League of United Latin American Citizens
|Founder||Pedro and Maria L. Hernandez (La Orden Caballeros de America)Ref. Library of Congress|
|Focus||Civil and social rights organization to protect the rights of all non whites.|
|Roger Rocha, President
Brent A. Wilkes, National Executive Director
|Slogan||"All for One, One for All"|
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is a Latino anti-discrimination organization. It was established on February 17, 1929, in Corpus Christi, Texas, largely by Hispanic veterans of World War I who sought to end ethnic discrimination against Latinos in the United States. LULAC was a consolidation of smaller, like-minded civil rights groups already in existence. With a goal of achieving assimilation, the organization initially admitted only American citizens as members. The organization has a national headquarters, active councils in many states, and a professional staff.
LULAC follows an assimilation ideology which emerged among cholos groups around the time of the Great Depression in the United States. During this time, the population of Mexican descendants in the United States went through a demographic shift. The government deported an estimated 500,000 Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans (including some American citizens) during the Great Depression in order to reduce competition with American workers. The proportion of native-born Americans among those who remained made up a higher proportion of the ethnic Mexican population than had been the case in previous decades, and they grew up in United States culture. Benjamin Marquez asserts, "This demographic shift favored the rise of a more assimilated political leadership". Unlike earlier organizations, such as the mutual-aid associations (mutualistas) and labor-based groups (which emphasized the pan-Mexican cooperation among recent immigrants from Mexico, Mexican national residents, and Mexican Americans to combat economic, cultural, and political discrimination), LULAC admitted as members only ethnic Mexicans who were United States citizens.
LULAC promoted the full adaptation of its members into the dominant European-American culture, in the belief that this strategy would be the most successful way to combat discrimination. The organization claimed that discrimination was caused by racism, not by the economic or political systems. LULAC promoted capitalism and individualism; its leaders believed that, through hard work and assimilation into American culture, Mexican Americans could improve their socio-economic standing.
As a method of increasing assimilation, LULAC emphasized American patriotism. It asserted that Mexican Americans should disavow any allegiance to Mexico, remain permanently in the United States, and commit fully to democratic ideals. This patriotism is evident in the structure of the organization. The league's official song is "America"; its official language is English; its official prayer is the "George Washington Prayer". Its constitution is modeled on the United States Constitution.
Because of LULAC’s assimilation ideology, it advocated immigration restriction. LULAC's central means of achieving equal status with European Americans was dependent on promoting the image of Mexican residents as conforming to the cultural norms of the United States. Even though the league was ultimately concerned with the status of Mexican-American US citizens, it recognized that the dominant society did not distinguish among immigrants, citizens, and naturalized persons of Mexican descent. (For example, during the Great Depression, the United States deported both non-citizens and United States citizens to Mexico.)
New immigrants from Mexico resisted this strategy, as they had stronger ties to their native culture, limited English proficiency, and were willing to work for low wages. Mexican Americans knew that they would be lumped together with the recent immigrants and also be seen as "un-American", "backward", and "poor," and would be discriminated against. The league shared the fear of many working-class Americans that the new immigrants, willing to work for low wages and contributing to job competition against Mexican Americans due to their numbers, would economically harm Mexican American citizens.
A focus on education was likely also related to the assimilation ideology. Benjamin Marquez asserts, "Segregated schools, inferior equipment, and the lack of qualified teachers were seen as the primary obstacles to the full economic and social assimilation of the Mexican American". LULAC believed that the public-school system, with the aforementioned issues corrected, would serve as a central instrument in the assimilation process of children, and thereby the Mexican-American community as a whole. Through formal education, Mexican Americans would learn how to function in American institutions, socialize with European-American children, and gain education to qualify for higher skilled jobs.
Comparisons with the NAACP
With respect to organizational structure, the League of Latin American Citizens was similar to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). David G. Gutierrez said, "considering themselves part of a progressive and enlightened leadership elite, LULAC's leaders set out implement general goals and a political strategy that were similar in form and content to those advocated early in the century by W.E.B. Du Bois and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: for an 'educated elite'".
Though the two civil rights groups may have possessed some institutional similarities, LULAC tried to establish distance from the African American struggle against discrimination and racism. LULAC believed that blacks were more oppressed than Latinos; thus, joining forces with them would not strengthen its own struggle for equality. LULAC asserted the idea that some Hispanics commonly fell into the "white" category of the dichotomous black-white construction of race. In 1936 the league "engaged in a series of lobbying activities as soon as it [the USCB] invented that Mexican Americans would be categorized as part of a group of dark-skinned minorities." They lobbied to demonstrate that Hispanic, Latino and Mexican American were not racial classifications, but cultural groups who were racially diverse, sharing a common Ethno-linguistic ancestry.
Before World War II
Overall, LULAC was consistently politically involved as it struggled to erase discriminatory laws and practices in the U.S. Southwest. Although it was a nonpartisan group, it encouraged members to vote for candidates who were supportive of the group’s ideals. During the 1930s, LULAC’s activities included voter-registration and petition drives, attempts to repeal the poll tax, which reduced its members ability to register, and litigation to improve the conditions of Mexican Americans. They also worked to improve education for Mexican Americans by conducting community-education campaigns and setting up a college scholarship program. These activities conformed with existing institutional structures in the United States. A major event was the 1930 court case of Del Rio v. Salvatierra, in which LULAC sued Del Rio Independent School District for segregating Mexican Americans due to their race. Although the court was not fully favorable in its ruling, the case made an important inroad for desegregation cases to come.
After World War II
During World War II the membership and activity of the organization decreased significantly. Many of its members joined the armed forces hoping to prove their patriotism (or were drafted). LULAC campaigned against the Emergency Farm Labor Program (also known as the Bracero Program), which began in 1942 to fill the farm-labor shortage that resulted from the draft following the US involvement in World War II. Although Mexican workers in this program were under contract with the government to go to the United States to work and to return to Mexico after a set amount of time, LULAC saw the program as paving the way for increased permanent immigration from Mexico. LULAC's opposition to the Bracero Program was consistent with its support for restricted immigration, as described earlier.
When the war ended, LULAC was revived by the enthusiasm of returning veterans who sought to claim the civil liberties they felt they were owed for their service. The group continued to help the Mexican community with local activities such as Christmas toy drives, sponsoring Boy Scout troops, and campaigns against poll taxes. During the 1950s, LULAC began the Little School of the 400 program, which was a precursor to Head Start. The program was designed to teach Mexican-American children 400 English words before they began first grade. The project was initially run by volunteers, and shown after the first class to be successful; out of 60 participating children, only one had to repeat the first grade.
The program expanded, and LULAC convinced the Texas legislature to underwrite it. Between 1960 and 1964 over 92,000 children benefited from the LULAC-initiated, English-centered preschool program. LULAC also sued school districts which practiced segregation. Examples of successful cases include Mendez v. Westminster in 1945 and Minerva Delgado V. Bastrop Independent School District in 1948. As Marquez notes, "Relying strictly on the volunteer labor of LULAC attorneys and their staff, from 1950–1957, approximately fifteen suits or complaints were filed against school districts throughout the Southwest". These victories contributed precedents that were consulted in the deliberation on the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case.
Despite national visibility, LULAC has lost strength since the late 20th century, with a decline in membership and decreasing operating funds. There has been factional squabbling, one disputed real estate transaction, and spats over a cancelled election.
Toward the end of the 1950s, members decreased their active support for LULAC. Marquez attributes this largely to the group's conservative ideology, which "prompted many of its members to restrict the number of hours they were willing to contribute after many of the goals they had set for themselves seemed to have been achieved." LULAC consistently emphasized the importance of individual success for the improvement of the Mexican American community's status as a whole. By this time, most of the members were predominantly middle-class and upper-class; as race relations began to improve, members did not derive as much benefit from LULAC.
LULAC also faced competition from other, more radical, Mexican-American groups. The league found it difficult to meet the needs and desires of an increasingly diverse Mexican-American population. Thus, with only social solidarity as a benefit, "while the league's public profile grew in the mid-1960s and the group was involved in a wide range of political activities, these events occurred with decreasing mass participation, increased leadership innovation and a heavy dose of outside financial support”. The mass media continues to seek the opinions of LULAC leaders and former leaders such as Arnoldo Torres on current events; these leaders are viewed as experts on Latino affairs because of the organization’s rich history.
Roger Rocha (born c. 1971), a health-care analyst from Laredo, Texas, was elected as the 2015 LULAC president at the annual meeting held in Salt Lake City, Utah. He vowed to push for unity in the organization.
The LULAC National Educational Service Centers (LNESC) are part of a non-profit educational advancement organization which helps students with direct-service programs and scholarships.
- American GI Forum (AGIF)
- Ramón H. Dovalina and Juan L. Maldonado
- Arnoldo Torres
- Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)
- Mexican-American Education Council (MAEC)
- National Immigration Forum
- National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
- Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
- "LULAC No. 7 recognized", Laredo Morning Times, July 2, 2013, p. 3A
- "Rocha seeks unity in LULAC", Laredo Morning Times, July 23, 2015, p. 3A
- Gutierrez, David G. (March 1995). Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20219-1, p. 9
- (Marquez, Benjamin. Constructing 3)
- (Gutierrez 75)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. Constructing 3-15)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 23)
- (Gutierrez 134-6)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 28)
- (Gutierrez 77)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 31)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 32)
- (Gutierrez 78)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 7)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 45)
- Craig A. Kaplowitz, LULAC, Mexican Americans, and National Policy (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2005), 33
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 115)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 51-52)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 54)
- (Marquez, Benjamin. LULAC 105)
- Marquez, Benjamin (1993). LULAC: The Evolution of a Mexican American Political Organization. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-75154-0, p. 84
- Marquez, LULAC, p. 105
- Marquez, LULAC, p. 111
- Marquez, Benjamin (2003). Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Political Organizations: Choosing Issues, Taking Sides. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-75277-1.
- Orozco, Cynthia E. (2009). No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-72132-6.
- Strum, Philippa (April 2010). Mendez V. Westminster: School Desegregation and Mexican-American Rights. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1719-7.
- "LULAC main webpage". Retrieved 11 August 2010.