Archived: ‘Dan Munoz, Curmudgeon’

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This week while lying in the hospital recuperating from a major cutting by a spine specialist, my friend Daniel L. Munoz, Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Navy (ret) and Publisher of the pioneering San Diego Hispanic newspaper–La Prensa /San Diego, passed after a long illness.

He was considered to be a 70’s radical in the nascent days of his activist and publishing days. He was proud to be called a radical by the power establishment. He was even more proud to be so called by former left-wing colleagues when he turned on many of them for their hypocrisy of taking Hispanics for granted and not delivering the political goods Hispanic votes put them in power to deliver.

Armed with degrees earned after his Naval career from San Diego’s Mesa Community College, the University of California, San Diego and Alliant University, he started a newsletter that was individually mailed to anyone interested in advancing what he called the “Chicano” Cause. He converted the newsletter to a broadsheet newspaper in 1976. He helped organize a “Chicano Democrat” group and used the paper to further the aims of the Democratic Party.

I laughed at his political positions and ridiculed his candidates. I never subscribed to the “Chicano” anything. There it sat until 1988. I called on Munoz in his offices in Downtown San Diego with sample columns in hand.

“So you are Raoul Contreras?” he more stated than asked. “You’re that G—–d Republican that has been nipping at my heels! What do you want, Contreras?”

“I want you to publish any of my articles you deem fit, especially the ones you disagree with.”
“Why?” he asked.

“Because few will take you seriously until you publish something you disagree with on the same page. Clippings, I need clippings.”

Over the years his reputation of using La Prensa as a personal weapon of destruction had dimmed its impact on San Diego’s establishment and directly affected his advertising revenues. He wasn’t stupid; he knew that the paper needed to make money to not only survive but to endure and affect the political environment. He started running my columns; he named me a “member of the La Prensa Editorial Board” which was, of course for outside consumption. In return I used his offices when major newspapers wanted photos of my working and made constant reference to La Prensa on my widely heard radio talk show.

“I can only afford to pay you ten dollars a column.” Later, when I didn’t need the money, we changed to free movie and baseball tickets.

We hit the big time when I wrote about America’s first Hispanic war hero, the Civil War’s Admiral of the Navy David Farragut. Critics came out of the woodwork.  The Daughters of the Confederate States of America wrote a letter calling us liars– that Admiral Farragut wasn’t Hispanic, he was a Southern gentleman, forgetting of course that he was a Union hero fighting for Abraham Lincoln and a Republican.

The clincher: A writer claiming to be the Grand-grand nephew of Farragut wrote the paper claiming that we lied and that there was absolutely no proof that Farragut was Hispanic. What we wrote was a lie and that we lied because we were unaccomplished Hispanics trying to elevate ourselves by lies. How typical of Hispanics, he ranted.

Munoz published all the letters with gusto.

Between Dan Munoz, his son, Dan Junior, myself and the University of Tennessee, we came back guns blazing as only an old salt gunnery officer and Marine infantryman can when they have the goods. Of course Admiral Farragut was Hispanic, his father was an admiral in the Revolutionary Navy whose name was Jose and who came from Spanish islands that from time to time belonged alternately to Spain and England whose people were and are Spanish.
We enjoyed that fight. We enjoyed each other’s company.

San Diego, California and all of America benefited from Dan Munoz’ La Prensa-San Diego. Everyone did.
Vaya con Dios, you old curmudgeon.

Contreras’ books are available at amazon.com and many of his La Prensa columns are at laprensa-sandiego.org.

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