LULAC LEADERS IN HOUSTON URGE NEWLY ELECTED MAYOR TO IMPROVE REPRESENTATION AND RESOURCES FOR LATINOS

Nation's Oldest and Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Sets Out a Historical Timeline Exposing the Disparity Over Decades for the Largest Minority in Houston

December 22, 2023
Contact David Cruz - (818) 689-9991
davidcruz@lulac.org

Washington, DC – LULAC leaders are calling for action after data reveals that despite constituting 45% of Houston's population, Latinos face under-representation in leadership, unequal resource allocation for a Latino Research Center, and disparities in cultural arts and park improvements.

"Houston LULAC Councils acknowledge Mayor Elect John Whitmire's longstanding support for the Latino community, which garnered significant voter backing," says David Contreras, Houston LULAC member and LULAC national historian. "Now, we stress the need for fairness and equitable representation at the city council, Houston leadership positions, and in allocating resources and funding," adds Contreras.

In 1980, Ben Reyes became the first Latino Houston City Council member, followed by Gracie Saenz as the second and first Latina in an at-large position. The late '90s witnessed significant progress when Latinos achieved proportional representation on the city council from 1996-1998, comprising 29% of council members, reflecting 33% of Houston's population. However, this moment of parity proved to be short-lived.

"Our community contributes over $52 billion to the local economy and has been advocating for inclusive representation in various offices," says Dr. Sergio Lira, president, Houston LULAC Council 4967. "We urge Mayor-Elect Whitmire to ensure a diverse administration that addresses our concerns, including equitable resources for a Latino research center, library, community park improvements, and recovery from damages caused by natural disasters," says Lira.

Since 2016, only one Latino has been on the city council, representing just 6% despite Latinos constituting 45% of Houston's population. Further compounding the disparity, only 4 out of 22 city department head positions (18%) are held by Latinos, while African Americans, constituting 22% of Houston's population, occupy 13 leadership positions (59%) in city departments.

Meanwhile, the allocation of funds and resources for Latino projects and programs, including cultural arts and community parks, has been inequitable. Recently, city council appropriated $10 million to purchase land for the Latino library. This decision reduced library funding from $19 million to $9 million and cast shadows over fully realizing the Latino Research Center.

"The city has long neglected Mason Park," says Robert Gallegos, Houston city councilmember, District 1. "I have dedicated some of my District Service Funds (DSF) for improvements at Mason, such as new five-foot sidewalks and lighting fixtures along the gazebo so it wouldn't be pitch dark at night. Due to the damaged roof, the clubhouse/indoor gym was closed shortly after Harvey and will not be replaced until late 2025. Why does one of our main parks continue to suffer?" questions Gallegos.

In 2009, an African American research center was established with an estimated operational cost of $1 million. In contrast, the journey towards a Latino Research Center and Library has faced challenges. Limited updates on its status has left the Latino community questioning the city's commitment to its cultural heritage. Similarly, efforts to digitize Latino and LULAC archives at the Houston Public Library encountered challenges, prompting calls for an oversight committee to ensure the preservation of these valuable historical records.

"Houston's elected leadership can and must do better," says Contreras. "Latinos will not settle for promises any longer. LULAC will monitor this administration closely and push for civil and silver rights for our community, too!" he adds.

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Acerca de LULAC

La Liga de Ciudadanos Latinoamericanos Unidos (LULAC) es la organización de voluntarios de derechos civiles latinos más grande y antigua del país, que empodera a los estadounidenses de origen hispano y construye comunidades latinas fuertes. Con sede en Washington, DC, con consejos en todo Estados Unidos y Puerto Rico, los programas, servicios y defensa de LULAC abordan los problemas más importantes para los latinos, satisfaciendo las necesidades críticas de hoy y del futuro. Para obtener más información, visite https://lulac.org/