President: Michael Reyes
Vice President: Tim Garicia
Secretary: Decker Truesdell
Treasurer: Lisa Lopez
Parliamentarian: Rick Jimenez
Chaplain: Toni Robertson
Sgt. of Arms: Salvador Lopez
VP for Youth: Tony Cedillo
80 Years of Progress
LULAC is the largest Latino civil right and advocacy group in the United States. We are 80 years and going strong. LULAC works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans from every region looking for freedom and an honest way of life.
LULAC Council #10 of Davenport, Iowa was founded in 1959. Henry Vargas approached a number of second generation Mexican Americans of Davenport about organizing to achieve political power. Henry's brother Jesse Vargas was president of a labor union representing the employees of a foundry called Sivyer Steel. Jesse was also President of the Scott County Young Democrats and assisted the group headed by Henry to join the Young Democrats. Shortly after Chai Vasquez, who moved to Davenport from Fort Madison, informed the group of LULAC and its purpose to improve the social and economical conditions of Hispanics. In 1959 there were five other LULAC councils in the state of Iowa. Council #304 in Fort Madison was the first one to be founded in Iowa. The other councils were Council #306 in Des Moines, Council #308 in West Des Moines, and Council #319 in Mason City. I believe there was also one in Fort Dodge at that time.
Vasquez contacted some of the LULAC leaders of Iowa in Des Moines and a group of them came to Davenport to talk to Henry Vargas and others about forming a council. I assisted Henry in preparing flyers informing people of an organizing meeting to discuss establishing a LULAC Council. All in attendance agreed to apply for a charter for LULAC Council #10.
Most of us were second and third generation Mexican Americans. Most of our parents came to the Davenport area to work on section gangs of the Rock Island railroad and other railroad companies or to work in area foundries such as the Bettendorf Company, International Harvester, Farmall Works of International Harvester, John Deere and smaller foundries manufacturing parts for the larger farm implement companies. The Bettendorf Company built under frames for railroad cars. Most Mexican Americans lived in sections of town that were isolated from the main part of town. There were sizable populations of Mexican people living in Holy City located in the east part of the town of Bettendorf, Iowa between the railroad tracks and the Mississippi River. Another large settlement of Mexican people lived in Cook's Point in the southwestern edge of Davenport, Iowa, again between the railroad tracks and the Mississippi River. Another large community of Mexican people lived in Silvis, Illinois along Second Street which has been renamed Hero Street because of the large number of Mexican American servicemen from one block of the street who were killed in the Second World War and the Korean Conflict.
Once LULAC Council #10 was organized, its members defended one of its members, Gilbert Fernandez, a tavern owner, whose tavern was raided by local police for illegally selling alcoholic drinks. We went before the Davenport City Council to voice our protest. Jesse Vargas was our spokesman since he was the only person who had experience dealing with power figures. It was a well-known fact that all Davenport's taverns had historically engaged in this practice in order not to lose customers to the cities directly across the Mississippi River that separated Iowa and Illinois. Serving of liquor by the drink was legal in the state of Illinois. The serving of liquor by the drink in the Iowa cities bordering the river was a practice going back years and years. It became a political issue in 1959 when politicians tried to enforce Iowa's dry state law that only permitted the sale of beer in taverns. However, the long practice of liquor by the drink continued unabated. The only change was tavern owners put the bottles of liquors under the bar out of view of inspectors.
Gilbert Fernandez was a new tavern owner and the only Mexican who owned a tavern. LULAC was meeting above the tavern in a meeting room donated by Gilbert. The action against his tavern was a discriminatory act because no other taverns were targeted. Our action on Fernandez behalf saved the closing of his establishment.
Members of LULAC Council #10 in 1959 volunteered to help raise funds for the Heart Foundation. Members soon became involved in promoting Latino interests before the Davenport City Council and the Davenport School District. The council coalesced with the NAACP to successfully lobby for a paid Director of the Davenport Civil Human Rights Commission and has always had a representative serving on the commission. The council persuaded the Davenport School Board to implement a bilingual program at the Jefferson Elementary School where most Mexican children attended. The school district implemented the program and was so pleased with it that a year later they extended it to other grades at the school. The Bilingual Program as well as English as a Second Language Program is now well established in the school district. Members of the council in later years cooperated with the district, sending a representative with their recruiters to the Southwest to recruit for Latino teachers.
The Davenport council also was successful in filing discrimination employment complaints for Latinos with the local civil rights commission, the state commission and the Federal EEOC and OFCP. Once in 1970 our council felt it necessary to picket the Farmall Works of International Harvester on behalf of a Mexican American worker who was being discriminated against. This picketing action coincided with contract negotiations between the union and the company, and workers believing the union had went on strike closed down the plant. The union fearing disruption of their negotiations pleaded with our council to withdraw our picket line with the assurance that they would negotiate a resolution for the Mexican American's complaint. The council ceded to the agreement with the union. The complaint was subsequently resolved.
In subsequent years the council bought some property in the west end of Davenport that it improved and expanded over the years. The LULAC Activity Center now hosts a senior meal program and LULAC conducts a BINGO operation on weekends to raise money for scholarships.
The council has awarded over a quarter million dollars in scholarships since the early 60's when they began this effort. Many of the Mexican American career professionals in this area owe their success in part to the scholarships they received from LULAC Council #10.
It was in the 70's that LULAC Council #10 took the lead in a lobbying effort for an Iowa State Spanish Speaking Commission. In 1974 Governor Ray of Iowa established a Spanish Speaking Task Force under the auspices of his office. However, the task force members and other Latino leaders continued to press legislators to establish a Spanish Speaking Commission by legislation which was accomplished in 1976. The commission has evolved since then and is now known as the Latino Affairs Commission under the umbrella of the Human Resources Department of the State of Iowa.