RODOLFO "CORKY" GONZALES PAPERS
Scope and Contents
This collection contains materials dating from 1930 to 2006. Correspondence, flyers, legal briefs, speech transcripts and newspaper clippings comprise the paper portion of the collection. Photographs of the Gonzales family ranging from the 1930s to 2005 as well as images of Gonzales speaking at rallies and meetings constitute a part of the collection. Ephemera includes trophies, plaques and Gonzales' boxing gloves and robe.
The papers documenting Gonzales' boxing career consist of correspondence, newspaper clippings and programs. Items in the series illustrate Gonzales' renown as a boxer, and show his continued interest in the sport during his life.
This series contains a small assortment of papers and newspaper clippings relating to Gonzales' Denver bar and bail bonds businesses.
Campaign materials, correspondence and newspaper clippings document Gonzales' bids for office in the Colorado State Legislature, his Mayoral and City Council campaigns, and his work for the Neighborhood Youth Corps and the War on Poverty.
This series contains papers documenting activities of the Crusade for Justice. Included are speech transcripts, flyers and newspaper clippings from rallies and protests, as well as programs, correspondence, schedules and meeting minutes for the Escuela Tlatelolco and copies of El Gallo, the Crusade's newsletter. Legal papers and clippings describe the 1973 bombing of the Crusade for Justice building.
Original poetry, essays and stories written by Gonzales throughout his life comprise this series. The series is organized alphabetically by title and includes some drafts and incomplete manuscripts. The papers include drafts and copies of Gonzales' breakthrough poem I Am Joaquin (Yo Soy Joaquin), as well as publicity, correspondence and royalties records that highlight the iconic status of Gonzales' poem in the Chicano movement. Some poems in the series are not attributed to Gonzales and their authorship is unclear.
The series, arranged alphabetically by topic or name, documents the many names of Denver activists and events of importance to the Chicano movement in Denver and the West. Speech transcripts, flyers, correspondence, programs and legal papers are included. The series spans such subjects as the Aztlan movement, immigration, La Raza Unida party, protests in Chicano Park in San Diego, California, protests and events in Columbus Park (La Raza Park) in Denver, and Gonzales' speaking engagements.
Appointment books document Gonzales' daily work and activities. Correspondence and a journal chronicle Gonzales' incarceration in the early 1970s. Other memorabilia and correspondence to and from family members and Robert Sandison, also known as "Uncle Bob," exemplifies the tight-knit extended Gonzales family. General correspondence is organized chronologically. Awards include certificates and plaques for Gonzales' many community contributions and his boxing achievements. Tributes include those published in the Congressional Record upon his death in 2005. The series also contains scrapbooks, personal business records, collections of newspaper clippings and articles about topics of interest to Gonzales under the sub-series "Research."
This series is restricted until the year 2059. It contains original writings by Gonzales and his friend, Robert Sandison. The writings may be viewed by researchers but may not be copied or transcribed in any form.
This series contains Gonzales' boxing gear including his robe, gloves and headgear. A box of alphabetical name and address cards is included in the series.
The oversize series includes certificates, wall hangings and plaques in recognition of Gonzales' contributions to many community organizations and causes and his boxing achievements. Clothing items include boxing wear, and articles worn during marches and protests. Posters advertising boxing bouts, tribute posters and gifts given to Gonzales and his family round out the series. Also included is Fred Gonzales' (brother) World War II scrapbook.
Contains color and black and white photographs of Rodolfo Gonzales as a young boy and young man, boxing, speaking at events and rallies, with family and friends, and attending awards banquets. The series also contains color slides, negatives and contact sheets as well as photographs autographed by numerous boxers.
The series contains mostly reel to reel tapes and audio cassette tapes of conferences, speeches and workshops where Gonzales spoke or was featured. Family events are also featured in the series. CDs and mp3 files should be used before original media formats where reproductions have been made.
This series is restricted until the year 2040 due to the inclusion of depositions that were not part of the public court record.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Geraldine Gonzales and the family retains publications rights for all unpublished manuscripts until 2028. At that time, the publications rights will be turned over to the Denver Public Library. Researchers may view unpublished manuscripts but may not photocopy or transcribe the material until 2028. Two boxes, numbers 15 and 16 are restricted until the year 2040.
Conditions Governing Use
The Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales Papers are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.
All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical Item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Biographical / Historical
Rodolfo ("Corky") Gonzales was born on June 18, 1928 at Denver General Hospital in Denver, Colorado. His father, Federico Gonzales, was from Buena Ventura, Chihuahua, Mexico. His mother, Indalesia Lucero, was born in Colorado on June 30, 1889. Corky Gonzales was the youngest of four brothers, one half-brother and three half-sisters. His mother died when he was two years old. He attended public elementary schools in Denver, and briefly in New Mexico. From the time he was ten years old, he worked in his spare time as a farm hand, a pin setter in bowling alleys and a hide gang laborer. Gonzales graduated from Manual High School in 1944 when he was 16 years old. He briefly attended the University of Denver, but the tuition was more than he could afford.
In 1944, Gonzales became an amateur boxer, fighting first at a Veteran's Athletic Club Smoker. While he belonged to the Epworth Boxing Club in Denver, he won both the Golden Gloves and Diamond Gloves Tournaments. In 1946, Gonzales was the Colorado Regional Amateur Flyweight Champion and, in 1947, the National Amateur Athletic Union Bantamweight Champion.
Turning professional in 1947, Gonzales fought 75 times as a featherweight. During his professional fight career, he made his home in Omaha, Nebraska and St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. He fought the best fighters of his day, including Willie Pep, Charley Riley, Gene Smith, the Flanagan brothers, Harold Dade and Lulu Perez. His last professional bout was a 1952 Denver benefit for the Latin American Education Fund. Gonzales' professional record was 65-9-1. The National Boxing Association and Ring Magazine rated him as high as the number three featherweight in the world.
After boxing, Gonzales opened Corky’s Corner, arguably Denver’s first sports bar, at the corner of 38th Avenue and Walnut Street. Corky later sold his tavern and embarked on a new business, Corky’s Bail Bonds. He also became a general agent for Summit Fidelity and Surety Company of Colorado in 1963. In 1965, Mayor Thomas Currigan appointed Gonzales as Director of Denver Neighborhood Youth Corps. Gonzales also acted as the Denver Director of the War on Poverty. In 1966, Gonzales objected to a Rocky Mountain News story he felt was libelous toward him in particular and to the Mexican American community in general. He was visibly angry in a news conference and led a protest at the newspaper building. Currigan fired him from his Youth Corps position and Gonzales resigned from his position as Director of the War on Poverty soon afterwards. Gonzales was quoted as saying, “I’m an agitator and a trouble maker. That’s my reputation and that’s what I’m going to be. They didn’t buy me when they put me into this job.”
Gonzales first ran for political office in 1955 in an unsuccessful bid for the Five Points City Council position. Elvin Caldwell eventually won the seat. In 1960, he campaigned for John F. Kennedy, coordinating the "Viva Colorado" campaign in Colorado. During this time, he was also serving as Colorado’s first Mexican-American democratic District Captain. At the same time, he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the Colorado Legislature. In 1964, Gonzales ran unsuccessfully for Colorado State Senator. His final political effort was in 1967 when he ran for Denver mayor against Thomas Currigan. Again defeated, Gonzales sued Currigan for violating an old Denver campaign law but he lost.
In 1965, Gonzales founded the Crusade for Justice, an organization and social movement to aid the Chicano population. The Crusade for Justice building was located at 1567 Downing Street in Denver. Ballet Chicano de Aztlan, dance troupe, and El Teatro Pachuco were connected with the early Crusade. In 1969, Gonzales opened a summer Liberation School and in 1970 the Escuela Tlatelolco was established as a school for Chicano children.
Gonzales was a writer throughout his life. His epic poem, Yo Soy Joaquin (I am Joaquin), was published in 1967. The poem was read widely and was the clarion call for the Chicano Movement in the United States and abroad. It was quoted in protest literature, published as a play and reprinted in several editions. The poem has been dramatically performed in various artistic mediums to hundreds of thousands of people internationally. A collection of speeches, plays, essays and other poetry written by Gonzales, Message to Aztlan: Selected Writings of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales was published in 2001.
Besides his writing, Gonzales was perhaps best known for his leadership and involvement in the Chicano Movement. He organized and led protests, and spoke at rallies and university campuses throughout the country. In 1968, he led a Chicano contingent in the Poor People's Campaign to Washington. In 1969, Gonzales helped organize the student walkout at West High School in Denver in response to racist remarks by a teacher. The Chicano Youth Conference of 1969 led to the writing of
El Plan de Aztlan, a document that articulated Chicano political, social, economic, and educational issues and demands. Violence was at times associated with these activities. In 1973, a shootout between Denver Police and Crusade members led to a bombing of an apartment building owned by the Crusade for Justice and adjacent to the Crusade building. Crusade member, John Haro, was accused of an attempted bombing conspiracy. In 1981, La Raza Park (otherwise known as Columbus Park) was cleared of people by Denver police during a summer festivity event.
In 1971, Gonzales was arrested at an anti-war rally in Los Angeles. He was accused of carrying a loaded weapon, convicted, and served four months in jail.
In 1949, Gonzales married Geraldine Romero, who was born in Brighton, Colorado in 1931. They had eight children, six daughters and two sons. Gonzales died on April 12, 2005, at age 76, of congestive heart failure. He is aptly remembered as “the fist” of the Chicano Movement.
16 boxes (14.5 linear feet)
2 photo boxes
1 oversize folio
2 oversize folders
2 Oversize Photo Boxes
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift, Geraldine Romero Gonzales, 2007, 2008.
Ann Brown, Abby Hoverstock, Kellen Cutsforth, Roger L. Dudley, November 2009, 2010.
The National Historical Publication and Records Commission partially funded the processing of this collection.
- Audiovisual materials. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Awards. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Blueprints (reprographic copies). Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Chicano movement -- West (U.S.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Civil rights movements -- Colorado. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Clippings (information artifacts). Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Correspondence. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Hispanic Americans -- Civil rights -- West (U.S.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Hispanic Americans -- West (U.S.) -- Ethnic identity. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Manuscripts for publication. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Mexican American authors -- Colorado -- Denver. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Mexican American leadership -- Colorado. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Mexican American poets -- Colorado -- Denver. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Mexican Americans -- Civil rights -- West (U.S.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Personal papers. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Photographs. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Political activists -- Colorado. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- RODOLFO "CORKY" GONZALES PAPERS
- Language of description
- Script of description