By Emilio Zamora
I attended the LULAC National Conference in Albuquerque and am pleased to say that it was an altogether successful meeting. It was well organized and fairly well-attended, the luncheon and dinner events were stimulating and unifying, the panels addressed important topics including the development of our youth, immigration reform, getting out the vote, supporting bilingual education, and the defense of deported veterans. Also, the participation of youth was breathtaking. Good people were elected to office and we had many opportunities to engage each other in formal discussions and personal conversations. Of course, we could have done better in some instances. For instance, the Friday session entitled “Driving Progress, The Indomitable Influence of Latinos in “U.S. Economic and Workforce Development” told us that the Latino market is expanding, that Latino start-ups are increasing and that Latino businesses are accumulating wealth at unprecedented rates. This is all good and well. However, to limit their presentations to such wealth-generating trends avoids engaging other important matters, including the persistence of vast socioeconomic inequality, philanthropy in business, social justice claims in employment and our future as a largely marginalized community. We cannot divert attention from the ongoing discourse on the full and equal incorporation of Latinos into American society and the dismantling of structures of inequality. If we go down that road, the great majority of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will continue fighting the same fights of today while a select few will be getting wealthier, and exacerbating social inequality and deepening divisions within our communities. The business class should be telling us how generating new wealth will translate into social democracy in the form of better wealth distribution policies and practices for all. It should further provide us with tools needed to stem the aggressive pursuit of the privatization of public spaces like schools and libraries that we are witnessing across our states. I was also disappointed that the general assembly did not have an opportunity to recognize the unity statement by Linda Chavez, a long-time LULAC member and office holder. She spoke from the floor about withdrawing her nomination for the position of National President for the sake of unity in LULAC. I know that Linda has been in the middle of recent controversy and understand that some of LULAC members may not wish to forget. I understand being cautious. But we missed the opportunity to reinforce the continuing call for unity regardless of where it originates or why any one person may want to encourage it. Unity is an inviolable principle (the call for unity stands strong alone, the violation of the trust inherent in unity is the problem) and should not be trivialized in an organization like ours. The planners of the conference should be congratulated for devoting at least twenty sessions directly to the needs, aspirations and challenges of our youth. This was obviously more than an attempt to grow the membership of an aging organization. The attention that we gave the young speaks volumes about our sincere concerns for some of the more vulnerable among us. We essentially helped guide them in their social, intellectual and economic development for their sake and for the welfare of their families. LULAC should be proud of this. The conference also gave special attention to women and senior members of the organization. The focus on youth, however, was particularly hopeful and promising.
Emilio Zamora, Professor Clyde Rabb Littlefield Chair in Texas History President, Texas State Historical Association (2019-20) Department of History, University of Texas at Austin