Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was born in Denver, Colorado in 1928. Though he saved throughout high school by working in beet fields, he found that he could not afford to finish his college education and dropped out to become a boxer. He never won a title, but gained enough notoriety to help him later on in his political career.
Gonzales authored the quintessential poem that defined the nascent Chicano movement, Yo Soy Joaquín, which tried to define the common history and experiences of the modern Mexican-American. Republished in newspapers across the United States and even turned into a play by Luis Valdez’s Teatro Campesino.
After several years as an organizer for the Democratic party, Gonzales’ solution to the challenges facing Mexican-Americans was partly through political action but also education. Thus, Gonzales founded a grassroots political movement, the Crusade for Justice, and a private school in Denver called Escuela Tlatelolco, a part of Mexico City currently home to the famous Plazas de las Tres Culturas. The school and an affiliated health clinic is run today by one of his daughters, Nita Gonzales.