Digital History ID 589
Faced with discrimination and worsening economic circumstances, Mexican Americans in the Southwest looked to one another, and to Mexico and their ethnic heritage. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, they built a wide range of self-help organizations.
Among the earliest were mutualistas--fraternal and mutual aid societies, which provided members with services that included credit, low-cost sickness and death benefits, and social and educational activities. Some organized libraries or provided lectures on Mexican culture and history. Often named for the Virgin of Guadalupe or other symbols of their ethnic heritage, the mutualistas frequently functioned as labor unions, providing economic support during labor disputes. Most mutualistas were organized locally, though the Alianza Hispano-Americana, founded in Arizona in 1894, had ten thousand members in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas by 1930.
In the 1920s came civic clubs and regional organizations oriented to politics. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the largest, most influential, and most long-lasting Mexican American organizations, was formed in Corpus Christi in 1929 out of the merger of three earlier Texas organizations: La Orden de Hijos de America, the Knights of America, and the League of Latin American Citizens. Drawing its support largely from the urban middle class, it sought to bring Mexican Americans into the main current of American society and combat discrimination in education, jobs, wages, and political representation. Strongly rooted in local communities, it promoted the learning of English, improvements in schools, and political power through voting.
Today, LULAC has 250,000 members in six hundred chapters nationwide. It had a major effect in desegregating schools, winning the right of Mexican Americans to serve on juries. It also opened up many public swimming pools, restrooms, and lunch counters to Hispanics. It helped create the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; formed SER-Jobs for Progress, the country's largest worker training program; and founded the "Little School of 400," which served as the model and inspiration for the Head Start early childhood education program.
The Aims and Purposes of This Organization Shall Be:
- To develop within the members of our race the best, purest and most perfect type of a true and loyal citizen of the United States of America.
- To eradicate from our body politic all intents and tendencies to establish discriminations among our fellow citizens on account of race, religion, or social position as being contrary to the true spirit of Democracy, our Constitution and Laws.
- To use all the legal means at our command to the end that all citizens in our country may enjoy equal rights, the equal protection of the laws of the land and equal opportunities and privileges.
- The acquisition of the English language, which is the official language of our country, being necessary for the enjoyment of our rights and privileges, we declare it to be the official language of this organization, and we pledge ourselves to learn and speak and teach same to our children.
- To define with absolute and unmistakable clearness our unquestionable loyalty to the ideals, principles, and citizenship of the United States of America.
- To assume complete responsibility for the education of our children as to their rights and duties and the language and customs of this country; the latter, in so far as they may be good customs.
- We solemnly declare once for all to maintain a sincere and respectful reverence for our racial origin of which we are proud.
- Secretly and openly, by all lawful means at our command, we shall assist in the education and guidance of Latin-Americans and we shall protect and defend their lives and interest whenever necessary.
- We shall destroy any attempt to create racial prejudices against our people, and any infamous stigma which may be cast upon them, and we shall demand for them the respect and prerogatives which the Constitution grants to us all.
- Each of us considers himself with equal responsibilities in our organization, to which we voluntarily swear subordination and obedience.
- We shall create a fund for our mutual protection, for the defense of those of us who may be unjustly persecuted and for the education and culture of our people.
- This organization is not a political club, but as citizens we shall participate in all local, state, and national political contests. However, in doing so we shall ever bear in mind the general welfare of our people, and we disregard and abjure once for all any personal obligation which is not in harmony with these principles.
- With our vote and influence we shall endeavor to place in public office men who show by their deeds, respect and consideration for our people.
- We shall select as our leaders those among us who demonstrate, by their integrity and culture, that they are capable of guiding and directing us properly.
- We shall maintain publicity means for the diffusion of these principles and for the expansion and consolidation of this organization.
- We shall pay our poll tax as well as that of members of our families in order that we may enjoy our rights fully.
- We shall diffuse our ideals by means of the press, lectures, and pamphlets.
- We shall oppose any radical and violent demonstration which may tend to create conflicts and disturb the peace and tranquility of our country.
- We shall have mutual respect for our religious views and we shall never refer to them in our institutions.
- We shall encourage the creation of educational institutions for Latin-Americans and we shall lend our support to those already in existence.
- We shall endeavor to secure equal representation for our people on juries and in the administration of governmental affairs.
- We shall denounce every act of peonage and mistreatment as well as the employment of our minor children of scholastic age.
- We shall resist and attack energetically all machinations tending to prevent our social and political unification.
- We shall oppose any tendency to separate our children in the schools of this country.
- We shall maintain statistics which will guide our people with respect to working and living conditions and agricultural and commercial activities in the various parts of our country.
Source: "The League of United Latin-American Citizens: A Texas-Mexican Civic Organization," by O. Douglas Weeks, in Southwestern Political and Social Science Quarterly, December 1929.
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