Looking to the Past Helps Inspire Today’s Latinas

Posted on 04/01/2016 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: blog

Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By: Justina Sotelo, LULAC National Education and Youth Programs Intern

I dedicate this article to my grandmother, Heriberta Rubio Sosa, who is celebrating her 86th birthday and continues to inspire me each day. In her younger years she marched alongside her fellow farmworkers in Salinas, California during the Huelgas of the 1960s. Her work as an advocate showed me that courage, determination and strength is in my blood.

Although our history books may only refer to Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as leaders of the national Women's Rights Movements; they often leave out the stories of unsung heroes who fought for those same rights at the grassroots level. Alice Dickerson Montemayor, one of LULAC’s early pioneers, is one of those forgotten stories. Throughout her extraordinary life, she relied on grassroots efforts within LULAC to advocate on behalf of women. Montemayor began advocating for women's rights on the local level, and through her perseverance and diligence became a voice for Latina women nationwide using LULAC as her platform. Montemayor’s work was not only ahead of her time, but continues to be relevant today. Her ideals, philosophy, and actions have withstood the test of time, and are easily applicable to today’s issues of representation and equality.

Alice Dickerson Montemayor was a member of LULAC’s first Women's Council, Laredo Ladies LULAC. As a wife, mother, worker, and businesswoman, she challenged the status quo of LULAC in the 1930s and advocated for women’s rights and full equality, issues she considered to be basic civil rights. When LULAC was founded in 1929, it did not extend membership to women. When membership was eventually opened to women in 1933, they were relegated to gendered-segregated councils named Ladies LULAC. Between 1937-1940, Montemayor was the first woman to hold three national positions: second General Vice President, Associate Editor of the LULAC News, and Director General of Junior LULAC. She used each position to advocate for women and youth.

Montemayor believed in our youth, seeing them as the future of LULAC. In 1938, Montemayor began writing a series of essays in the LULAC News encouraging senior councils to organize and create junior councils and to include Latino youth. She believed that creating leadership amongst Latino youth was critical to the future success of LULAC. In addition, she believed that this form of civic engagement would provide youth with the opportunity to become “Good Americans” who would be “capable public servants, skillful debaters, knowledgeable citizens, and literate, independent thinkers.” Montemayor engaged and inspired the youth and eventually her dream became a reality with the creation of LULAC junior councils.

As the second General Vice President, Montemayor advocated for the national political mobilization of women and promoted the establishment of more Ladies LULAC councils. Montemayor aimed to include women and children in a male dominated world. She stressed independent thinking, writing once that, “having the ability to think for one and forming an opinion of your own is necessary in our organization.” Montemayor used the power of the pen to send her message throughout the organization and wrote numerous essays for the LULAC News addressing the need for more Ladies LULAC. She understood that Latinas needed political empowerment and that LULAC would benefit from the inclusion of women.

Today’s Latinas are facing similar issues in the fight for gender equality, the largest being representation in media, higher education institutions, and politics. In order to address these issues, we must look back at the successes of our predecessors, like Alice Dickerson Montemayor. It is our duty as Latino youth and young adults to seize Montemayor’s call to action and mobilize through grassroots efforts in order to engage our communities to influence the heart of America. The struggle towards gender equality is currently being addressed in the demand for fair political representation. In the last decade alone, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina U.S. Supreme Court justice in 2009, and Susana Martinez of New Mexico became the first Latina to serve as governor of any U.S. state. Also in 2010, Lucy Flores became one of the first Latina members of the Nevada Assembly. While we have these victories, we must not accept these as consolation prizes. We must continue to push forward for greater representation. Today, LULAC relies heavily on its youth and women members to carry forth this mission of empowerment; and as the fight continues, opportunities grow. Although many may not know her name, Montemayor's legacy and spirit resonates within us. To eliminate the inequalities our community faces, Latinas and youth must acknowledge our history and learn from past successors, so that we too can become poderosas.

Justina Sotelo is a third year undergraduate student at UCLA, where she is pursuing a double major in Political Science and Chicana & Chicano Studies as well as a Minor in Education. Her passion for education reform led her to intern at the LULAC National Office in Washington, D.C.

The Myth of the Latino Monolith

Posted on 03/15/2016 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: blog

Source: Cagle Cartoons

By: Stephanie Vela, LULAC National Education and Youth Programs Intern

The Latino voter in the United States has long been described as a “sleeping giant,” a potential voting bloc with the power to sway the election. Ever since this realization, politicians on both sides of the aisle have attempted to persuade the Latino community that their platform is the one that benefits the Latino community. With such a large amount of votes at stake, it is not uncommon to see politicians attempting to appeal to the Latino demographic in political ads, articles, and interviews. Some of these efforts include–but are not limited to–speaking Spanish (badly), claiming to be an “abuela,” making appearances at Mexican restaurants, and of course, celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Unfortunately, their attempts only come off as a form of pandering, or as some have coined it, “hispandering.” Instead of connecting with the Latino voter, their pandering just highlights their lack of understanding of who the average Latino voter is, often ignoring the nuances within the community.

However misguided their efforts may be to cater to Latinos, their outreach efforts make sense. It would be unwise to ignore such a large part of the electorate, and in this election, it’s projected that there are 27.3 million eligible Latino voters. This is a significant number, but up until now Latinos have largely been considered one monolithic group. Reducing them as such does not benefit anyone and has the capability of taking away the responsibility of candidates to understand the complexity of the community. One crucial characteristic of the Latino vote is the composition of who is voting. Forty four percent, almost half, of the Latino electorate are millennials. This is at a much higher percentage than any race or ethnicity. Similar to Latinos, It has also been clear that candidates have been vying for the millennial voter, and it seems that the Latino voter and the millennial voter may not be that different from one another.

It's important to note that millennials and Latinos alike prefer to talk about the issues rather than a candidate. They care about the issues that affect their friends, families, and neighborhoods. Yet, if we look at the way media, politicians, and the general public portrays Latinos, you would think that the only thing Latinos care about is immigration reform. This is simply not true. Like any other demographic in America, Latinos are deeply concerned with other issues. In fact, when determining their presidential candidate, 33% of Latino chose “jobs and the economy” as the top issue to consider. Only 17% believed immigration was the most important issue. Education and healthcare were also two other major issues. Of course immigration is still important to Latinos, as the immigrant and Latino experience, at some level, are tied to one another. However, the problem of simply focusing in on this one issue is that it polarizes immigration to be, almost exclusively, a Latino issue. It is time that politicians recognize that Latinos are not single-issue voters. We are diverse in the problems we care about just as we are diverse in our cultures, backgrounds, and stories.

You cannot show you care about Latinos by dropping a few words in Spanish, or claiming your parents come from an immigrant background as well. If candidates really want to engage with us, they must sit down and listen. We are more than just immigration. Our issues, Latino issues, are American issues. There is no separation between the two. By mischaracterizing the Latino voter, candidates are preventing themselves from truly engaging with the community, and awakening the burgeoning power of this “sleeping giant.”

Stephanie Vela is the Education and Youth Programs Intern at the LULAC National Office in Washington, D.C. She is a senior at American University and is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Education and will be graduating in the Spring of 2016.

Los nuevos estándares educacionales comunes

Posted on 03/11/2016 @ 11:45 PM

Tags: health

By: Brent Wilkes, LULAC National Executive Director

This article was originally published on Univision Digital. Click here to view the article on its original webpage.

En los últimos años, las escuelas en toda la nación han estado cambiando la manera en que enseñan y evalúan a nuestros niños, mediante la creación de los Estándares Estatales Comunes desarrollados por la Asociación Nacional de Gobernadores y adoptados voluntariamente por 40 Estados a lo largo de la nación. Este es un cambio decisivo en la enseñanza porque promete modernizar la manera en que preparamos a los estudiantes para la universidad y las carreras profesionales.

Los nuevos estándares son:
1. Basados en investigación y evidencia.
2. Claros, comprensibles y consistentes.
3. Conformes con la universidad y las expectativas profesionales.
4. Basados en un contenido riguroso y con la aplicación de conocimientos en habilidades de razonamiento más altos.
5. Construidos con base en fortalezas y lecciones de estándares estatales actuales.
6. Basados en informes de países que han presentado mejores resultados en la preparación de todos los estudiantes para el éxito en la sociedad y la economía global.

La llegada de estándares nuevos y más altos trae pruebas nuevas y más inteligentes. Dos asociaciones multiestatales conformadas por profesores, administradores y evaluadores expertos, desarrollaron estas nuevas e inteligentes pruebas para que coincidieran con los estándares más altos como: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) y Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

Estas nuevas evaluaciones tienen el fin de medir destrezas que serán aplicadas en el mundo real como: pensamiento crítico, razonamiento, escritura y solución de problemas. De la misma manera, estas evaluaciones están desarrolladas de un modo que permiten a los estudiantes mostrar su trabajo. En la materia de Inglés, los estudiantes explicarán y justificarán su razonamiento, y responderán de una manera abierta a preguntas basadas en escenarios reales. En el área de Matemáticas, los estudiantes resolverán problemas y crearán presentaciones visuales de conceptos.

Quizás el aspecto más importante de estas nuevas evaluaciones es que proveerán información nueva y valiosa que puede ayudar a padres, profesores y estudiantes a tomar decisiones inteligentes acerca de lo aprendido en clase. Las evaluaciones son desarrolladas de una manera que ayudará a identificar las destrezas que cada estudiante ha dominado y en que necesita trabajar más.

El panorama de tener estándares más altos y mejores evaluaciones es alentador, pero el éxito –como cualquier otra reforma escolar– depende del apoyo, recursos, entrenamiento, desarrollo y guía disponible para los padres, profesores y estudiantes. Es aquí donde LULAC interviene.

Mientras LULAC continúe trabajando a nivel local, estatal, y nacional para promover políticas que abarquen estos puntos críticos, nos comprometemos también a continuar con nuestra campaña educacional para asegurarnos que la información precisa esté llegando a las personas que la necesitan.

Como parte del trabajo de LULAC en expandir el nivel educativo de los Latinos, nosotros estamos comprometidos con una campaña agresiva para educar, comprometer y fortalecer las familias Latinas con información, recursos y herramientas que necesitan para estar preparados a los cambios que están ocurriendo en los salones de clase como resultado de los nuevos estándares y nuevas pruebas.

LULAC continuará con estos esfuerzos a través de su iniciativa Ready! Set! Go! (¡Preparados! ¡Listos! ¡Vamos!), donde llevaremos a cabo sesiones comunitarias en estados claves para brindarles a las familias información sobre cómo prepararse para estas nuevas evaluaciones, cómo leer y cómo hacer uso de los reportes de resultados y hacer a las familias partícipes de una campaña de compromiso para que participen plenamente en la transformación de la enseñanza. Comités de LULAC que quieran participar en esta campaña, organizando una sesión comunitaria, los invitamos a que se pongan en contacto con LULAC al número (202) 833-6130. Disponemos de algunos fondos para asistir a los comités en la ejecución de reuniones informativas para la comunidad. Para mayor información de la iniciativa de LULAC: “¡Preparados! ¡Listos! ¡Vamos!” y los Estándares Estatales Comunes visite esta página web.

Brent Wilkes is the Executive Director of LULAC National.

Knowing Your Status: LULAC Addresses High HIV Infection Rates in the Latino Community

Posted on 01/27/2016 @ 11:45 PM

Tags: health

By: David Perez, LULAC National Director of Development

Although the overall rates of new HIV infections are steadily decreasing, the same cannot be said for the Latino community. In 2013, Latinos accounted for almost one quarter of all estimated new diagnoses of HIV infections despite representing about 17% of the total U.S. population. According to a report released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the number of HIV diagnoses among gay Latino and black youth in the United States has seen a dramatic increase of 87%. Men who have sex with men accounted for 67% of new cases of HIV in 2014, and for Latino men in this group, the rate rose almost 25 percent. In an effort to understand the problem and find solutions that properly address the needs of vulnerable populations, LULAC will be spearheading a series of sessions and conferences with help from the CDC.

On January 21, 2016, LULAC participated in the 4th Annual Unión = Fuerza Latino Institute, a component of the Creating Change Conference held in Chicago, Illinois. The conference included a plenary session with David Ernesto Munar, President and CEO of Howard Brown Health, who discussed the need for mobilizing LGBTQ Latinos around raising awareness about HIV issues in the Latino community. In addition, the conference included a workshop led by LULAC partner, Oscar Raúl López of Valley AIDS Council to address homophobia in the United States–Mexico border region.

At the conference, panelists discussed the root causes for the increase of HIV infections among the Latino LGBTQ community; how to ensure that LGBTQ Latinos be involved in the solutions; and how to ensure that the needs of particularly vulnerable groups such as transgender, youth, and immigrants be addressed in the solutions. Other topics covered at the conference included the importance of seeking treatment, preventive methods, and anti-stigma efforts. The sessions provided opportunities to meet the challenges we face as LGBTQ Latinos and to work together to take action.

As part of the Creating Change Conference, LULAC hosted the LGBTQ Latin@ HIV Caucus on January 22, 2016. Participants gathered to discuss their HIV prevention and treatment work and the specific barriers or challenges faced by the LGBTQ community regarding access to prevention and treatment services. The session identified opportunities for collaboration, and encouraged Latino-led LGBTQ organizations to take advantage of HIV funding opportunities provided by LULAC and the CDC.

The LGBTQ Latin@ HIV Caucus included issue experts Jesus Barrios, sexual and behavioral health coordinator at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center; Alex Garner, program coordinator from the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC); Arianna Lint, from the TransLatin@ Coalition; David M. Pérez, from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Lillian Rivera, from the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI).

It is critical that the Latino community become aware of the increasing HIV infection rates in our community and has the proper resources and information in order to fight against stereotypes and other challenges that may prevent people from seeking treatment. Conferences like these are important because they encourage community leaders to highlight important issues facing the LGBTQ Latino community and take action. Through participation in this conference, LULAC hopes to bring HIV issues in the Latino community to the forefront of our national dialogue. We hope that open discussions will encourage leaders to raise awareness about HIV in their own communities and educate their friends, family members, and coworkers on HIV prevention strategies and testing.

David M. Pérez is the Director of Development for League of United Latin American Citizens and a founding co-chair of the Unión = Fuerza Latino Institute at Creating Change, now in its 4th year. You may contact David at dperez@LULAC.org.

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