Raza Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Latino Leaders Inspire Hispanic Community in Panel Talks Over Weekend

Raza held its 20th annual Cinco de Mayo celebration this weekend, hosting two days of panels, discussions and dinners.

In commemoration of Mexico's independence, Raza invited several Latino leaders to speak on the importance of advancing and inspiring in the Latino community.

One of the major events, a Saturday afternoon panel entitled "Empowerment in the Chicano/Latino Communities," focused on the troubles afflicting the Hispanic community and on the steps which Hispanicleaders must take to remedy the situation.

"Nationwide there is too little Hispanic representation in government," said Jose Vasquez, a member of the Congressional Committee on Aging.

"Many Hispanics who are recent immigrants are also unaware of all the benefits they are entitled to from the government, because there is nobody out there to inform them," Vasquez said.


Early Problems

Marcos Beleche, a member of the national council of Raza, said much of the problem begins in the classroom, where Hispanics do not receive an adequate education.

"The Hispanic male population has the highest manual labor participation rate," Beleche said. "That's be cause there's such a low retention rate in the schools. We also have the highest percentage of working poor and lowest educational attainment level."

And while Hispanics have made some strides, they still need to unify on the political front, said Alfredo J. Estrada '80, founder and editor of Hispanic magazine.

"Hispanics have gained tremen dous economic clout recently," Estrada said. "However, Hispanic issues are being largely ignored at this year's elections. We need to be unified and be able to work together to get our issues advanced."

Aurelio L. Ramirez, senior admissions and financial aid officer for the College, rounded out the four-member panel.

He said racial tensions in society surface in educational institutions across the country.

Hopeful Progress

All members of the panel said they were hopeful about the future of the Hispanic community and acknowledged that gains have been made.

"At a grass-root level, many young and dynamic Hispanics are being elected to local offices," Estrada said.

"I hope that translates to one day that happening on a national level," he said.

Raza members expressed satisfaction with the strides made by their won group during the past 20 years.

"The people who founded Raza wanted it to be a social events group along with a few political topics," said club member M. Tino Cuellar '94. "The club has been slowly strengthened over time and has broadened its agenda to include not just social function, but social issues."