Latinos are progressing all over America. Despite challenges and historic barriers, La Raza perseveres and advances together. The 2022 UnidosUS Annual Conference, Siempre Adelante (Always Forward), is evidence that our movement is alive and well.
By Gabriel Quintero Velasquez,* President/CEO, Avenida Guadalupe Association
While much of America cautiously starts up, our network of national Affiliates maintains perpetual vigilance like clockwork, actively building capacity and stability for Latino families; discovering functional pathways for family economic success; meeting the challenges of advancing homeownership; attacking bad legislative policy and knocking down the barriers that negatively affect upward mobility; and fighting against the constant onslaught of bipartisan anti-immigrant policies.
To appreciate the myriad of UnidosUS organizations and their commitment to the plight of the American Latino, we can highlight the work of members like Abel Nuñez and Petra Falcon, both representatives of the Affiliate Council in 2022. Nuñez heads the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) and has been responding with food, clothing, and resources to busloads of immigrant refugees sent to Washington, D.C., fortifying people in need trapped in a cruel game of human chess in which the Governor of Texas abuses La Raza as his board game pawns. When we convene in conference, Abel Nuñez has already asked the question: not why, but what are we going to do about it?
Petra Falcon leads Promise Arizona (PAZ), an organization founded in 2010 as a response to the state of Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070 law. PAZ is currently struggling to transport immigrant families entangled at the border to resourced accommodations in Phoenix. The need is great. She knows this. In the days leading up to our conference, Falcon asks: how are we going to meet the demand? Our movement must be greater.
The collective effort of UnidosUS is best described as “the long road ahead,” paved forward by our mutual reliance on good information, an understanding of our shared history, and the benefits of justice-based advocacy and activism: intelligence, wisdom, and good works. The conference is where our sky meets our valley. It’s where the social obligations of corporate America and the grassroots of results-based community organizations work together.
In 2022 UnidosUS will convene in San Antonio, Texas, the most economically segregated city in the United States of America, with one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the nation.
Simply put, the extremes of economic segregation are best described by contrasting the highest economic plateau against the lowest. In San Antonio, the Latino community represents that pervasive inequity. Avenida Guadalupe Association and other local Affiliate partners, Avance Incorporated, Neighborhood Housing Services of San Antonio, Bexar County Community Health Collaborative, and the Mexican American Unity Council, remain allies in the struggle against the forces of de facto segregation and antiquated policy that continually dispossess our community of its hard-earned gains.
The problems we face together require good organizational governance, a commitment to results-based solutions, transparency, and diligence. These many problems include increasing capacity for family wealth through home ownership in a falsely inflated market; delivering healthcare in an age of highly transmissible endemic disease and outpaced healthcare costs; ensuring new mothers and fathers understand the vital importance of family wellness; and retaining a roof over the heads of our senior community members, many of whom survive at 30% of the area median income (AMI) or below, despite an impending recession. Our conference is always a reminder of the state of things in the real world.
When UnidosUS convenes in beautiful San Antonio and conference attendees appreciate its recent Decade of Downtown, it is important that the conference also gathers in the community served by UnidosUS Affiliates since the founding of the National Council of La Raza in 1968, known as the Westside. This area was once known as the Mexican District and it is where the Avenida Guadalupe Association (1979), Avance Inc. (1973), and the Mexican American Unity Council (1968) were chartered. These organizations have been stabilizing strategy since the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity was founded in 1964 in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call for a War on Poverty.
Cesar E. Chavez wrote, “Bring forth song and celebration so that the spirit will be alive among us. Let the spirit flourish and grow so we will never tire of the struggle.” It is therefore with great pride that on behalf of the San Antonio UnidosUS local Affiliate members I invite you to a local Affiliate welcoming celebration with food, drink, and music in our neighborhood, that neighborhood representing the lowest plateau of economic segregation in San Antonio, if not the nation, a place where all roads lead toward success and empowerment. It’s a place synonymous with Mexican Americans not because of poverty but because our roots run as deep as our testimonials of success reach high, and we do not forget where we come from.
Estás invitado a donde nuestro ombligo está enterrado.
*A native of San Antonio, Gabriel Quintero Velasquez received his BS in Architecture from the University of Texas at San Antonio and has a long career history in various architectural offices including Killis P. Almond, FAIA, Preservation Architect. Trained in activism by Albert A. Pena, Jr., Velasquez served as Director of the Inner City Advocates at the Mexican American Unity Council and was the first march event coordinator of the San Antonio Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice, serving for over 20 years. He is recognized bi-nationally as an immigration rights activist and served as a delegate to the United Mexican States—Primer Parlamento De Líderes Mexicanos Que Viven En El Extranjero. Velasquez trained as a capacity builder for the Annie E. Casey Foundation Initiative—Making Connections San Antonio. Nominated by the San Antonio Museum of Art’s Education Committee, Velasquez was awarded the City of San Antonio Diez y Seis de Septiembre Commission Award for Leadership in the Cultural Arts. He is a founding member of Luminaria San Antonio and founded “Una Noche de La Gloria—Contemporary Art in the Cultural Zone.” Velasquez has served on the City’s Cultural Arts Board, the Higher Education Authority, the Board of Adjustment, and the San Antonio Housing Commission, and currently serves on the City of San Antonio Historic Design and Review Commission and the Westside Creeks Restoration Oversight Committee (San Antonio River Authority), which is charged with community oversight of the 14-mile ecosystem restoration of the Alazan, Apache, Martinez, and San Pedro Creeks. As of 2021, Gabriel Quintero Velasquez is the Texas Regional Representative on the UnidosUS Affiliate Council.