David Rodríguez has been a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens for 33 years. And for the last three year, Rodríguez has been serving as state president for LULAC in California.
Founded in 1929, LULAC is the oldest and most widely respected Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States.
According to the organization’s website, LULAC was “created at a time in our country’s history when Hispanics were denied basic civil and human rights, despite contributions to American society.”
The founders of LULAC created an organization that empowers its members to create and develop opportunities where they are needed most.
“We are a membership organization,” Rodríguez said.
LULAC has fought for full access to the political process and equal educational opportunity for all Hispanics. LULAC’s continues to play an active role in these efforts.
LULAC councils across the United States hold voter registration drives, citizenship awareness sessions, sponsor health fairs and tutorial programs, and raise scholarship money for the LULAC National Scholarship Fund. This fund, in conjunction with LNESC (LULAC National Educational Service Centers), has assisted almost 10 percent of the 1.1 million Hispanic students who have gone to college.
1. How did you get involved in LULAC?
“Somebody denied me employment on the bases of my race, that’s why I got involved. I was denied employment, I was the best qualified candidate and they chose the least qualified candidate. So I felt I was discriminated so that’s why I got involved.”
2.What are the challenges Latinos are facing now to organize?
“I don’t think we are still facing as much challenge to organize right now. We are seeing Latinos are organizing for positive actions all over the state right now. I attended a march in Los Angeles where 15,000 Latinos, mostly Latinos, marching because we are very fearful of civil rights, what is happening, we are very fearful of the immigration policy, currently.”
3. LULAC has been in place for 88 years, How LULAC sees itself in the future with everything that has been taking place right now?
“We feel that we are more needed now than ever before. In 88 years, we have never had such fear in our community as there is now. So we are really needed to step forward and defend Latinos now more than ever.”
4. What is the best way for Latinos to engage in civil action?
“Read the papers and vote, read the papers and vote. Make sure that you read, keep up today on things on the media. The media provides incredible strengths to us by informing us of the issues and then you got to vote. You have to become involve in the electoral process.”
5. Every election we heard that Latinos are the sleeping giant. How do we wake up that sleeping giant to make sure they exercise their right to vote?
“It is only going to change when parents are faced with a funding problem at their school, when parents don’t have medical care that they are accustomed to. That is going to motivate people to start voting and becoming involved. And we have already seen that with the national election this last November. Last presidential election Latino voter ship was up, it increase by 26 percent nationwide and that’s a very good sign. The problem is that we only vote in presidential elections. We don’t vote in between.”
6. How do we get Latinos to run for office?
“One of the things that LULAC provides is we partner with other organizations like Latinas Lead, a Latina leadership organization that promotes and helps and trains Latina candidates to run. And then we do that ourselves in the community. We encourage people to run for office and we show them what it takes. We have workshops at our state convention for that, to show people how to run for office. It doesn’t matter if a water board, whatever it is we try and show what is need it and try to guide them.”
7. With this current political climate, how important is for Latinos to be aware of their civil right and to make sure they know what to do and their civil right are not violated?
“I think it is important for LULAC organizations to have seminars, ‘Know your rights seminars’ and we do them all over the state. We encourage people to attend these. But beside all that, Latinos need to rely on their own strengths and they need to reach out for help to organization like us when they need that help.”
8. There used to be more LULAC chapters in the Central Valley, what is LULAC doing to increase their membership in the organization?
“We have change our membership model. We can’t no longer rely from people my age to move the organization forward. We have to reach out to younger generations. Our focus in membership right now, to be honest with you is people your age, that is our focus. Because as people leave the scene, like happened in Fresno, people just folded up a chapter and that’s it. You don’t have young activists to take over, unless you train them, unless you bring them in. So we are concentrating in millennials. Since I was elected (president) we had three young adults on our state board and that was not by accident. I felt the need to expand into millennials and young adults. That is how you make sure it doesn’t die out because when people my age leave the organization we can’t afford to let it die.”
9. How important is social medial for LULAC as an organization that is trying to reach out to younger demographics?
“All organizations would cease to exist without social media and without connecting with our members via twitter, Facebook and letting them know what is going on. The successful call to action, like the rallies that we had all over the country and particularly the ones in Los Angeles, those are successful because word spread across social media. So you are able to mobilize 15,000 Latinos in a matter of one month of using social media. Not just our organization, but when we got to the march in Los Angeles, there were about 100 organizations and all of them used social media and the crowd were millennials. Most of the crowd were millennials so it is critical that we do that.”
10. What are some of the main issues that younger Latinos should be paying attention right now?
“Of course everything that I mention, the immigration issue, the civil right issue and the voting right issue. But what we are focused on right now with millennials and with young college students is making sure that science, technology, engineering, and math, programs are available to them. That is critical. If you look at the Silicon Valley, our foot print is very small. Most companies have one to three percent Latino working on those companies. So it is our challenge that we are trying to extend out STEM program right now to help those college students get jobs in the future. School are not meeting them, some schools are, but most are not meeting the need.”