.
We have selected the name Justicia because that is what Bidal advocated for.
Justice by and in of itself can be defined in many ways. Most of the time, we tend to equate justice with our legal system. But justice goes beyond that. At its core, justice is a concept that should be distributed to each and every member of our society, in an unbiased and equal manner regardless of a person’s station in life.
Unfortunately, justice in that context has not been easy to come by and in many cases remains an elusive dream for many people.
When we think about Bidal’s vision of justice, we need to look at the body of work that he left behind in order to understand his concept of justice. If we do so, we can see that by his work, he strived to obtain civic, political, legal, economic, and moral justice.
In our discussions, we came up with 3 objectives that we think the award will accomplish.
The award will convey the message that the recipient of the award has built upon the foundation of the body of work that Bidal Aguero left behind.
The award will also recognize the value of Bidal’s work, his struggles, his acceptance of his responsibility to his community, and his willingness to sacrifice for his community.
And lastly, the award will serve as a symbol to present and future generations that Bidal Aguero’s contributions to society made a difference to the Chicano community and the city of lubbock.
All of us have a personal history and we all leave behind our footprint on society. What set Bidal apart and makes him worthy of an award that bears his name is that his personal history was enhanced by his social history, his life’s endeavours, his accomplishments and most of all his attempt at leaving a better world behind than the one he was born into.
I think we would all agree that Bidal took the road less traveled and by doing so he was able to impact a larger segment of society that for whatever reason or reasons, be it racial, economic inequality, or just life’s unfortunate circumstances seem to be always at the end of the line or the last to be considered.
When we grow up in a city such as Lubbock, where in the 1960’s, schools, political, social, and most governmental institutions, were still segregated, and where if you were a minority for example you could not go swimming at McKenzie Pool, or where you saw the signs that said no dogs or Mexicans allowed, those experiences leave a lasting impression.
As a young Chicano in a city run by politicians and police that treated Chicanos as second class citizens, he chose not to conform. Rather, he was one of those individuals who questioned the labels that were assigned to us back then and challenged their validity.
While we cannot be sure what motivated Bidal to choose the road he did, I think we can safely assume that the indignities he went through, the indignities and injustices he saw his parents and others go through, and his personal encounters with a society that saw him as a source of labor and not as an educated young man with the potential to be a newspaper publisher; had a lot to do with his choices.
For example, one of his encounters with unequal treatment and police harassment was during the 1970 tornado. While trying to get into el barrio nuevo to see about his parents, he was turned away by Lubbock police and in his determination to enter the cordoned off area anyway, his arm was broken and he wound up being arrested.
History informs us that whenever we go against the power structure and the social and political institutions, and call attention to the injustices, we become a target for criticism, for ridicule, and there is a certain price to pay for not shutting up and sitting at the back of the bus.
For the better part of his life, Bidal devoted himself to going up against a political system which he felt treated Chicanos unequally and unjustly. And he did not do it for self aggrandizement or personal economic gain. I know from personal conversations with Bidal that he paid a price for his sacrifices. But I believe he always felt that the reward was greater than the sacrifice.
Accordingly, when you take it upon yourself to publish a newspaper that calls attention to the injustices you see occurring in the community, especially in one of the most conservative cities in the country, well, the consequences can be hurtful. And when that happens, many a person’s tendency is to just change and conform. But Bidal didn’t, somehow he was able to overcome the criticism, the threats, the intimidation, and the ridicule, and move forward.
Another example, was in 1988 when he was turned away from the Lubbock Club and refused a table because they said, the way he was dressed did not meet their dress code; a ridiculous policy that was clearly designed to keep certain people, meaning Chicanos and African Americans out. That must have been a humiliating experience and I think a lesser man would have conformed to the rules and changed.
But Bidal didn’t. His dress, his appearance, that of an unassuming man, were I think, his statement to society that I am who I am and I will change for no one. That was how he lived his convictions and didn’t just talk about them. That is evidenced by the fact that even after being told that he could stay, if he tucked his shirt in, he declined and chose to go elsewhere. He was there by the way to meet Victor Hernandez who had invited him, not because he frequented those kinds of establishments.
Let me share with you some brief highlights of Bidal’s life, which will give us a good idea of what Bidal devoted his life to and how he impacted many different areas of our community. As I list them, keep in mind that the list is not by any means complete nor does it include details but rather is a sampling of just some of the highlights of his life’s work.
As a young saxaphone player, he chose to follow his cultural musical roots, instead of abandoning Chicano music and crossing over to a more lucrative mainstream genre. Today, the name “Los Premiers” of which he was one of the original members, is inscribed in the West Texas walk of Fame. The band is often referred to as pioneers of Chicano music.
If you Google the name Bidal Aguero, you will get 39,600 results from a wide variety of resources. While they are not all about Bidal, what you will see is many entries detailing his involvement in the community and his biography. Here’s an excerpt of one entry from the Texas Tech Southwest collections archive.
“Bidal Agüero was heavily involved in local politics. He joined La Raza Unida Party and ran for local offices such as county commissioner, participated in organizing protests for injustices done against Mexican Americans, and was one of those who filed a lawsuit against the Lubbock Independent School District to change its method of electing school trustees. He even traveled to the Middle East to meet with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The first page of the December 1980 issue of El Editor mentions both La Raza Unida, as well as one of Agüero’s other causes, the protection and support of recent Latino immigrants to the United States.
Agüero worked in several Lubbock- and West Texas-area social service organizations such as Defensa, Inc., Chicanos Unidos-Campesinos, and Llano Estacado Farmworkers of Tejas to help such groups as migrant workers. He also worked closely with governmental groups such as the South Plains Association of Governments, the State of Texas, and the City of Lubbock.
Bidal also was a candidate for Texas House District 83 in 1992 under the Democratic banner
In terms of his education, he obtained his bachelors degree in music from Texas Tech and his masters of Education from the university of Wisconsin – Whitewater in 1974. He also was proud of the fact that he was the second Chicano from Lubbock who went through the LISD school system to graduate from Tech.
While at Tech he helped start two student organizations, Los Tuertulianos and a chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Aztlan better known as MeCha. He was also heavily involved in the Chicano movement and played a role in La Raza Unida party in the 1970’s.”
Here are just a few examples of some of the other roles that he undertook.
As a cultural arts advocate he created the Aztlan festival, a project his daughter Zenaida Aguero Reyes continues directing to this day.
As a storyteller he wrote An Old Fashioned Cabrito Baptism which resulted in it being produced into a movie.
As a book author he wrote the Wonderful Santa Suit and eventually turned it into a play.
As a Chicano newspaper publisher, he helped found the National Association of Hispanic Publishers, an organization that is still active today.
As a journalist he advocated for civil rights and social justice through his reporting and his writing. Some of his earliest stories were published in an underground newspaper at Texas Tech known as The Catalyst. One of his earliest stories published in 1971, drew attention to the shooting of a young man by the name of Ernesto Nerios by a Lubbock police officer. That newspaper was the subject of censorship by the Texas Tech administration in 1971 which eventually resulted in a legal lawsuit brought against the Tech administration.
As a businessman he sacrificed an opportunity to create personal wealth so that El Editor could publish as an independent voice, beholden to no one sponsor or advertiser, and be distributed free of charge. He once said that in 1977, LISD had offered him a teaching job at $7,000 per year. He said he turned it down so he could start El Editor. He once said that he did not go to banks to fund his newspaper when he started because he knew they would not give him a loan. So he went at it on his own.
As a businessman he co founded COMA, the Comerciantes Organizados Mexico Americanos, so that small Chicano owned businesses could join an organization where they were welcomed and could prosper and grow their business. To illustrate how difficult it is to do that, consider that no one else has organized a new Hispanic Chamber since the original one was rolled into the Lubbock Chamber, leaving a void in the Hispanic business community.
I suppose the lesson here is that if it was so easy to do, another one would have been created by now.
In a book called Hispanics in the American West by Jorge Iber and Arnoldo DeLeon, published in 2006, the authors refer to Bidal as a Chicano activist and entrepreneur. They write that “the concerted efforts of individuals such as Bidal Aguero, have improved the economic, educational and professional opportunities of barrio residents throughout the region over the past 3 decades”.
As an educator, and promoter of higher education while at LEARN Educational Talent Search he helped many young people get accepted to colleges like Harvard, the University of Texas, Texas Tech, the University of Colorado, and he personally influenced me to follow him at the university of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1974.
As a writer he took on what needed to be addressed in the community, “picando con la cola” as he did so many times writing under the pseudonym of “el alacran”.
To illustrate what his writing meant to many people, here’s something that was written to Olga and her family upon his passing, “Thank you Bidal for fighting for us and for having the courage to convey your thoughts on issues that others would not write about. You leave a legacy of accomplishments that many of us could never emulate.”
As a columnist he wrote Comentarios de Bidal about a variety of topics and issues, always with his own flair for getting his point across. He could easily go from writing stories like “Left alone to cook el almuerzo” to writing about the shortcomings of certain organizations or politicians in the community.
As someone who cared for children, he along with Gus Medina and Jesse Reyes, created the Pancho Claus program, that program is still going strong today. As a community activist he was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against the Lubbock Independent School Board for single member districts.
As a publisher he was sought out by politicians who sought the newspaper’s endorsements and his political advice. He published a newspaper that was a thorn in many an elected official’s side. And we’ll never really know how the course of city and county politics was changed because of a story or column that he wrote.
Despite the many roles that he undertook, perhaps his greatest contribution was as a community activist. It was in this arena that he used his voice to call attention to many community issues.
His first issue of El Editor was published on October 12, 1977 and the headline read:
Protesta Pro Vivienda. It was a story about residents of Arnett Benson protesting the refusal of the Lubbock City Council to provide funding for better housing. His first issue was clearly a reflection of the issues he would pursue and write about until 2009.
He was also instrumental in organizing one of this city’s largest marches in 1971 known as “La Marcha de Fe” to protest police action against the Chicano community.
As an advocate of his Mexican cultural roots, he strived to keep events like Las Fiestas Patrias going, and who can forget all those Menudazos and softball tournaments that he and Olga organized.
There are just too many accomplishments and projects that Bidal either started or participated in to list them all, but you get a good idea of his substantial accomplishments.
On a personal level, maybe Bidal’s most admirable accomplishment was that he accomplished all that he did, while struggling with health issues most of his adult life. Olga tells me that he was diagnosed with diabetes in his mid 20’s and of course we all know how he eventually had to go through dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant. But remarkably, he never stopped completely from doing what he needed to do to publish the newspaper.
Bidal Aguero passed up opportunities for self enrichment and chose self fulfillment. He exchanged opportunities for commercial success for personal reward. He decided that he would commit his life to writing and publishing the stories that were not being told anywhere else. He decided that he would provide an alternate forum from mainstream media and one where he would advocate for people, for the less fortunate, for justicia, without the constraints that come from outside ownership.
Today, anyone can get a software program and publish a newspaper or a magazine. But what Bidal did in 1977 with limited resources took guts.
He addressed the issues that needed to be addressed regardless of the controversy it would create. He played a critical role in the community, he was a guardian of the communities interests, his newspaper shined a light on the inequalities and injustices and tried to motivate readers and the community into doing something about those same injustices and inequalities.
That is what El Editor was under Bidal Aguero.
The true test of whether someone has made a difference in this world is how they are remembered when they are gone. On the 5th anniversary of Bidal Aguero’s passing, we are pleased to announce that the first recipient of the Bidal Aguero Justicia Award will be selected next year and will be recognized in a ceremony in 2015.
With the creation of this award, we believe that Bidal’s contributions to our community will be remembered and that they will continue to serve as an inspiration and an example for future generations. We also believe that the newspaper he created in October of 1977, will continue his mission, and that most importantly El Editor and Bidal Aguero’s legacy will continue to withstand the test of time.
I will leave you with one of Bidal’s favorite quotes by Benito Juarez, in fact, we see it in every issue of El Editor, “El respeto al derecho Ajeno es la paz.”
Thank you again for joining us on such a special occasion y “Adelante”.