Back in 1929, there was a lot of racial issues happening in Texas. A lot of people didn’t have a voice and suffered from systemic injustice.
Many of them were hard-working Mexicans.
In order to empower their community and help give a voice to all the Latinos in the area that weren’t given a voice, a group of educated Latinos formed the first LULAC National Council in Corpus Christi, Texas.
They also wanted to give the people access to politics so that they can share their concerns with their elected officials and help make a change. So they did a lot of community and civic engagement to further their objectives.
That’s how LULAC was born.
But it didn’t stop there, the organization skyrocketed after its creation.
Every community all over the country wanted to know what was going on in Corpus Christi and how they could replicate it. People from all over the place took the core of what LULAC stands for and opened councils in different states.
LULAC grew into a national organization and it became what it is now.
LULAC stands for League of United Latin American Citizens; and it is the largest Hispanic organization in the United States. With the help of all its volunteers, it empowers Latinos and builds strong communities.
But LULAC is not only the oldest Hispanic nonprofit, but it’s also the largest: it has 135,000 members in 37 states (including Puerto Rico).
They also have 67 technology centers where people can access computers and different resources. As well as 18 National Education Service Centers (LNESC) that provide training and GED to help the community.
Whether it’s one person that needs their voice heard or a whole community, LULAC is willing to help.
LULAC is synonymous with a passion for helping others
“One thing I always brag about is the Little School of the 400, it’s so close to my heart.” Says Sonny Subia, LULAC’s Colorado State Director.
In 1957, LULAC created the Little School of the 400 in Texas. But don’t be fooled, this name doesn’t come from the school having 400 students. No, it means that they’d teach 400 words.
“The School was for little mexicano kids who only spoke Spanish. The kids would go to the Little School of the 400, and learn 400 words so they could transition into kindergarten.”
This program was so successful that it inspired the creation of Head Start.
Sonny Subia has been a LULAC member for over 35 years, and his love and enthusiasm for the organization hasn’t changed a bit in all this time.
He’s incredibly passionate about helping as many people as he can, which perfectly represents what LULAC stands for.
“We want to be the go-to organization in the community to help address social and racial issues.” He says when talking about the mission of the organization, “We also want to become a go-to group, so when people hear the word LULAC, they know that we’re out there helping, that we’re that we’re the people that they can depend on.”
And as much as the name might imply that the League of United Latin American Citizens solely helps Latino communities, the truth can’t be further from that. Thirty percent of the volunteers at the organization are not Latino. That’s because they not only help Latinos, they help all communities that are suffering injustice.
The other thing is that LULAC also has youth councils and our young adult councils that are very active. These volunteers bring new ideas and shed light on problems that otherwise might have stayed hidden.
It’s this diversity of ages, communities, and races that gives LULAC the power to help as many people as possible.
Each community is different, and not everyone needs the same kind of help. This organization is willing to adapt to each issue and each community. They go in and investigate what’s going on, do their due diligence, and help give a voice to those communities to eradicate their problems.
“We have a pretty powerful network that we rely on when it comes to fighting social injustice.”
Partnering to empower those that need a voice
And LULAC doesn’t work alone. Depending on the issue they’re trying to help with, they have different partners.
“For example,” explains Sonny, “if there’s a social issue regarding immigration, we contact MALDEF. But we also partner with businesses and corporations, we have partnered with Walmart, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Ford, Toyota. And that’s not it, we also have partners in the White House.”
That is one of the strengths of LULAC, they know when they need external help, and they look for it. No help is little help for the resilient volunteers at this nonprofit.
But being a grassroots organization, their most valuable partnerships are those they make with communities. You can find LULAC partnering with police departments, REC departments, or health departments, whoever is going to be a benefit to their advocacy.
Their newest challenge: COVID-19
“Recently, we were fighting the issue of COVID in a JBS meat-packing plant, in Greely, Colorado.” Says Sonny as he explains how 5 people died in this plant from coronavirus, “Well LULAC send some demands to the national corporate office for JBS.”
JBS did adjust their safety precautions and PPE for employees, they put two hundred million dollars worth of PPE in their corporation.
But that’s not the only thing that LULAC has done to battle the effects of the pandemic. They also made available microgrants to help individuals pay for general aid, hunger relief, technology, transportation, mental health, and educational support.
These microgrants are also for other LULAC councils so that they can help their communities during these troubling times.
But LULAC’s mission when it comes to COVID-19 is also to help inform people. Knowledge is power and with the pandemic, it could help many stay safe.
“We’ve also teamed up with some health departments and our usual partners to get the information out to those grassroots, out to the fields, into the packinghouses, into the service industry, to folks everywhere. We want to keep them safe.”
LULAC wanted to make sure that crucial information was getting to the people that actually needed it. Many communities are not getting the information or the health care that they need. So they are letting them know where there’s testing, into what clinics that they can go to, etc.
All the councils were working together to address COVID and make sure that people were safe.
One for all
LULAC is in a great position right now to help so many communities with COVID and some of the racial problems we have seen happening.
“We’ve developed a very strong social media program, and we want to be the organization that can help address these issues.”
But sonny knows that this doesn’t mean the fight is over. LULAC wants to get into all those other states that don’t have a local council because there’s always someone that needs help, no matter where they live in.
If you’re interested in starting a council in your community, send your information to your LULAC state director and they’ll walk you through the process.