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The different faces of Latino advocacy
La Voz Staff Photo

By David Conde

After military service I found myself at the University of Northern Colorado (Colorado State College) seeking to finish my undergraduate studies. There was no financial aid at the time and so I worked cleaning offices in Denver at night and drove to Greeley everyday for school.

That did not last long as one day, after taking medicine for a cold, I drove back from college, fell asleep, hit a bridge in Commerce City (Derby) and my car landed upside down in a river. After the scare, my mom picked me up from the hospital and when I was able, drove me to Greeley to talk to the school administrators. She was angry because of the close call and demanded that the college find a way to help me. That resulted in my receiving a United Student Aid Fund loan for $1,000 that I could used until I found a job on campus.

Later, the second stop in my higher education career took me to New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. There I found most of the social and political life of the community run by Latinos. I also found out that they loved their politics and successful advocacy there was to get one more vote on an issue or a candidate than the loser. There, I also witnessed an occasion when a Latino school Superintendent was voted out of office in a meeting where 2 board members were unable to attend only to have him reinstated the following board meeting that the members did make.

The biggest contrast in the area of public demonstrations has been the difference in the tone of civil rights marches and rallies especially those of the African American and Chicano Movements and the relative recent large gatherings to advocate for Latino immigrants. The movement crowds knew that the resistance to their demands loomed large and frustrating.

Therefore, the people advocating for change gave themselves permission to intensify their methods from rallies to marches, marches to demonstrations and demonstrations sometimes to violence. They used every type of sign and flag that demonstrated commitment to their cause and voiced songs, sayings and slogans that clarified the vision for justice and denigrated those perceived to stand in the way.

When the Latino community and allies began to advocate for immigration reform however, there was a question of optics about carrying foreign flags in gatherings because those flags did not reflect the stated goal of Americanizing the status of immigrants in the United States. Therefore what one saw in the rallies, marches and demonstrations were a sea of white t-shirts and many American flags.

Latino advocacy can take different forms depending on the topic. For example, I have gone to Washington DC for UnidosUS Advocacy Days where we organize ourselves and then meet with congressional delegations to advocate for the Latino issues of the day.

Recently, after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis there was a powerful national outcry for justice with large multiracial gatherings across the country. Advocacy for the end to racism and for police reform has struck a chord in American thinking about how we treat each other.

By contrast, right wing and racist groups gathered on January 6th at the call of the President of the United States to attack the Capitol in order to change the outcome of the presidential election. The insurrectionists appear to advocate for Trump, the America First agenda and the return to the ideals of the confederacy.





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