The state of Texas has a long history rich in Hispanic heritage dating back to before the region was even part of the United States.
It’s a heritage many Texans are extremely proud of and none more so than members of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Founded in 1929, LULAC has been fighting for equality and civil rights for nearly a century.
“The original purpose of forming LULAC was to address issues of discrimination,” said David Contreras, Texas State Historian for LULAC. “I think one of the first major milestones that was achieved, was to enable people of Mexican American descent into public places such as libraries, swimming pools, cafes, movie theaters, and the like.”
With some of the founding members of LULAC being U.S. military veterans, another major goal is to continue focusing on ensuring that Hispanic veterans are treated fairly.
At the time of LULAC’s founding, Hispanic members of the military that died in combat weren’t even given the same benefits or honors as others.
“They had to incur the charges of burying their loved one, they had to incur the charges of transporting the body back home, and there were no benefits for the family after $50,” said AnaLuisa Carrillo-Tapia, LULAC District 17 director.
They were also not given traditional military burials, said Carrillo-Tapia.
“They were just put in a pine box and returned back home,” said Carrillo-Tapia. “There was no 21-gun salute. There was no honor services held. There was nothing other than a letter saying thank you.”
Over the decades, LULAC as an organization continued to fight for equality and inclusion, even being the first Hispanic group of its kind to host a sitting American president when John F. Kennedy gave a speech at an event at the Rice Hotel in Houston the day before he was assassinated.
“He spent about 15-minutes with the group and made a wonderful speech,” said Contreras. “It was an amazing event and we actually have footage of their speeches. Unfortunately, the next day he passed away but that was a significant event for us because that was the first time in history that a U.S. sitting president had addressed a Latino group.”
In recent years LULAC has kept up its traditions of fighting for civil rights, improvements in education, political influence, and advocating for those in need.
They made national headlines when they stood with the family of murdered Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen.
“First we were wanting to find out where she was at and then when we found out that she didn’t have life in her anymore, we had to demand for justice,” said Carrillo-Tapia. “That became known nowadays as the 'Me Too' movement of the military."
Minerva Cotton, president of LULAC Council 4297 in Killeen, said she has chosen to give back through her efforts in the organization.
“It’s a big deal,” said Cotton. “People see me and go, you’re the president of LULAC, and they know we’re doing things. So, it means a lot to me that we are doing so much and people recognize our work.”
With over 120,000 members nationwide, LULAC continues to fight for and inspire generations of people with Hispanic heritage across the country.