There is strength and safety in numbers. For ethnic groups that have traditionally been in the minority in the United States, it is important to have a group to contribute to and rely upon. This helps to cultivate community and individual success.
For Latin American citizens, the 19th and 20th centuries were marked with racism and roadblocks. In response, organizations like the Sons of America, Knights of America, and League of Latin American Citizens arose throughout the Southwest.
combining varied groups of people into a group with equal participation
a sense of love, loyalty, and devotion felt toward a nation
agreement about ideas and actions that creates unity among people with shared goals
These groups tried to protect the welfare of the Latin American community. They also promoted the solidarity of Latin Americans with the dominant Anglo culture. All three organizations stressed patriotism. This was especially important in times of suspicion and discrimination against non-Anglos in the United States.
In 1929 in Corpus Christi, Texas, these groups came together to discuss incorporating into a single organization. After a yearlong debate, the convention produced the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
LULAC’s primary order of business was establishing its members’ patriotism. Officers and members of LULAC had to swear an oath of loyalty to the United States government. They made “America the Beautiful” the official song of LULAC and recited “George Washington’s Prayer” at meetings. They declared English as the organization’s official language. It also based its constitution on the US Constitution.
The desegregation of America’s public schools brightened the educational outlook for Latin American students and other ethnic groups.
These acts were not enough to overcome the racism and bigotry of the times. Detractors questioned LULAC’s usefulness and patriotism. But many of LULAC’s members used this push to prove their loyalty to the United States.
Through this fund, LULAC was able to integrate many school districts in Texas and throughout the American Southwest. Two landmark cases involved the Bastrop Independent School District in Texas and Orange County Public Schools in California. LULAC helped not only to integrate schools for Latin Americans, but also to gain a better education overall for all minority students.
LULAC remains a major accomplishment for the Latin American community. It has secured many political and social benefits for Latin American citizens, specifically for those of Mexican descent. It focused first on unity through community to achieve significant milestones. From the early struggles for equality to the current turmoil over immigration, LULAC exemplifies the spirit of democracy through civic involvement and engagement with the government.
The founders of LULAC understood that racial discrimination rather than class domination was the source of challenges for Latin Americans in the 20th century. The organization turned its focus to the growing middle class of Latin Americans.
Class and racial consciousness rose in the 1960s. As a result, LULAC’s detractors multiplied. Despite expansion, contraction, and infighting, the organization again coalesced by the 1980s.
Early in its existence, LULAC’s mission expanded to include education. The organization set up college scholarships for qualified high school students. LULAC members also created the Little School of the 400. Its aim was to ensure that Latin American preschool children entered public school knowing 400 English words. This was the precursor to the current Head Start Program. In addition, LULAC created National Educational Service Centers.
LULAC advocated for a national mandate to redistribute public educational funds to poorer schools. Many of these have a majority of Latin American students. LULAC also established the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Mendez v. Westminster
In 1946, parents of Mexican and Mexican American students legally challenged school segregation in Orange County, California. Five Mexican American fathers, including Gonzalo Mendez, led the charge to allow their children to attend the best schools possible, which at that time were white.
Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP helped argue the case. The judge in the US District Court, Paul McCormick, ruled in favor of the parents. The school districts appealed. In 1947, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling and struck down school segregation in California that had previously been justified under the “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. Governor Earl Warren soon desegregated California’s schools.
This trial was a precursor to Brown v. Board seven years later. In that case, Thurgood Marshall referenced Mendez in arguing that school segregation was unconstitutional under the “equal protection” in the Fourteenth Amendment. Recently appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren agreed in the landmark ruling for educational opportunity. Years later, in 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American Supreme Court justice.
For Your Further Reading
The content in this article was created through the use of the research material listed below. This information is being provided to help you gain further knowledge of the topic. If you like what you read, you may learn more from the following sources.
- Marquez, Benjamin. Constructing Identities in Mexican American Political Organizations: Choosing Issues, Taking Sides. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003. Print.
- Orozco, Cynthia E. No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009. Print.
- Yarsinske, Amy Waters. All for One & One for All: A Celebration of 75 Years of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company, 2004. Web.