CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — “It’s taken almost 40 years to change a lot of situations.”
Change for hispanics may not have come if not for the formation of the League of United Latin American Citizens in 1929. It was right here in Corpus Christi when three civil rights groups merged to form LULAC. It's the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the country.
“Right away we start seeing the wheels in motion," said Dr. Nick Adame, president of LULAC Council #1. "Right away LULAC desegregated public places like restaurants and barber shops and beauty salons. And then later on, we saw desegregation of California schools and then later on Texas schools.”
“Some people are very timid and they want their voice to be heard, but they’re afraid to," said Ramiro "Gamby" Gamboa, a LULAC volunteer. "With LULAC we have been able to open up dialogue for a lot of people and dialogue to all walks and social economical in life.”
The organization fights discrimination, advocates for Hispanic perspective on legislation and educates. There are now over 62 million people involved in LULAC throughout the country. Adame says his council has about 60 volunteers.
He said Hispanic Heritage Month is a reminder to keep Latin Americans in the conversation for equality.
“It means a legacy that I could see visually," said Adame. "Being part of this wonderful organization, I could see the contributions and I’m more aware of the cultural aspects of what we have to offer here in south Texas. The music, the dance, the history, the south Texas history.”
Gamboa is the civil rights director for Council #1, who has been fighting for equality for almost 40 years.
“I was very instrumental in making sure that there was desegregation to where everybody went to the neighborhood schools and everybody was equal," Gamboa said. "And again, back then people didn’t enjoy what I had done, people enjoy it now.”
Fast forward to today, LULAC still faces challenges. Adame said voting rights are at the forefront of that subject, specifically Senate Bill 1.
"Hispanic population is a very blue collar population," he said. "We have a great part of our population that works and it’s difficult to get to the polls. But yet, we see Texas trying to suppress that. So, we’re looking at voter rights here in Texas.”
Adame and Gamboa take pride in the programs their LULAC Council provides to the community. Many of those programs were paused due to the pandemic. With an election approaching, Adame said they're working on holding a voter registration event. There's a plan to bring back Christmas programs including the philanthropy event that raises funds for nonprofits that assist children.
Their most well known event is the Feria de las Flores.
“It’s a...leadership program in which we teach young Hispanic women culture history and we introduce them to other Latinas in educated positions,” said Adame.
That had also gone virtual in the pandemic, but Adame said it will return to an in-person program.