LUPE members from colonias throughout the Valley raised their voice together in LUPE’s 2012 Cumbre de Colonias this past Saturday, February 25. Colonia residents met to prioritize the issues that LUPE will tackle in the next two years. The discussions also included the connections between the resolutions and the Equal Voice Family Platform and the power of colonia residents to address the issues that impact working families.
The Process of Democracy
The convention took place on Saturday, February 25, at LUPE’s San Juan office. In house meetings, classes and trainings throughout January and February, LUPE members met to prioritize their top issues, and formulate resolutions to express their sentiments on a range of issues that affect the quality of life in the Valley.
At Saturday’s convention, members discussed and passed resolutions on issues ranging from streetlights in colonias to support for ESL and citizenship classes. The resolutions allow LUPE’s membership base to prioritize the issues to be addressed as an organization. They reaffirm the organization’s commitment in certain areas and help direct our work in others.
Another important result of the event was the election of eight LUPE members to serve on the LUPE Advisory Council. The council meets regularly with LUPE staff to review the work being done and suggest new initiatives or approaches to address persistent problems.
Building Power through Networks
Delegates also heard Mike Seifert describe and explain the importance of their participation in the Equal Voice Network. His talk compared the sound of a wooden bell that represents single voices to that of a large, brass bell that represents the united voices of a strong network of organizations speaking for justice. Fuerza del Valle representative Hector Guzman also emphasized the importance of LUPE’s participation in the Jobs Working Group of the Equal Voice Network. Through Fuerza, local residents have recovered over $50,000 in lost wages.
Colonia Residents, Juntos Creando Cambios
Colonia residents have a clear vision for creating solutions to their problems, and by organizing with La Union del Pueblo Entero, colonia residents learn to raise their collective voice to promote positive change.
In the last year, LUPE members working alongside allies in the RGV Equal Voice Network have won several major victories for their communities. After an 8 year campaign calling on county officials to bring public lighting to their colonias, colonia residents won the installation of streetlights in 13 Hidalgo County colonias. Colonia residents also won $186 million in federal disaster relief funding to benefit low income colonia residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Dolly. Of this amount, $14 million will fund drainage projects within or benefiting colonias.
At the Cumbre, LUPE members passed 6 resolutions affirming the organization’s support and commitment to work for:
• Continuing to provide ESL, GED, and Citizenship classes for LUPE members so people can improve their lives
• Access to Texas Drivers License and Texas ID so everyone can comply with the laws
• Immigration reform that will allow our nation to benefit fully from the contributions of immigrants
• Streetlight systems in colonias to improve safety and security
• Drainage projects in colonias to reduce the flooding associated with storms
• Parks and walking trails accessible to colonias so people can improve their health through exercise
Each of the 6 resolutions has elements that connect with the working groups of the RGV Equal Voice Network. The resolution supporting LUPE classes recognizes the importance of education for improving the lives and opportunities for adult learners. Immigration reform and access to Texas Drivers Licenses are key goals of the Immigration Working Group. Streetlights, parks and walking trails are an important part of creating safe and thriving communities where residents can address health issues through exercise. And drainage improvements are a priority for the Housing Working Group. All resolved to use civic engagement, recognizing its importance for moving toward the goals of the resolutions and the Equal Voice Network Family Platform.
The direction and participation of colonia residents have been critical components to the victories we have seen over the last year. Saturday’s Cumbre de Colonias pointed us in the direction of the victories we will surely see in the future.