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Bubbalu's, a Tejano bar, is built bad-ass: windowless, cinderblock walls, poor lighting. Beach-turquoise blue walls, dogs playing poker on the men's room wall, a Bubbalu's banner lording over the dance floor featuring a beach bum hammocking near some spent cans of Bud.

You have to shout to be heard over the music-Tejano till midnight, then R&B. Latinos in cowboy hats bump into Latinas in cowboy hats and short shorts. Bubba and Lu-he's Bubba, she's Lu-work inside the huge four-sided bar. It swallows up about half the floor. They are big people. The bar is packed. It is hard work. They heave themselves from one side of the bar to get an order. Then back to the cooler, at the opposite end, to get a beer. (Not much else drunk here.) Then back to the customer. Then back to the cash register, near the cooler. And back again to dispense change. It goes like this all night. All night.

Mario Casillas, a 49-year old local Latino activist, wants to talk. He was dancing with two young Latinas earlier. They keep trying to pull him away, and he keeps putting them off. He's from near San Antonio, where the Latinos are the majority, where things are different. Here, he says, there's discrimination. Here, he says, there are problems in the schools. Here, the Latino vote is a sleeping giant that shows few signs of stirring.

He is charming. He speaks well. And the conversation turns to Mayor Jerry Lueck, whose campaign slogan-"Less taxes, more water, and a new mayor"-struck enough of a chord to get him elected as a political novice, if only by 31 votes.

A visitor relates to Mr. Casillas how the mayor has responded when asked how the Latino population grown since he's been in Wichita Falls: "There's less of them since the Highway Patrol deported 63 of them wetbacks last week," he said with a thin, staccato laugh.

Barely blinking, Mr. Casillas backpedals. "I don't have a comment on that," he says. "I really don't know where he got his feeling from, or what the context of his statement was."

And he's off again, straining to be heard over the music, about Latino civic centers, and an upcoming meeting with the congressman.

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