Anyone familiar with the area of Mexican American/Latino history is acquainted with the extensive writings of BYU's Professor Ignacio M. Garcia. Among his many works are important tomes in this field of academic study such as United We Win: The Rise and Fall of La Raza Unida Party; Hector P. Garcia: In Relentless Pursuit of Justice; Viva Kennedy: Mexican Americans in Search of Camelot; and, most recently, When Mexicans Could Play Ball: Basketball, Race and Identity in San Antonio, 1928–1945. While all of Garcia's works focus on issues of social justice and Chicano/Mexican American (and, more broadly, Latino) identity, his work on high school hoops in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, Garcia's most recent effort (prior to the book being reviewed here) sets up effectively much of the philosophical and storytelling underpinning presented in this autobiographical work, Chicano While Mormon.
In his sport and social history offering, Garcia examines the significance of Lanier High School (in San Antonio) and the impact of the tremendous success of this basketball team (the Volks), including two state titles, upon the establishment, development, and sustenance of ethnic pride in his neighborhood. In short, he argues, the Volks' victories on the courts of Texas made it possible for barrio-dwellers to challenge the rampant notion of the inferiority of Mexican Americans and to measure themselves against (and more often than not, triumph over) a majority populace that looked down upon this group's intellectual and physical abilities and work ethic. This book shows that sport can be utilized as a vehicle of resistance to the oppression and stereotyping of this particular community.