Folks in New Mexico might debate that assurance, but it is certainly true that many Latinos across the country are moving beyond being satisfied by a few token gestures to their language and customs from politicians who are never to be seen except in election season.
It works this way: most people are not political junkies. They participate in the work of elections -- phoning, canvassing, talking with strangers -- reluctantly, only when they feel vitally moved to do so. They'd rather not do politics, but they will if they feel their lives depend on it. It is too much to ask to keep people in a hyped-up state that drives them to electoral participation all the time. A community demonstrates broad-based electoral power when each of its members need only work hard on something like one in three elections, because such a broad swath of people have acquired, though experience, an understanding that they can and must work on some elections.
CSO was doing this work in California barrios throughout the decade of the 1950s and into the '60s. That generation of leaders, despite openly racist opposition, did the hard work of mobilizing the communities to take up the cudgels offered by democracy. Today's Latino leaders -- such people as Los Angles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, the Sanchez sisters in the U.S. Congress and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis -- won their prominence on the foundation laid by the hard community organizing of an earlier generation. That's usually how it works.
The CSO's first President Herman Gallegos with current students at National Hispanic University on Saturday.