La Raza Unida founder Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez taped an address posted on YouTube, directed at fellow Latino activists, in which he notes: “The question remains, what are we going to do tomorrow? Mañana is today. … If we are the future, we have potential power, when are we going to realize it? When are we going to paint the White House brown?” Watch the video:
Latino professors and activists converged in El Paso last week to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Raza Unida Party National Convention, originally held over Labor Day weekend in 1972. Gutierrez’s remarks served as a farewell to attendees.
Last week’s commemoration was hosted in part at the University of Texas, El Paso, where Latino educators and movers-and-shakers in the La Raza movement brainstormed over how to advance their political agenda now and in the future. Organizers say the four-day event was attended by more than 500 people, including students, educators, activists, artists and librarians.
One participant was Armando Navarro, a professor and political scientist at the University of California, Riverside. He believes recent laws to stem the tide of illegal immigration, as well as the rise of grassroots civilian border patrol movements, are akin to “nativist attacks on Mexicanos and Latinos … and hate crimes,” according to a news release from UC Riverside:
“Navarro … contends that: neither political party represents Latinos politically; neither party offers solutions to ending an economic crisis that has impoverished many and limited access to economic progress; both parties are complicit in “nativist attacks on Mexicanos and Latinos,” such as anti-immigrant legislation passed by several states and an increase in the number of militias, hate groups and hate crimes; and a lack of leadership hinders efforts to create a powerful political movement among the nation’s largest racial or ethnic group.”
Navarro presented a paper at the event, “Prospects for reviving (Raza Unida Party) or for creating a new partido,” funding for which was provided by the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, based at UC Riverside.
Meanwhile, the El Paso Times reports that the Latino activists at the commemoration bemoaned the rise of critical assessments of ethnic studies classes and bilingual education:
“The older, gray-haired Chicano activists said the biggest problems are a lack of political activism and organization and the need for more people to become involved. In recent years, some of the advances of the Chicano Movement, such as ethnic studies classes and bilingual education, have come under fire.
“We need to divorce ourselves from the two-party system,” activist Hermán Baca said. “There is no other alternative. In order to do that, we need to understand. We need to educate. We need to politicize. And we need to organize our people. The biggest problem we have is (the lack of political and social conscience to develop power).”
According to a University of California report, Baca served as a major activist for decades, working “closely with other leading figures of the Chicano movement, including César Chávez … to address immigration, civil and political rights, educational opportunities and other issues.”
Baca’s activist materials, which he gathered and stored, have become a digital collection used by UC students in many disciplines, including history, anthropology and ethnic studies.