November 11, 2005

Nation’s Oldest Latino Organization Arrives Strongly in North County 

By Martha Sarabia

After fatal shootings of young Latino males by police officers, a “symbolic” approval of the California Border Policy Initiative by a city council and the decision of a school board to stop bilingual education, Latinos in North County have marched on the streets and met with public officials to demand answers. Thus far, their influence on the cities they live in has proven to be inconsequential.

“We didn’t feel that as a community we were able to mobilize quickly enough. We’re losing ground in the North County,” said Dr. Zulmara Cline, a Cal State San Marcos professor, about the community’s reaction to the incidents.

For that reason, Cline together with other community members decided to change the current situation by becoming members and establishing two LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) Councils in North County.

“We are just perceived as a poor, non-educated population,” said Latino activist and newly inducted LULAC member John Herrera during the installation ceremony on October 24 at Cal State San Marcos. “It has to change and this is where it all begins, at a university institution.”

LULAC officials commented on the North County situation and the importance of establishing councils in the area. “Key to LULAC is what happens locally. The urgency of this council came about because of the police issues but it’s also the education issue. This community should be better represented in city councils and school boards,” said Angel Luevano, California LULAC state director.

With a “welcome to the nation’s oldest, most prestigious Latino organization in the U.S.” by Past California LULAC State Director Gil Flores, about 20 new members pledged their commitment to the league.

During the ceremony, attendees talked about the future goals for the two chapters in the region.

“As soon as we have three councils in the area, we can have a district,” said Luevano.

Now, this has become a reality. “We have enough people to charter a third council,” said Herrera during an interview this week about their current project. A new council will bring a total of about 40 members working together in North County to deal with community issues.

For the members of the two newly established groups, their involvement with the organization is an effective approach to make changes in the community.

“I’m really glad we have this group in North County because LULAC gives us organization to speak in one voice,” said Cline, who is the North County Council President. “I also see LULAC as an opportunity to let our youth become our future leaders,” she added making reference to the University Council composed mostly by university students.

According to Herrera, the local groups are focusing on civil rights protection, supporting professionals in local colleges and closing the achievement gap of Latino students. They also hope to organize more community forums similar to the one they organized about Medicare Reform in Vista last month.

Council representatives are also meeting with some public officials to improve the relationship between the community and the agencies they represent, as they did when they met with the mayor of the city of Vista.

Members of the local organization will receive training and support from the state office.

LULAC representatives have also expressed their interest in holding a Women’s Summit in the area early next year. The plans for this summit have not been finalized yet.

The North County and the University LULAC Councils are the two chapters recently created.

The mission of the nationwide organization is to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population of the United States.

For more information about LULAC North County Councils and/or to become a member of the third council, call (760) 724-2508.

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