in their Corpus Christi law office Photos by Ruperto Garcia Bonillas awaken LULAC By Ruperto Garcia Corpus Christi At times, it used to be not much more than cardboard placards in someone’s picture window in the barrio, usually in one of the better homes, but with the ubiquitous caliche roads underlining the message: “LULAC Meeting Tonight.” The League of United Latin-American Citizens, for decades after its conception in 1924, was not much more than that a social club, a civic organization, English tea parties in chicano homes. But that has changed. The change has been caused, perhaps, more by one man than any other, if one man could have done it: Ruben Bonilla, the recent president of LULAC. It was through him that the once sleepy-eyed and dreary organization became the political voice of Hispanics across the country. Not only are there Mexican 6 SEPTEMBER 11, 1981 Americans involved now, there are the Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Central Americans. There are 800 or 900 chapters across the nation, and weekly, according to the new LULAC president, Tony Bonilla, Ruben’s brother, more are being formed. “Since I was elected, I’ve gotten communications from North Carolina, Rhode Island and Mississippi,” says Tony, beaming, inhaling from a large cigar. On a particular week, the LULAC president met with the Majority Leader of the House, Jim Wright, VicePresident George Bush, and the national presidents of the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, and the Democratic Party. On the wall in the Bonillas’ law office in Corpus Christi, which also serves as the national headquarters for LULAC, is a letter to Ruben which probably best describes the resistance that he’s gotten during LULAC’s changing of direction: the salutation is, “Hey Bigot.” LULAC is a straight organization. Unlike the ravings of the sixties’ militant leftists, from the leaders of LULAC ooze words about the organization of communities, education for the future, pragmatic politics instead of one-directional ideology, and votes rather than pickets. It is the “American mainstream” approach which they expound: “No one will know the system better than we will,” says Arnold Torres, the LULAC lobbyist whom the Observer found also in Corpus Christi. What LULAC wants is more participation by Hispanics in the political and economic affairs of the country. From the melting pot, however, there come the unsigned letters of resistance: “People are fed up with you, fed up. Your continuously disruptive spouting nails you for exactly what you are a trouble-maker. Mexicans take and take and take. They
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