Q-C LULAC Celebrating 50th Anniversary

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The League of United Latin American Citizens celebrates 50 years in the Quad-Cities next year, and surviving founding members pledge to continue championing issues facing the Hispanic community.

LULAC Council 10 started in 1959 with the help of Henry Vargas, current sergeant at arms, and Ernest Rodriguez, current president – both of Davenport and of Mexican descent.
They said they saw a void and decided to fill it.

“One of our problems was that we were not represented in any group at the time that would be involved in causes like discrimination, job opportunities and other aspects involved in the betterment of our lives,” Mr. Vargas, now 79, said. “That’s why we decided to do something.”

“We had one foot in one culture and one foot in the other culture,” Mr. Rodriguez, 80, said. “We really couldn’t find our niche in the community and were facing discrimination in a lot of areas. And we always had this sort of dream to form an organization to make things better for our community.”

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While times have changed since the local LULAC council was founded, the group’s dedication hasn’t wavered. As the local Hispanic community continues to grow, so does LULAC’s fervor for equal opportunities for all races and genders.

“It’s been a long time, but we’ve always tried to do what we can to be a responsible organization to help the community become a better place to live in,” Mr. Vargas said.

That effort has implanted LULAC into almost every major aspect of the community, from political, legal, civil and labor issues facing the under represented Hispanic community, to immigration and educational causes – the last two being primary on LULAC’s current agenda.

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“We’ve always offered ourselves to represent the Hispanic community in every way possible,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

“We try to stay very involved in the community,” said Mr. Vargas. “We belong to many city and state commissions and committees. We’ve always felt we had to be responsible. If we’re going to be part of this community, and there’s a problem, we feel like we’re a part of the problem if we’re not trying to help solve it.”

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The group currently is championing immigration reform and higher education opportunities for all. “Our biggest, top goal has always been education,” Mr. Vargas said.

Since 1978, LULAC Council 10 has awarded $370,000 in scholarships to more than 500 local students, many of whom have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, business leaders and politicians.

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At one time, Council 10 held the record for the most scholarship money awarded by any chapter nationwide in a given year. The national organization matches up to 60 percent of the funds raised locally for scholarships.

“Without education, you can’t get a decent job” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Without a decent job, you can’t get a decent house or provide for your family. And, with education, you will know your rights as a citizen and know how to exercise your rights.”

Discrimination and racial profiling always have been major hindrances for the Hispanic community, and therefore major causes of LULAC.

“The big issue way back in the past was that we had no group who would represent us,” Mr. Vargas said. “We knew the NAACP was very powerful and there were other groups that were recognized as being leaders in the community. But we were all kind of scattered.”

There currently are about 55 local LULAC members. The first LULAC chapter was formed in 1929 in Texas as a result of discrimination against Mexicans.

The group soon grew, with councils forming in California, New Mexico and in Ft. Madison and Des Moines, Iowa in 1958. LULAC now is represented in every state and Puerto Rico.

The group’s major fundraiser is bingo, which is held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every Friday at their hall, 4224 Ricker Hill Road, Davenport. All proceeds benefit the scholarship fund.

Any Quad-Cities student interested in applying for a LULAC scholarship can get an application at any area high school. This year’s deadline to apply is March 31.

Anyone interested in supporting or joining the group should contact Henry Vargas at (563) 323-4088 or Ernest Rodriguez at (563) 323-5409.

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