Biographical / Historical
Anastacio ‘Tatcho’ Mindiola, Jr., associate professor of sociology at the University of Houston, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, community activist, and an advocate for academic diversity, was born May 6, 1939 to Hortencia Rocha Mindiola and Anastacio Mindiola, Sr., in Houston, Texas. His father worked as a baker, while his mother stayed home to raise six children. He grew up in Houston’s Sunset Heights in the 1940s, a northern neighborhood in the Heights between 28th and 29th Street, where they were one of the first Mexican American families to move into the community. He attended Alamo Elementary, Hamilton Middle School, and graduated from John H. Reagan High School in 1957. Mindiola then enrolled in South Texas Junior College and after a short time left school and enlisted in the military. During his deployment overseas, his interest in higher education and political affairs increased as a result of influential conversations with fellow soldiers who were also college graduates.
After his time in the military, Mindiola began his academic pursuits at the University of Houston in 1962 and studied business using the GI Bill to pay for his education. Because he had to work while going to school it took him over 5 years to earn his first degree; yet close to graduation he realized he did not care for a career in business. He returned to school and took social science courses, subsequently applying to the master’s program in Sociology. Mindiola graduated in 1970 from the University of Houston and continued his education, enrolling in the doctoral program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1974, the University of Houston hired Mindiola, the first Mexican American faculty in the Sociology Department. While he worked on his dissertation, Mindiola taught classes at UH, where he helped to pioneer sociological studies on the Mexican American community in Houston, and developed unique courses also dealing with the working class, Mexican Americans, and other communities of color. Mindiola earned his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1978. At the end of the 1970s, Mindiola became embroiled in a long and tenuous battle over tenure, which ultimately ended in 1985, when he was finally granted the promotion. During this time, he was appointed as director of the Mexican American Studies Program, the precursor of the Center for Mexican American Studies, where he pushed for more office space, recruitment of Mexican American students and faculty, and pursued successful, yet controversial lobbying efforts to receive funding from the Texas Legislature in 1983, 1987, and again in 1990. Mindiola married Cynthia Mendoza in 1989.
As a professor, Mindiola developed innovative courses in Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston, pursued new directions in sociological research including cross-cultural and comparative race studies, devoted great attention to the success of his students, and promoted service learning, combining pedagogical goals and community service. Through community outreach, he introduced the plight of Mexican American community into his academic scholarship to create working solutions to poverty, illiteracy, and crime. He presented papers at conferences around the country and published many of his findings in a wide-range of journals. Mindiola spent years doing extensive research on exit polls for local, state, and national elections, investigated black-brown relations, conducted a long-range homicide study, and a multi-year study of Mexican Americans in the Texas Legislature. He engaged academic interests towards the study of diverse communities; he pursued academic interests in the betterment of the Mexican American community in Houston.
Under his tenure as the Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) director, Mindiola established programs, scholarships, and fellowships that resulted in increased numbers of Mexican American and low-income student enrollment in college. In the 1980s, CMAS established College Career Day at UH and to date has served over 30,000 low-income high school students; created the Visiting Scholars Program, one the longest running efforts at UH to increase diversity among the faculty, and to date over 40 professors have gone through the program with more than 40% were hired at UH; and established a publishing house in conjunction with Texas A&M Press. In the 1990s, CMAS founded the Graduate Fellowship Program, the Academic Achievers Program, and began sponsoring a scholarship banquet to raise funds to provide scholarships and fellowships. Over the years, CMAS brought in many speakers and hosted numerous conferences that addressed issues and concerns in the Mexican American and greater Latina/o community in Houston and throughout the United States.
Mindiola’s work as a community activist and advocate for academic diversity intertwined in his effort to raise public awareness of the Mexican American experience in Houston, he helped to bridge the academy to the community. After returning to Houston in 1974, Mindiola became involved in the local chapter of La Raza Unida Party. His political participation and community activism shaped his educational outlook. Mindiola also served in many community and national organizations, including the Hispanic Education Committee of Houston, as a member of the Board of Directors for Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Forum, and as president of the National Association of Chicana/Chicano Studies. His work as a community activist and service in multiple organizations translated into his advocacy for diversity in the academy. At the higher education level, helped to sponsor the Mexican American Alumni Association at UH, he served on the Mexican American Task Force on Higher Education, and in the University of Houston-Latino Faculty Council.
As a professor, director for CMAS, community activist and advocate for academic diversity he left a lasting impact on the University of Houston, and influenced many positive changes for the Mexican American community on the college campus. He retired in 2015.
Source: Debbie Z. Harwell, “Tatcho Mindiola, Jr.: A Visionary at the University of Houston,” Houston History, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Fall 2011): 36-37; Oral History Interview with Tatcho Mindiola by Jose Angel Gutiérrez, Tejano Voices 1997, CMAS No. 143a, http://library.uta.edu/tejanovoices/xml/CMAS_143a.xml; Oral History Interview with Tatcho Mindiola by Jose Angel Gutiérrez, Tejano Voices 1999, CMAS No. 143b, http://library.uta.edu/tejanovoices/xml/CMAS_143b.xml; Oral History Interview with Tatcho Mindiola by David Goldstein, Houston Oral History Project, June 4, 2008, http://digital.houstonlibrary.net/oral-history/tatcho-mindiola.php.