LULAC and American GI Forum: History and Geography 1929-1988
by Josue Estrada
The League of United Latin American Citizens has represented Mexican Americans since 1929, making it the nation's oldest surviving Latino civil rights organization. Founded in Corpus Christi in 1929, LULAC expanded first in Texas, adding 18 councils the next year. More were added in the next decade, but again mostly in Texas. With World War II, LULAC began to extend its reach to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and later Colorado. Victory in a precedent-setting 1945 lawsuit challenging segregation of Mexican American students in Orange County, California, helped the organization grow. LULAC claimed 2,500 members in 1951 and the number of chapters reached 83 in 1955 shortly after another pivotal legal victory (Hernandez v. Texas). The next decade brought LULAC new influence and a new geography, reflecting the Tejano diaspora that was now spreading into the upper Midwest. In 1965 the 146 Councils were distributed among 8 states. By 1977, LULAC had a presence in 21 states yet the total number of Councils had declined. But in 1988, LULAC saw a resurgence in new Councils as 551 were founded bringing the total to over 600. LULAC Councils and state offices were in 32 states including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, and reaching new geographies in the Upper East Coast and Florida. From an early date women organized separate Ladies Councils and they are identified on the following maps.
The American GI Forum was founded in 1948 by returning veterans. Along with LULAC, the GI Forum provided an important voice for Mexican Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Attracting a larger membership than LULAC, in 1959 the veterans' organization claimed 25,000 members in 18 states. Interestingly, it was not until the early 1960s that chapters appeared in California. The maps below track the growth of the two organizations and their expansion from 1929 to 1977. Research by Josue Estrada. Sources below. The maps are hosted by Tableau Public and may take a few seconds to respond. If slow, refresh the page.