Amidst the turbulence and militancy of the 1960s and early 1970s, the Mexicano population of the dusty agricultural town of Crystal City, Texas (Cristal in Spanish), staged two electoral revolts, each time winning control of the city council and school board. The landmark city council victory in 1963 was a first for Mexican Americans in South Texas, and Cristal—the “spinach capital of the world”—became for a time the political capital of the Chicano Movement.
In The Cristal Experiment, Armando Navarro presents the most comprehensive examination to date of the rise of the Chicano political movement in Cristal, its successes and conflicts (both internal and external), and its eventual decline. He looks particularly at the larger and more successful “Second Revolt” in 1970 and its aftermath up to 1981, examining the political, economic, educational, and social changes for Mexicanos that resulted. Drawing upon nearly 100 interviews, a wealth of secondary materials, and his own experiences as a political organizer in the Chicano Movement, Navarro offers a shrewd and insightful analysis not only of the events in Cristal, but also of the workings of local politics generally, the politics of community control, and the factors inherent in the American political system that lead to the self-destruction of political movements. As both a political scientist and an organizer, he outlines important lessons to be learned from what happened in Cristal and to the Chicano Movement.