Journalist and advocate for migrant farm workers
Ramon Garces, crusading print and broadcast journalist and advocate for migrant farm workers, died Sept. 21 of prostate cancer in Austin, Texas. He was 76.
While still a college student, he broadcast for KTXN, the only Spanish-language radio station in Austin at the time (1950s). He served as chief of the Spanish branch of the Voice of America from 1979 to 1981.
He was known for his scathing columns against the Laredo political establishment of the 1950s and 1960s and for his investigative articles that called attention to the plight of poor immigrant families.
His 1965 series in the Laredo Times illustrating the struggles of Spanish-speaking children in public schools became a part of the congressional record in support of the first federal bilingual education legislation.
He helped marshal the Latino vote for the successful gubernatorial campaigns of Democrat John Connally in the 1960s, and for the 1964 presidential campaign of Lyndon B. Johnson. He later served as translator for the president on trips to south Texas and Central America.
In 1967, he was appointed a U.S. Foreign Service officer and worked in the public affairs sections of five U.S. embassies, four of them in Latin America.
Garces began his journalism career as a reporter for the Daily Texan while studying journalism at the U. of Texas at Austin, then returned to Laredo, where he was born and raised, and worked as a sports reporter for the Laredo Times. He later became sports editor, then city editor. His writing earned statewide and national accolades, and he wrote for the Times in English and Spanish as well as for the Texas Observer, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express.
He also occasionally ghostwrote a column in a rival Laredo newspaper, a friend recalled, because the Times was too conservative to publish some of his blunt criticisms of Laredo’s political elite.
Garces also pushed Mexican Americans to register to vote, helping to shape the voting bloc as a political force in Texas.
Survivors include his wife, two daughters and a son.