(L-r) UMOS President Lupe Martinez, State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa and LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides at the press conference celebrating the 2019 LULAC National Convention to be held in Milwaukee this summer.

Members of the national leadership team of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization in the United States, held a press conference at the state Capitol Building on April 25 to talk about the upcoming 2019 National Convention, “Movimiento LULAC: 90 Years of Building Power & Transforming Communities Across America,” which will take place this summer at the Wisconsin Convention Center in downtown Milwaukee.

LULAC National President Domingo Garcia welcomed the crowd at the Assembly Parlor in the Capitol building mentioning that he was honored and pleased to be in Madison and looking forward to the national convention in Milwaukee in July.

“Let me be clear why we are here: Wisconsin is a swing state. Wisconsin is a state with a growing Latino population and a growing part of America in terms of diversity,” Garcia said. ”So, we want to ask [President] Trump, who’s going to be in Green Bay, Wis., this Saturday: ‘When are you going to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will allow DREAMers to achieve the American dream? What are you going to do about the humanitarian crisis on the border? When are you going to stop taking children from their mothers and putting them in cages?’

Before becoming LULAC national president, Garcia was a three-term member of the Texas House of Representatives. At age 33, he was elected to Dallas City Council, the youngest councilmember at that time and was subsequently elected by his peers to become Dallas’ first Latino Mayor Pro Tem.

“I would ask the [Wisconsin] governor: ‘When are you going to start appointing Latinos to your administration? When are you going to start appointing Latinos to head your departments?’” Garcia said. “We’re disappointed it hasn’t happened and we hope the president, governor and other elected officials will start to embrace Latino diversity by the time we get to our July convention.”

Sindy Benavides, CEO of LULAC, says that the power of LULAC really lies in its membership. LULAC National President Domingo Garcia is at right.

The 2019 National Convention co-chairs are Lupe Martinez, president and CEO of United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS); State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa and Dr. Arturo Martinez, Associate Dean for MATC.

“We’re so lucky to have been selected to host LULAC at the 90th national convention. Next year, we know that we’re going to have the DNC [Democratic National Convention], too,” Zamarripa said. “Milwaukee is really on the cusp of some great things and LULAC is really kicking it off by holding their national convention here in July and we have to make sure we get the word out to our gente, our community, and to the broader Wisconsin community so that they know the importance of this organization, the oldest Latino civil rights organization.

“Lupe [Martinez] said the other day that, ‘LULAC is our NAACP.’ We have to make sure that our leadership here in Wisconsin knows that and our governor knows that and that our elected officials know the importance of LULAC,” she adds.  “I’m honored to be a co-chair to help get our community and our leaders and everybody to that convention in July in Milwaukee.”

State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa

Invited VIP speakers for this year’s LULAC national convention include: Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, President of Mexico Manuel Lopez Obrador, U.S. Representative Alejandria Ocasio-Cortes, Senator Kamala Harris and others.

Sindy Benavides, CEO of LULAC, said that the power of LULAC really lies in its membership. “We were created in 1929 to protect and defend our community at a time when simply coming together could be considered conspiracy … where our community could be hanged, could be lynched, or could be killed,” Benavides said. “Since then, LULAC has expanded into 37 states. Our goal is to be in all 50 states.

“LULAC’s legacy is strong, but I really do think that the future of LULAC is yet to come. This is just the starting point,” she added. “We are only 90 years old; so we’re 90 years young and strong and what we’re seeing as we go forward as the membership increases past one million across this country, that we will continue to check in, advocate, protect, and defend our community, particularly at a time when our community is being used as a token and manipulated.”

UMOS President Lupe Martinez

Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County President and CEO Jessica Cavazos said that she would not be here as a community leader in Madison if it weren’t for LULAC.

“In my early years, Lupe Martinez took me to the LULAC conference and I learned so much about immigration. That was the first time as a woman that I can tell you where I learned that I had a place,” she remembered. “Of all the large non-profits in the nation, LULAC was one of the first and foremost to have women in leadership and therefore I am very proud to welcome all of our LULAC leadership here on behalf of Madison and on the behalf of Wisconsin and all our members here that will make this conference a dynamic success.

“It will strengthen the Latino – and the non-Latino – economic ecosystem in this state and the city of Milwaukee,” she added. “It is a local and a national voice of equity and civil rights for Latinos and for everybody. LULAC has not only contributed to the leadership of people like myself, but also ingrains the value of leadership into our young people who will really be tomorrow’s leaders.”