Freedom Walk: LULAC hosts marches to advocate for Latinos

Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Texas and community members walk together waving signs and chanting Tuesday down Washington Street to Brownsville City Hall. The "Freedom Walks" are part of a campaign by the organization to encourage Latino communities to register to vote and promote civic engagement. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) kicked off its “Freedom Walks” campaigns Tuesday, including one in Brownsville, to encourage local Latino communities across the state to vote and promote civic engagement.

With signs that read “love not hate makes America great,” “Build a passage to citizenship not a wall” and “Dreamers are Americans not criminals” the small crowd of people started the walk on International Boulevard near the Texas Southmost College campus and ended at City Hall on East Elizabeth Street.

The walks are part of a movement inspired by the Freedom Riders and will continue in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston. They include a one-mile march, a community gathering at the end-point and community resources to inform all participants and serve as a hub for civic engagement.

“Every generation of Americans, the Irish, the Italian, the Jews, have come into the United States looking for the American dream and America has always held up its arm to them. The Statue of Liberty stands for that dream and we cannot let people spit in the face of the Statue of Liberty and in those ideals and that’s what’s been happening for the last two years and we have to make a difference and change that,” Domingo Garcia, LULAC national president, said. “Brownsville is a symbolic southern point of America, but it is also what has been on the news; the wall, children in cages, the refugees at the bridges. South Texas symbolizes to a large extent what’s happening in America today and what is driving the political agenda.”

Sindy M. Benavides, the chief executive officer for LULAC, said it is important for more Latinos to get out and vote to participate in the 2020 election. She also chanted along with the audience the song “We Shall Overcome.”

“There is no nation bigger and more beautiful than the United States; our America is an America that was built by Mexicans, by Natives, by Spaniards, by Africans and Europeans,” Benavides said to the audience in Spanish. “As a community we have to get together and raise our voices and talk and make sure that all of us and our families are participating because our goal is to register more than 1 million of Latinos to vote.”

District 2 City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau was present at the walk and said when she became an elected official 10 years ago she never imagined the pain and suffering that would happen in the city because many people who need safety and comfort are denied that right.

“I am very grateful to every single one of you who have made the trips to the asylum seekers who are on the other side of this bridge … I remember crossing the bridge last year and finding babies in diapers waiting to find asylum in the United States,” she said. “I’ve visited the Southwest Key Program and seen how many children were waiting for somebody, a family member or anybody, to meet up with in the United States.”

Founded in 1929, LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States. It 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 councils nationwide, its official website reads.

“I want to thank you for rising to the call when you are needed in our city,” Tetreau said. “I want to thank every single one of you who has risen to the cause in the Rio Grande Valley, standing for these people and teaching them that there is hope in the United States and a beacon for safety, and we will continue to be.”