Even though the Latino community is the fastest growing ethnic population in Wisconsin, the group has at times been considered northern cousins far removed from issues affecting border states. But the long overdue national affirmation was made official when the National President of LULAC, Domingo Garcia, cut the symbolic red ribbon to open the 90th Annual National Convention and Exposition for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) on July 11 in Milwaukee.

The convention organized a variety of free workshops for young Latino adults and professionals, and was highly anticipated for hosting a Presidential Town Hall with top candidates.

“The City of Milwaukee features a history and heritage with an energetic and ever growing Latino population,” said Lupe Martinez, President and CEO of United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) and LULAC National Convention Chair. “The conference brought Wisconsin into the limelight, and people saw all the wonderful things happening here in our Milwaukee community.”

The LULAC event was seen as important economic opportunity for Milwaukee, and a test for how the city will manage the Democratic National Convention a year later. It also afforded local leaders the chance to show the nation what governance with integrity and shared respect looked like.

“After nine decades of service, LULAC’s founding purpose remains the same. Our mission is to protect and defend Latinos across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. We know that there are many opportunities and challenges still ahead,” said Sindy M. Benavides, LULAC National Chief Executive Officer. “I want to express my gratitude for your courage, your thoughtful investment of time, energy, and resources. We have come together as a united community to empower the next generation of advocates and reach our full potential.”

The convention also signaled LULAC’s official start for defensive preparations for the 2020 U.S. Census. Under the direction of the Trump Administration, the process has aimed to punish the Latino community by undercounting the population’s representation or questioning citizenship as a method to instill fear.

“Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the country, but not when it comes to building partnerships within the community,” said Eileen Figueroa , LULAC Wisconsin State Director and President of LULAC WI Council 340. “We are currently facing many injustices that affect our Latino community. Children are being taken from their mother’s arms, there is systematically inhumane treatment at the border, a disregard for human life in detention camps, and undocumented veterans who scarified everything for this country are deported. It is now, more than ever, that we need to unite and educate ourselves for the future of our people.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was founded in 1929 in Texas to serve as an advocate for the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights and freedoms of Latinos in the United States.

“What we’re seeing with our community at this very moment in America’s history is a high level of fear,” added Benavides. “And for many in our community, it’s really looking at the fact that who gets elected matters. Who sits at the local, at the state, at the national level, matters. As individuals and a collective, we have a role to play in our democracy, and when we work together we can make a greater impact.

President Donald Trump was asked to speak at LULAC’s July 11 Town Hall, along with the other 2020 presidential candidates, but he never responded to the invitation. LULAC leadership said they did not think it was a coincidence that Trump planned a fundraising visit to Milwaukee at Derco Aerospace for a day after the Democratic candidates spoke at their event.

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Lee Matz