Does The Longoria Affair really qualify as a documentary in accordance with the standards set forth by the National Endowment for the Humanities?

The National Endowment for the Humanities sets standards for historical documentation. Read the NEH standards below followed by violations in the documentary and you decide whether or not The Longoria Affair qualifies as a historical documentary worthy of an Emmy. Write us with your opinion.

Commentary

Manipulations, omissions, and distortions (changes) are designated as unacceptable by the National Endowment for the Humanities, see http://www.neh.gov/grants/guidelines/researchmisconduct.html.

 

What is a historical documentary? Both words: historical and documentary mean that the representation of fact, character, and events are true. While The Longoria Affair is not funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, it is incumbent upon producers of a historical documentary to respect the trust of the viewing public by upholding these standards. It is surprising that those listed as the funding sources, which include public tax money and trusted endowments, do not follow these same standards.

 

The Longoria Affair artistically and purposely creates a racist metaphor by portraying the people of Three Rivers, Texas, and Thomas W. Kennedy, Jr., the deceased local funeral director, as bigots typical of Texas in 1949. It pits a stereotypical “white” upper class population against a stereotypical impoverished “Mexican American” community by presenting false representation and half-truths.

 

Established on the Fourth of July, 1913, Three Rivers was developed in the twentieth century without the history of dissention and war that plagued much of the Border States. It is an unusual agrarian community of hard working multicultural people. Families of European and Anglo-American descent picked cotton right along with their Hispanic counterparts. All worked side by side on the ranches. Cultural differences were accepted, and often in shared celebration. They worked together for the betterment of all.

Balance

As reported in The Corporation for Public Broadcasting White Paper “Best Practices in Assessing Objectivity and Balance, by Alan G. Stavitsky, and Jeffrey A. Dvorkin  accessed from http://www.cpb.org/aboutcpb/goals/objectivity/whitepapers/  on October 27, 2010:


“…all essential parties should, if possible, be included and have a voice, and …smaller or larger deviations from a strict balance can be tolerated when justified by, for example, the existing supply of information or judgements of relevance.” J. Westerstahl(1983), “Objective News Reporting.” Communication Research 10, p. 419.

 

All essential parties were not given a voice in this emotionally charged video. Deviations are defintely larger and cannot be justified by any lack of information or relevance. Number and content of frames is far from balanced, even though the film is presented with an even number of participants on two sides. Each statement by the Three Rivers’ participants is cut, reframed, marginalized, and contradicted by other participants and the narrator.

 

Balance is totally lost in context as Patty Reagan’s (Correct spelling of her name) statement is followed with a scene of a little Hispanic child pushing his old worn out foot scooter on a sidewalk in front of the Three Rivers’ school all alone and forlorn. The discount of her statement is obvious to viewers.

 

Sara Posas’ racist rant calling Three Rivers’ racist over and over in less than a few seconds is connected to a contentious City Hall meeting about the renaming of the Three Rivers’ Post Office while the camera pans an audience of “old white racist people”. Viewers are led to believe this sanitized scene validates and accentuates Posas’ statement.  Read the detail under Manipulations and Distortions to see what really happened and how the viewer is duped.

Manipulations and Distortions

Signs saying, “No Mexicans…”: After the Austin screening, the producer admitted that the “No Mexican” sign was "artistic license," not an actual fact of Three Rivers. Yet viewers are left aghast at the sign they believe to be in Three Rivers. The sign is used this same way in publicity. When confronted by several viewers at the University of Texas screening, Valadez flew into a fit of rage and stomped from the theater. Neither Anglos nor Hispanics have memory of such signs existing in Three Rivers.

 

Following the sign, Sara Posas, who is known to have a personal grudge against a specific ‘white’ person, then says that Three Rivers had these signs. In another documentary (Justice for My People) this same interviewee claimed to have been made to sit in the balcony at the theatre in Three Rivers. When Posas lived in Three Rivers, the theatre was a one story structure without a balcony. Multiple Hispanics remember sitting on the front row of that theatre and the new one which opened with a balcony10 years after Ms. Posas moved away from Three Rivers. One of those is Felix Longoria’s sister.  This hostile witness continues to slam Three Rivers throughout the film.

 

Embedding Racist View: Posas’ rant is played over and over in publicity serving to embed the image with viewers both before and after seeing the film.

 

Representation of Santiago Hernandez as Three Rivers: Santiago Hernandez captioned as “Three Rivers” is one of the greatest distortions and manipulations of the film. Hernandez was born and educated in Corpus Christi. He has always lived there. He lives with his wife and almost grown children in a nice two story brick home located in a well kept middle class neighborhood of Corpus Christi. Hernandez works at the Federal Correctional Institution about eight miles outside Three Rivers. His paycheck comes from the Federal Prison through the bank in Three Rivers, but his children go to school in Corpus as do his taxes. Hernandez drives more than 150 miles a day to and from work. He is captioned as a local Three Rivers’ musician and filmed numerous times in what appears to be less than standard housing giving the viewer the impression it is his home in Three Rivers. Comments posted by viewers show that the film’s deception worked.

 

Second film participant misrepresented as Three Rivers’ resident:  Richard Hudson is misrepresented as a resident of Three Rivers. He is not, nor has he been for the past sixty years. His family moved away when he was four years old. He returned for visits with relatives during summers and weekends until early adult life. He has been a resident of the Fort Worth, Texas area for the past forty years. The producer is aware of this. Once Hudson learned of the captioning, he protested being portrayed as a Three Rivers’ resident, but the producer did not heed his protestations and continued to caption him in the film as a “Three Rivers” interviewee.

 

The City Hall Scene: Hernandez, the narrator of the City Hall scene that follows Posas’ racist rant, fails to mention and the camera fails to show the Hispanic mayor of Three Rivers and the three Hispanic council members among just two Anglos. The council’s decision is blamed totally on the white ‘racist’ element. Further suggesting that all whites are racist. The council information of the Hispanic content existed and is relevant. Neither does Hernandez mention that his behavior and yelling at that meeting caused the Hispanic mayor to have him ejected, nor that Hernandez’ behavior and comments are the reason for the stern looks of the people in City Hall.

 

A bus load of people from Corpus Christi marching in the streets of Three Rivers carrying huge banners that say “Mexicans are not welcome even in death” deceives the viewers in numerous ways. First, it leads the viewers to believe that the marchers are Hispanic Three Rivers’ citizens. It appears that the town is still divided. Then, Hernandez states in the film that the marchers are going to City Hall with the impression that they are attending the City Hall Post Office meeting. In actuality, the march took place months later in an effort to shame the City even though the council was celebrating Felix Longoria Day honoring Longoria’s birthday, also not mentioned in the film.

 

Correct quotation ignored-In the film, Santiago Hernandez correctly quotes the question of the Corpus Christi Reporter, George Groh, to Mr. Kennedy, “Did you refuse the chapel at your funeral home for the wake of Felix Longoria, a Mexican American soldier?” The film participant does not seem to recognize that the quote is not, “…because he is a Mexican American soldier?”  No one asked Kennedy in that conversation if he refused the chapel because Longoria was “Mexican American”. The film proceeds as though the latter was the statement.

 

Hispanic Testimony-Viewers ask why the Hispanic people of Three Rivers are not heard in the film. Jesse Moreno grew up in Three Rivers and credits Anglo neighbors with encouraging his education. Jesse offered multiple times to come and give testimony about his relationship with the Kennedy’s. He also wanted to tell how Mr. Ray Bomar offered him a job and meals to stay in school. Because of Mr. Bomar, the teachers, and others in the community, Mr. Moreno says he is comfortably retired in Battle Creek, Michigan after a successful career with Kellog’s. The producer declined to interview Jesse or any other Three Rivers’ Hispanics, except the sister of Felix, who declined interview. In the book used as the historical basis for the film, the author admits to finding Hispanic neighbors who testified that family differences, not race, were the issue at the funeral home. The author further admits in the book that these people were convinced to remain quiet because it would not help the national Hispanic cause.

 

Property Ownership: Dr. Patrick Carroll, a historian and author on the set, says that “Mexicans” could not buy property in the “white” part of town, and “whites” could not sell property to “Mexicans”. This is not true of Three Rivers, though it was true of much of South Texas and Corpus Christi where Dr. Hector Garcia lived.  

Dr. Garcia made an inspection of Three Rivers about a week after Felix Longoria’s wake. He tells of visiting at least three Hispanic families who lived across the tracks in the “white part of town”. Mr. Tips and his family moved to San Antonio in the late twenties, and he hired an agent to continue selling property. The agent inquired about selling to Hispanics anywhere in the town. Mr. Tips encouraged him to continue doing so saying he always found them reliable. (Tips’ Family Archives.)

 

Birth of Three Rivers: The narrator of the film states that Charles Tips, the developer of Three Rivers, brought in mostly Southerners who brought their slave and segregationist attitudes with them. In actuality, Three Rivers was a multicultural community established almost fifty years after the Civil War with mostly Germans, and smaller portions of Hispanic, Polish, Czech, French, and Jewish inhabitants. Especially the Germans of early Texas are known not to promote slavery. Neither did the Hispanics or Jews. Many 1949 inhabitants of Three Rivers came from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and other American Mid-West states. They did not participate in slavery either.

 

Tips welcomed Mexican inhabitants by placing ads written in Spanish throughout the region. He came from Seguin, where the town was named for a well known Hispanic hero. He did follow the custom of providing a separate area for Hispanics where they could practice their cultural traditions of raising and killing goats and other stock in their back yards along with free range chickens. He offered land to them at lower prices than those who bought nearer the town. The film portrays the separate area and the naming of streets in this part of town known as The Atascosa Addition (This name not mentioned in the film.) as sinister and maliciously separated from the rest of the town. The street names were chosen from among the best and most well known Hispanic heroes, many whom Tips knew and chose to honor in this way.

 

The Cemetery: Valadez narrates prominently displayed publicity saying that Longoria would have had to lay interred on the opposite side of a barbed wire fence between the Mexican side and the Anglo side of the Three Rivers’ Cemetery. This follows a scene where Hudson explains the existence of two cemeteries. One which was once for all, and another purchased in the 1920’s by Mexican Americans who desired an area where wildflowers grew unmowed and other customs particularly theirs could be observed. Guadalupe Longoria, Felix's dad, was trustee and the cemetery was named Longoria Cemetery.  Even though they were two separate cemeteries; they were never divided by a fence. The Longoria family verifies this as do others who lived there. Dr. Garcia visited Three Rivers about a week after the Arlington burial expecting to find an unkempt Mexican area some distance away from an all Anglo cemetery.  After viewing the area, the worst he could say about it was, “There appears to be the remnants of a fence.” That was in 1949, the same period of time Valadez tells viewers a barbed wire fence existed.

 

Outsiders Use the Town: Hernandez playing himself as a local disguises the fact in the film that outsiders use the town. Even though, not a veteran himself, Hernandez helped form a Felix Longoria chapter for the GI Forum in Corpus Christi (CC). When the CC Forum would not admit the chapter, a fight filmed by TV cameras erupted. The question of their membership was tabled. Hernandez has made his mission keeping the Felix Longoria 1949 newspaper story alive. Driving this mission creates political and popular business gains for him in Corpus Christi. The film’s deception works outside Three Rivers, while the people of Three Rivers choose to go on about their business.

 

Terminology: Carroll further says that people of Three Rivers did not even use the terminology, “Mexican American” implying that they did not respect Hispanics enough to call them American. In actuality, the politically correct wording at that time was “Latin American”. A term which Kennedy used and is prominently displayed in the Three Rivers’ High School Annuals of that time period. Valadez requested Patty Reagan mail him a set of these annuals after Hudson sent him pictures from the same. There he saw where Three Rivers raised $5,000.00 to help the family of popular young Hispanic who was injured in a football game earlier the same school year as the incident. Not one word of good relations between Three Rivers "whites" and Hispanics is mentioned in the video.