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From Radicalism to Representation: Jose “Cha Cha“ Jimenez’s Journey into Electoral Politics

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This article examines Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez’s 1975 aldermanic campaign and his work toward the successful election of the first African American mayor of Chicago. Several progressive politicians who cut their political teeth on Jimenez’s city council campaign used the skills they acquired in the mid-1970s to break through the political glass ceiling that for decades kept Latinos from actualizing their potential. This article provides a lens through which to see how Jimenez and the Young Lords laid the groundwork for an anti-Daley machine that was a continuation of the original Rainbow Coalition.

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  1. Most of Jimenez’s more than 100 interviews are on video rather than transcribed. Transcribed histories lend themselves to different analyses than those on video. Hearing the interviewee and interviewer in Jimenez’s interviews and seeing the interviewee’s non-verbal modes of communication provide additional layers of information for study. Dan Sipe argues, “Oral history is the collaborative creation of evidence in narrative form between interviewer and narrator, between living human beings …. Oral history should thus document not only the interview’s explicit information, but the process itself.” He explains that the video images oral histories create show dialogs, tone of voice, and other cues that one is unable to see in a written transcript. See Dan Sipe, “The Future of Oral History and Moving Images,” in The Oral History Reader, 2003 edition, eds. Robert Perks and Alistair Thompson (New York: Routledge, 1998), 382–385. Also see Grele, “Movement without Aim,” 43–47. Robert Grele argues that oral histories show undiscovered discourses and the creation of historical processes.

  2. W.E.B. DuBois ran for the US Senate in New York in 1950 as a member of the American Labor Party ticket.

  3. Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California as a Democrat in 1934

  4. Rodolfo Corky Gonzales ran the Denver City Council in 1955 as well as the Colorado state legislature in 1960 and the Colorado State senate in 1964. His last race was for mayor of Denver in 1967.

  5. Julian Bond of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was elected to the Georgia in 1965 but wasn’t seated until years later after the US Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that preventing Bond from taking his seated due to his opposition to the Vietnam War was unconstitutional.

  6. John Hulett of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee was elected sheriff of Lowndes County, Alabama in 1970.

  7. Andrew Diamond argues that political patronage toward youth gangs gave representation to ethnic Europeans in the city. See Mean Streets, 10–12; Hagedorn, “Race Not Space,” 196.

  8. At time the words Black and African American are used interchangeably according to sound and context as well as to avoid repetition.

  9. (Flores, unknown) This can also be understood as hegemony. In this case, the hegemon or the dominant ruling power, represents the Chicago democratic political party structure who still has major control over the political realm in the city.

  10. Also see “Jose ‘Cha Cha’ Jimenez,” National Young Lords, accessed 2016,, which states that Jose Jimenez faced “…eighteen indictments in six weeks…”

  11. Angie Navedo was the widow of Jose “Pancho” Lind also participated in the YLO. Cathy Adorno-Centeno is their daughter.

  12. The Latino Institute, a non-profit created in 1974 functioned as a sort of non-profit “think tank” which released position papers and research on the Latino community and important issues relating thereof until its demise in 1998.

  13. See id=15 accessed June 15, 2017. It is also interesting to note that Angie Navedo was not of Latino origin. She is another clear example of how despite not being a Puerto Rican, she gained a leadership role within the organization. Frank Browning, “From Rumble to Revolution: The Young Lords,” Ramparts, 9 no. 1 (October 1970), 25.

  14. Like many minority groups, there were those within the Latino community who believed that Latinos were undercounted by census takers. For a substantive discussion on that topic, see Counting the Forgotten, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C., April 1974.

  15. This number was calculated by Guillermo Perez, Director of Finance for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, El Manana, Chicago, August 28, 1975: 3.

  16. The words city council and aldermanic as well as alderman are used interchangeably throughout this article according to sound and context.

  17. To what extent that number increased by 1975 is unknown to the authors.

  18. Carl Stokes in Cleveland, Kenneth Gibson in Newark, NJ, Tom Bradley in Los Angeles, Walter Washington in DC, Maynard Jackson in Atlanta and Coleman Young in Detroit.

  19. The United Farm Workers developed strong bonds with Black and Brown leftist groups throughout the USA. Two years after Jimenez’s race, in 1977, the Panthers, the Brown Berets, the United Farm Workers and other leftist groups supported Judge Lionel Wilson, a moderate African American judge for mayor. He won, in no small measure to the grassroots organizing by those groups.

  20. Cohen’s numbers compared favorably to those of Daley who won the 46th ward with 70.6% of the vote.

  21. Although voting records show that Jimenez received 27% of the vote, he, and others, believe he received somewhere in the vicinity of 39%, but that belief is not supported by the data.

  22. Perhaps the most widely known instance of a candidate being made to look soft on crime occurred during the 1988 presidential race between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. A Massachusetts inmate crossed state lines, traveled to Maryland where accosted a man and raped his wife while on furlough from prison. At the time, Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts.

  23. Williams is on solid footing when he writes that the Jimenez campaign continued the mission of the Rainbow Coalition, however, the role that the Panthers played in Jimenez’s campaign, if any, is not entirely clear.

  24. The Young Lords website also writes, “The Aldermanic Campaign was then viewed solely, as an organizing vehicle…” “Jose ‘Cha Cha’ Jimenez,” National Young Lords, accessed 2016,

  25. Harold Washington ran for mayor in a highly polarized racial environment. Jane Byrne and Bernard Epton engaged in race-baiting tactics against Harold Washington in an attempt to secure white votes. See William Grimshaw, Bitter Fruit, 176–180; Rivlin, Fire on the Prairie, 2010–2066 & 2157–2162 and Kleppner, Chicago Divided, 186–214.

  26. Latinos throughout the country suffered from Reagan’s economic policies, including many unemployed in the Texas area who were told to have patience for recovery under Reaganomics. See Raymond Coffrey, “President Tells Jobless Hispanics to have Patience,” Chicago Tribune, October 3, 1984.

  27. Ibid. Also see Perez, The Near Northwest Side Story for detailed explanation on how the island and the mainland are linked through social networks and cyclical migration. Perez argues this migration is a reflection of the poverty many Puerto Ricans suffer.

  28. For example: W. Wilson Goode was elected mayor of Philadelphia in 1983 as well. No more than 20% of white registered voters cast their ballots for the Black Democrat. A year earlier, in New Orleans, Ernest “Dutch” Morial won just 14% of the white vote in his successful bid for re-election.

  29. Also known as the FALN or the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional.

  30. Irene Hernandez, Joseph Berrios, Ray Castro, Miguel del Valle, Raymond Figueroa, Jesus Garcia, Luis Gutierrez, Ben Martinez, Juan Soliz and Manuel Torres and Miguel Santiago.


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Correspondence to Marisol V. Rivera.

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Rivera, M.V., Jeffries, J.L. From Radicalism to Representation: Jose “Cha Cha“ Jimenez’s Journey into Electoral Politics. J Afr Am St 23, 299–319 (2019).

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