In 1981 Henry Cisneros became the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city. This object is a bumper sticker used during Henry Cisneros’ campaign for mayor of San Antonio. Henry Gabriel Cisneros was born in a neighborhood that bordered the predominately Mexican West side of San Antonio, Texas in 1947. Henry was the son of Elvira and George Cisneros, Elvira’s father was Romulo Munguia a renowned journalist from Mexico. Henry attended catholic school at the Church of the Little Flower then at the Central Catholic Marianist High School. After graduating high school, Henry attended Texas A&M University in 1964, and graduated in 1968 with a Bachelors of Arts in City Management. He continued his education at Texas A&M and got a Masters degree in Urban Regional Planning and then got an additional Masters from Harvard University in urban economics. Henry, having learned from his parents that education merit led to a better life, received a Doctor of Public Administration from George Washington University.
Henry Cisneros’ political career began after he returned to San Antonio from Washington D.C and took a teaching position at the University of Texas San Antonio. Henry noticed that the Mexican American community had been neglected for far too long and most city council members were all from wealthy zip codes. Henry decided to run for city councilman and won making him the youngest city councilman at the time. During his time as a councilman he allied himself with groups whose focus was to develop funding for Latino communities. He would serve on the city council for six years.
In 1981 Henry Cisneros decided to seek candidacy for mayor of San Antonio. He ran as and an independent and his campaign focused on the future San Antonio could have. Cisneros’ was able to appeal and unite wealthy conservatives of San Antonio as well as the Mexican American community. Gathering national attention during the campaign, Henry was featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and Esquire. Cisneros was also listed as one of the 10 rising stars in politics. Henry won the election making him the first Mexican-American mayor since 1842. The last Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio had been Juan Seguin. At the time San Antonio was the 10th largest city in the country. Cisneros went on to get reelected three more times, winning by large margins including 94% of the vote in 1983. Cisneros was popular not only with the Hispanic community but with all ethnic groups in the area.
Henry was mayor of San Antonio for 8 years, during this time he focused on developing economic growth and promoted cooperation between all ethnic groups in San Antonio. During his time as mayor Cisneros was was able to convince both Sea World, and Fiesta Texas to invest in San Antonio. He was also able to get the city to approve construction of the Alamodome and helped to get Pope John Paul II to visit San Antonio during his tour of the United States. He was even named “Texas Mayor of the Century” in Texas Monthly.
Cisneros announced that he would not be running for another term in 1987. Following his time as mayor he then went on to become the chairman of a company. Cisneros also was the host of a television show called “Texans,” as well as a host for a radio show. In 1992 he served as an adviser on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. He later moved to Los Angeles and served as an officer of Univision Communications. Cisneros has since returned to San Antonio and established a firm to help with affordable housing. In 2015 he served as a chairman for the City of San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Cisneros is also the author of several books and has received multiple awards.
Click the video above to view ‘2013 Texas Legacies Mary Alice and Henry Cisneros’.