Mexican hometown groups wooed

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Stephanie, Jul 8, 2006.

  1. Stephanie

    Stephanie Diamond Member

    Jul 11, 2004
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    Members urged to become U.S. citizens, vote for local politicians
    BY RACHEL URANGA, Staff Writer

    The National Council of La Raza's annual convention in downtown Los Angeles today is turning out to be a who's who of Latino power brokers - with local politicians rearranging their schedules and attendees buzzing about who will come.
    But behind all the schmoozing and banquets, one of the nation's best-known civil rights groups is courting a lower-profile player, one some say is just as powerful a player: hometown associations.

    The hundreds of associations - built up over decades by tens of thousands of expatriates who send home billions of dollars a year - are increasingly flexing their political muscle on this side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

    While groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion struggle to attract new members, immigrant groups like Organización Queretana and Club Chihuahua - representing Mexican immigrants from their respective states - are booming.

    "These groups were ignored because they weren't sufficiently organized before. But now they have become very highly organized, hierarchial and their members are loyal," said Louis DeSipio, associate professor of political science and Chicano studies at the University of California, Irvine.

    "In Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston - they are the most active organizations among immigrants. And while they were once focused on Mexico, they are increasingly focusing on civic issues here."

    That means if politicians have aspirations to higher office or are seeking support for education reform, they would be wise to build relationships early on with groups that are likely to become strong voting blocs, he said.

    Aides for Mayor Antonio Villaragiosa have met with the Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norte América (COFEM), which represents 50,000 Mexicans, to discuss how they can work together to provide a better education for children in Los Angeles.

    Over the week, the National Association of Latino Elected officials and the National Council of La Raza have also set up meetings with the group to discuss partnerships in education, health and voter registration.

    "We are gaining in prominence," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of COFEM. "Our goal is to be one of the largest member-based, Latino-based organizations in the nation with the ability to educate and mobilize the community."

    largest umbrella organization for hometown associations, with more than 400 groups - estimates it brought out at least 100,000 people through its extensive network.

    "Before, we wanted to return to Mexico. We thought we would invest in Mexico ... but after years and years, many of us developed roots here and we are not going to return," said Salvador Garcia, president of COFEM and an association representing 4,000 immigrants from the state of Jalisco.

    "Many constructed houses in Mexico because they thought they were going to return. But we are here and living in houses that we are paying rent for. We are recommending that if you are here, develop here."

    COFEM and other groups are encouraging their members to become citizens, get involved in local politics and use health services many immigrants shy away from.

    And their membership continues to boom, bolstered by matching funds from the Mexican government and the creation of an agency dedicated to migrants abroad.

    In 1998, the Mexican government counted 441 hometown associations; by 2003, there were 623, according to COFEM.

    The associations or hometown groups representing specific regions in Mexico are usually started by immigrants who pool together money to send home. They hold fundraisers and dances and, at their strongest, can become a powerful economic force in their hometown.

    Groups representing Michoac n say they sent home billions of dollars last year.

    "Their voice is increasingly louder," Efrain Escobedo, director of voter engagement for NALEO. "Now they are a significant part of Latino leadership, specifically in Southern California."
  2. 007

    007 Charter Member Supporting Member

    May 8, 2004
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    Fine. I'm going to join the Aryan Nation.

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