Discovering USLDH through the Story of LULAC

LULAC red, white, and blue logos

By Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez

My name is Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez and I am an undergraduate Political Science student at the University of Houston. My time with Arte Público Press begins in the Fall of 2020. I was in the process of completing a Mexican American Studies course with Dr. Lorena Gauthereau when she informed my classmates and I about an internship opportunity at Recovery. I knew little about Arte Público or Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (Recovery), other than what was briefed by Dr. Gauthereau, but of course, with some research, I grew interested in the program and chose to apply. Very quickly after my interview process with Dr. Linda García Merchant, who would later become my mentor, I met the rest of the team at Recovery, who all welcomed me with open arms.

For my first project, I worked closely with Dr. García Merchant to proof and revise a digital timeline dedicated to highlighting the history of the Latino civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) timeline. In 2019, my fellow UH undergraduate and previous recipient of the LULAC Council 60 Research and Scholarship Award, Katerin Zapata, began compiling research and creating the initial version of the timeline. We analyzed its contents and captions and took the steps necessary to ensure web accessibility, specifically to those with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities.[1] An essential component of the timeline is its appeal to all the senses using diverse forms of technology. Users have access to a wide range of information through various types of videos, pictures and links. In addition to this, the timeline itself is easily operable to accommodate users with limited range of motion and different color combinations were explored to benefit users with visual impairments. Dr. García Merchant and I ensured the content was concise and also made available in Spanish to suit bilingual speakers. Previous to my time at Recovery, my experience in digital humanities was limited. However, this was hardly a concern because Dr. García Merchant did not hesitate to provide her guidance as needed. She ultimately laid the foundation for me to utilize various digital resources and, along the way, taught me techniques to give the reader an overall engaging learning experience. 

LULAC red, white, and blue logo
LULAC Timeline

I knew LULAC as an advocacy organization that was significant to members of the Latinx/Hispanic community, but unfortunately, this was the extent of my knowledge. I was aware of a few of the lawsuits that set critical legal precedents, such as Salvatierra v. Del Rio and Mendez v. Westminster, but only relative to other civil rights proceedings such as Brown v. Board of Education. As I worked on the timeline, I learned about the various councils located across Texas, including Council 60 in my hometown of Houston, Texas. I researched prominent figures like Tony Campos, Dolores Guerrero, Willie Velasquez, Belen Robles, and countless others who were pioneers in the advancement of the Latinx/Hispanic community in the United States. I hope that through this timeline and the many other projects at Recovery, individuals may have the opportunity to learn more about organizations like LULAC and hear about those stories in history not often told.

1970 slide on LULAC timeline

It is no doubt that the pandemic has had a considerable impact on many of our lives. In a few words, I can confidently say that this year was by far the most strenuous time of my life. I figured that my entry into the Recovery program during the pandemic would affect the quality of my experience. While I am sure that the circumstances were very different pre-COVID, I would not say that my experience was in any way worse or less than. If anything, I felt like Recovery was a positive outlet for me. 

After my first meeting with everyone, I remember having an overwhelming feeling of joy. I will never forget how much it meant to be in the same virtual room as so many incredibly accomplished men and women. I was surrounded by professors and professionals at the top of their fields, and when they spoke, it reminded me of home. I saw a bit of myself in them, and for the first time, I witnessed the language of my mother and grandmother being used in an academic workplace. Ultimately, they are who I aspire to be, not only for myself but also for my community. As a woman, a Mexican immigrant, and a first-generation college student, it is motivating to see this representation in academia. Working alongside everyone at Recovery for these past couple of weeks has been truly inspiring and a valuable learning experience that I will always carry with me.

**Stay tuned for the public release of the LULAC Timeline**

Further Reading

“English Plus Versus English Only.” League of United Latin American Citizens, https://lulac.org/advocacy/issues/english_vs_spansih/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

LULAC. lulac.org.

Olivas, Michael A. Colored Men and Hombres Aquí: Hernández V. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican-American Lawyering. Arte Público Press, 2006.

Orozco, Cynthia. Pioneer of Mexican-American Civil Rights: Alonso S. Perales. Arte Público Press, 2020.

Sánchez, Claudio. “Tougher Times For Latino Students? History Says They’ve Never Had It Easy.” National Public Radio, 15 Nov. 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/15/502011688/tougher-times-for-latino-students-history-says-theyve-never-had-it-easy. Accessed 08 Nov. 2020.


Ariatna Vaglienty Gonzalez is an undergraduate at the University of Houston, where she is majoring in Political Science. She is the current recipient of the LULAC Council 60 Research and Scholarship Award.


Notes

Nuestra Historia: Alonso S. Perales Exhibit

On May 14, 2019, in a collaboration between the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 60, the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/Arte Público Press, and SERJobs, members of the community gathered to celebrate the launch of the Alonso S. Perales Digital Archive. Among those in attendance was Perales’ daughter, Marta Perales Carrizales. This digital archive marks the first digitized collection on the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Archives site.

Alonso S. Perales was one of the most prominent US Civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. He was born in Alice, Texas in 1898. Perales served in the US Army during World War I. After his military service, he attended college and law school at the National University (which later became George Washington University). Upon receiving his law degree, Perales became only the third Mexican American to practice law in Texas (Olivas xi). Perales dedicated his life to Mexican American civil rights and empowering the working-class community through knowledge and education. In 1929, Perales co-founded of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC)–the first nationwide Mexican American civil rights organization, not to mention the largest and oldest US Latino political association. He served as the second LULAC national president from 1930 to 1931 (xiv). In addition to his work in the United States, Perales served as Nicaraguan Consul General for twenty-five years and as counsel to the Nicaraguan delegation to the United Nations in 1945. In addition, he helped draft the original Charter of the United Nations. Perales authored Are We Good Neighbors and two volumes of En defensa de mi raza. His writing stressed the need for anti-discrimination legislation and civil activism for the Latino community.

Alonso S. Perales Collection

The Alonso S. Perales Collection is Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s flagship online digital archive. In 2009, Marta Perales Carrizales and Raymond Perales donated their father’s extensive personal papers to the University of Houston’s Recovery Program. This collection, which measures over 40 linear feet, contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, civil rights writings, and foundational documents related to LULAC. The online digital collection includes a large sampling of these documents. To facilitate accessibility, the digital documents include full-text transcriptions and bilingual keywords for searches. In the future, more US Latino digital archives will be added to the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections (available at: usldhrecovery.uh.edu). The original Alonso S. Perales Papers are housed at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.

Are We Good Neighbors? Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas

Screenshot of Are We Good Neighbors? : Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas. https://arcg.is/1C1bbv

Perales’ activism also included the empowerment of his community. He urged people to publicly share experiences of discrimination, including the names and addresses of businesses where they were refused service. Many of the testimonies sworn to him in his capacity as Notary Public appeared in his book, Are We Good Neighbors?

The digital mapping project, Are We Good Neighbors?, uses the information in these testimonials to locate these incidents on a map in an attempt to reveal the embodiment of racism. One after another, these accounts tell stories of everyday life: going out for dinner with family, spending time with friends, looking for employment, or moving to a new house. Yet, for people of Mexican descent, these activities were marked by disgust, hatred, shame, and even violence. This project highlights the personal history of racism, one that takes place in our own neighborhoods to real people, rather than distanced through abstract statistics.

Twitter: @AlonsoSPerales

The Alonso S. Perales Collection Twitter Bot (@AlonsoSPerales) also strives to bring attention to his activism. This Twitter account automatically posts quotations (in English and Spanish) from Perales’ writing and allows his voice to continue to advocate for education, equality, and justice.

The Perales Collection is extremely important for our understanding of the historical trajectory of US Latinx civil rights. The documents in this collection reveal the ways our community refused to remain silent, even in the face of persecution. Civil rights leaders such as Perales fought for justice long before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The history embedded in this collection is not readily available in K-12 history books. We hope that digital projects such as these can empower our community through education and help Latina/o/x schoolchildren see themselves reflected in US history in a positive light.

Organizers

LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 1,000 LULAC councils nationwide.

Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (“Recovery”) is an international program at the University of Houston dedicated to locating, preserving, and disseminating Hispanic cultural documents of the United States written since colonial times until 1980. Recovery in the premier center for research on Latino documentary history in the United States.

Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest Hispanic publisher in the United States. Established in 1979, it is the principal provider of cultural materials on Latino life in the United States for general and educational audiences.

SERJobs is a nonprofit community organization that educates and equips people in the Texas Gulf Coast Region who come from low-income backgrounds or who have significant barriers to employment.

Further Reading

Olivas, Michael A. (ed.) In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals. Arte Público Press, 2012.

Orozco, Cynthia E. No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. University of Texas Press, 2009.

Saldaña, Hector. “Unsung Hero of Civil Rights: ‘Father of LULAC’ A Fading Memory.” Practicing Texas Politics, 2013.

Sloss Vento, Adela. Alonso S. Perales: His Struggle for the Rights of the Mexican American. Artes Gráficas, 1977.

LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse: This Place Matters

Two-story white house with Texas Historical Marker in front. House has three large windows on the second floor.

LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse (Photo: Dee Zunker For The National Trust For Historic Preservation)

On January 30, 2018, Houston’s LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse was named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historical Preservation—a privately-funded nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving historically-significant locations. Originally built in 1907, this modest two-story building became the headquarters for Houston’s chapter of the civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

LULAC History

LULAC was founded in 1929 as response to the discrimination faced by people of Mexican descent living in the United States.

Historic black and white photograph of restaurant sign:

PHOTO COURTESY RUSSELL LEE PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION AT UT-AUSTIN

At this time, people of Mexican descent were denied civil rights: they were often refused service and jobs; children attended segregated schools; public spaces were segregated according to “Jaime Crow” practices; and they were often targets of racially-motivated violence.

In an effort to create a stronger, unified organization, delegates from three major Texas Mexican American civil rights groups met to discuss a merger. These three groups included: the Order of the Sons of America, The Knights of America, and the League of Latin American Citizens. The members who worked to facilitate this merger included: Ben Garza, Juan Solis, Mauro Machado, Alonso S. Perales, J.T. Canales, E.N. Marin, A. DeLuna, and Fortunio Treviño (LULAC: History). On February 17, 1929, the merger was complete and the first LULAC Convention was held on May 19, 1929 (LULAC: History).

Red, white, and blue LULAC flag

LULAC flag, Council 60 Clubhouse. Houston, TX

Since the merger until present day, LULAC has been fighting to empower Latinas and Latinos in theUnited States by creating access to political processes and equal opportunity to education. LULAC holds “voter registration drives, citizenship awareness sessions, sponsor health fairs and tutorial programs, and raise scholarship money for the LULAC National Scholarship Fund. This fund, in conjunction with LNESC (LULAC National Educational Service Centers), has assisted almost 10 percent of the 1.1 million Hispanic students who have gone to college” (LULAC: History).

Council 60 Clubhouse

The Council 60 Clubhouse in Houston served as the de facto headquarters for LULAC through the majority of the Chicana/o movement in the 1960s.

Photo of the Texas Historical Commission marker in front of LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse

Texas Historical Commission marker in front of LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse

The designation of this clubhouse as a National Treasure—a place where a part of US history unfolded—speaks to the need for inclusion of the role of Latinos in US history. That is, as Al Maldonado, III, LULAC District VIII Director noted at the January 30th reception, “Latino history is US history.”

I had the honor of attending the LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse reception. Just minutes before driving to the historical site, both our intern, Theresa Mayfield, and I were sorting through documents from our Alonso S. Perales collection.

Alonso S. Perales

Alonso S. Perales was one of the founders of LULAC and the second president. Perales’ daughter, Marta Carrizales and his son, Raymond Perales, donated his collection of papers to Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage (located at the University of Houston). A conference was subsequently organized by Recovery and held in his honor in 2012.

Alonso S. Perales, in suit, facing left

Photo: Alonso S. Perales, in suit, facing left. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library.

The collection is very extensive and includes his personal documents, LULAC organizational documents (such as bylaws, history, conventions, manuscripts, resolutions, speeches, bills, news, and correspondence). Perales was only the third Mexican American to receive his law degree and dedicated his life to fighting for the civil rights of his people. He published two books, Are We Good Neighbors? and En defensa de mi raza (In Defense of My People). The Perales Collection is housed at the University of Houston’s MD Anderson Library Special Collections (read the Library’s finding aid here).

Upcoming Perales DH Projects

In an effort to highlight Perales’ civil rights work, we are currently working on creating an Alonso S. Perales Digital Archive, which will include a sampling of documents from his collection. I am also personally working on a mapping project, Are We Good Neighbors?, which will map out the recorded instances of discrimination experienced by Mexican Americans in Texas, based on the personal accounts that Perales collected from the Texas community and published in his book of the same name. To learn more about Alonso S. Perales, read the collection of essays that came out of the 2012 Recovery conference, edited by UH law professor, Michael A. Olivas, In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals.

For more photos of the LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse reception, visit us on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook).

Works cited

“LULAC History: All for One and One for All.” League of United Latin American Citizens. Accessed 30 January 2018. lulac.org

“LULAC Clubhouse.” National Trust for Historic Preservation. Accessed 30 January 2018. https://savingplaces.org/lulac

Olivas, Michael A. (ed.) In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals. Arte Público Press, 2013.


Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston. Find her online at https://lorenagauthereau.wordpress.com.

James L. Novarro Collection

Flyer for “La hora bautista”

We have big DH plans and lots on our to-do lists here at Recovery! I’m currently working on creating a list of US Latinx Digital Humanities Projects, as well as US Latinx digital humanists. (We’ve been brainstorming a few projects of our own that we will be working on as well, so stay tuned for those.) Right now, my DH list contains digital archives, digital art collections, and digital oral history projects. If you are working on a US Latinx digital humanities project, please share your link with us! We’d love to include yours on our list! And if you are a US Latinx digital humanist please reach out and network with us! You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Or feel free to post a comment on this blog post!

I’m also working on the data curation of one of our collections, the James L. Novarro collection. Reverend Novarro,[1] a pastor of Houston’s Kashmere Baptist Temple and state chaplain of the Political Association of Spanish-speaking Organizations (P.A.S.O.), was a civil rights activist, LULAC member, editor of the Spanish-language newspaper El Sol, and host of the first Spanish-language and longest-running radio program, La hora bautista. Rev. Novarro, along with Father Antonio Gonzales (assistant pastor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Houston), marched together with hundreds of Chicanas and Chicanos during La Marcha, “a dramatic protest march staged by striking farmworkers from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas to the state capitol in Austin during the summer of 1966” (Treviño 187-8). If you’re researching the Chicana/o movement in Houston, Mexican American religious communities, civil rights leaders, Spanish-language radio programming, Texas or Houston Mexican American communities, the Spanish-speaking Baptist community, etc. you will find a lot of material to work with in this collection!

Recovery’s James L. Novarro collection includes El Sol newspaper clippings, pamphlets, brochures, programs, flyers, booklets, photographs, committee hearings, membership lists, financial reports, handwritten notes, legal documents, business cards, song lyrics, and magazines. Please feel free to contact us if you’re interesting in researching this collection.


Footnotes

[1] In various publications, James L. Novarro is identified as Mexican American, however, his daughter-in-law wrote to us to point out that he was born in international waters to European parents on their way to the United States.

Works cited

Treviño, Roberto R. “The Church and the Chicano Movement.” The Church in the Barrio: Mexican American Ethni-Catholicism in Houston. University of North Carolina Press, 2006, pp. 176-206.


Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston. Find her online at https://lorenagauthereau.wordpress.com.