National Latino civil rights group sets first meeting in region at WSUV

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter



Latinos in the Pacific Northwest are looking to make their presence and political power felt, starting this weekend at Washington State University Vancouver.

Voting rights, immigration reform, educational attainment, positive youth development and more topics of interest to Latinos are on the docket Saturday as WSUV hosts the first regional organizational meeting of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

If you go

• What: First-ever regional meeting of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

• Where: Washington State University Vancouver, 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave.

• When: Registration begins at 8 a.m. Saturday; program gets under way at 9 a.m.

• Cost: Free.

Margaret Moran, president of the national group, will officiate and install the first slate of officers. It’s the first time a national president of LULAC has visited the Pacific Northwest.

“It is the oldest civil rights organization for Latinos in America, and it is very active,” said Diana Perez, who’ll be sworn in as first president of the group. “Given all the issues we are dealing with, I think we are all interested in better representation and advocacy for the Northwest region.”

Since 2000, the number of Latinos in Washington has surged by 71 percent to nearly 756,000. Latinos now represent more than 11 percent of the state’s population of 6.7 million.

Perez said the local LULAC council started forming in 2009, but it’s taken this long to get sufficiently organized and recognized by the national umbrella group. There are more than 900 councils nationwide.

“We are trying to grow more councils in the Pacific Northwest. That’s why the president is coming,” she said.

Perez said the purpose of LULAC is to organize around social justice and civil rights issues, and to “make sure Latinos here know that there are resources and benefits available to them.” The group was formed in Corpus Christie, Texas, in 1929, but now is based in Washington, D.C.

The local meeting is set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Washington State University Vancouver campus, 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave. It’s free and open to everyone.

In addition to Perez and Moran, speakers at the daylong meeting will include Mickie Soloria Luna, national vice president of LULAC, who’ll talk about the organization’s structure and about opportunities for youth; Joaquin Avila of the Seattle University School of Law and the National Voting Rights Advocacy Initiative, who’ll discuss the power of voting; and Richard Roybal, executive director of LULAC National Education Service Centers, who’ll introduce his agency’s educational resources and opportunities.

Perez is hoping this meeting spurs more local councils to form throughout Washington and Oregon.

“We are trying to develop into the society we all seek, having a successful quality of life and contributing to our society in a positive way,” said Perez. “We want to have a good reputation.”