Biennial LUPE Gala reiterates history is more powerful than any threat
By Brenda Garza
Civil rights activists joined forces at the 3rd annual Biennial LUPE Gala to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month and community resistance on Oct. 12.
La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) presented the gala on Thursday at the Mayrin Banquet Hall in Edinburg. Speakers included comedian Cristela Alonzo, a San Juan native and voice of Cruz Ramirez on Pixar’s “Cars 3,” State Senator Jesus “Chuy” Hinojosa and Andrés Chávez, César E. Chávez’s grandson.
The gala, which takes place every two years, celebrates individuals who make enormous strides on behalf of LUPE to help their communities.
Former U.S. Representative for Texas’s 15th congressional district and DREAM Act supporter, Rubén Hinojosa, honored the LUPE Award recipients.
Reverend Ed Kruger, a civil and human rights activist, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued support since 1966. Also awarded was David Hall, a civil and human rights attorney, for his support of the Farmworker Movement.
LUPE Member Award winners were the organization’s leaders and community health educators, Olivia Zarate and Maria Romero. Both began their journey by helping their communities through LUPE over 11 years ago.
These advocates are an example of what LUPE stands for.
“My grandfather founded LUPE on the basic premise that when people get together they can impact change,” said civil rights activist, Andrés Chávez.
“LUPE has been making an impact, not only here in the Rio Grande Valley, but also all over the state.”
Since the new presidency, many changes have occurred including the dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which will affect approximately 800,000 DREAMers.
“LUPE’s job has really been to stand up for the little guy,” Chavez said, as he continued to discuss the impacts of LUPE. “They are advocating on behalf of the communities and really showing continued resistance. The fact that we are here today, and with the current political climate, it’s even more important. Its groups like LUPE and other groups who fight for social justice that are really going to be the people who resist and who make sure that our communities, who are often not heard, are heard.”
Cristela Alonzo, star of the comedy show “Lower Classy,” which airs on Netflix, was the keynote speaker. She began by addressing the audience with a story from her book, which will be released in 2018, that depicts her mother’s journey to South Texas from a small village in Mexico.
“My mom raised her kids to love this country,” Alonzo said to a packed house. “My mom was so thankful for the opportunities this country gave her and it wasn’t because we had money. My family didn’t have to go to a well to get water. My brothers didn’t have to sell gum on the streets. To live in extreme poverty, here in the United States, was better than living in Mexico.”
According to the first Mexican-American women to create, direct, and act in her very own sitcom, Alonzo’s mother had a second grade education, but knew that McAllen was the place to raise her children after leaving an abusive home.
“We were raised on food stamps,” Alonzo said. “My mom raised her [five] children by herself. This was back during the ‘80s, in a time where internet didn’t exist. Learning what, if any, government programs were available was nearly impossible. Getting any type of information was difficult. There was no Google. There was just a lot of guessing.”
The once small town girl turned Hollywood actress/producer expressed the fear she and her family underwent.
“Let’s talk about the fear,” Alonzo said severely. “I didn’t realize it, until I moved away from the Valley, how much my childhood had been living in fear of deportation and I was born in Texas. You see, here, we live in fear because there are Border Patrol agents everywhere. All the time. Even now, as I fly out of an airport, I get stopped to make sure that I’m a citizen. But what they don’t talk about is that those moments, they stay with you.”
As a comedian, Alonzo says she deals with pain and sadness by making jokes.
“[My mom] thought the little girls from the Girl Scouts were Border Patrol agents in training,” said the comedian. The room broke out into laughter, but Alonzo explained this was what her mother went through daily. The fear her immigrant mother faced every day is much like the fear DACA recipients and other immigrants face on a day-to-day basis.
With all the decisions that have been coming out of Washington, D.C., the LUPE gala honored individuals whose character valued the farmworker movement and continue to motivate LUPE’s work for social change through integrity, innovation and that sí sé puede attitude.
“My grandfather founded LUPE,” said Andres Chavez, the grandson of César E. Chávez. “But, it wasn’t just my grandfather, it’s the countless people that get together to go after something that is much larger than themselves.”
César E. Chávez established LUPE as a community union, rooted in the belief that members of the low-income community have the responsibility and obligation to organize themselves in order to advocate solutions to the issues that impact their lives.
“With each step, each chant, and the continued resistance to the status quo; if we keep pushing and we keep resisting, things are going to change and we are going to make this world a better place,” Andres said.