The National Council of La Raza has been advocating for the Latino community in the areas of health, education, immigration, and housing, since 1968. As this organization's fiftieth anniversary approaches, NCLR has undergone a name change to UnidosUS.
Zandra Zuno Baermann, Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing for UnidosUS
joins Robert Trayhahm to share some history of the organization, current priorities and a look toward the future. Click here
for part 1 of UnidosUS.
Traynham: Is it fair to say you started off with more of an economic-empowerment kind of mission and now transition more to civil rights and everything under the sun, or...? Walk us through your North Star. What do you feel is that you need a voice here in Washington, D.C., to help represent?
Baermann: Well, we are definitely a civil rights and advocacy organization, and our mission is to help Latinos eliminate all the barriers, whether they're political, economic, or social, and we really work in those three areas. I would say that our foundation, our strength, is our nearly 300 affiliates, which are made up of locally based organizations that help the Latino community at the local level in all different types of areas -- from healthcare to housing to economic development to immigration. So clearly, we are trying to help in every way possible to eliminate those barriers for the Latino community.
Traynham: You know, a former president used to say, you know, a big, big tide rises all boats from an economic standpoint, and when you have a healthy paycheck, that means, you know, you have a good car, you have a house, access to education, access to healthcare. In other words, it really just starts with your economic health, if you will. Would you agree with that, and would you say that's the main driving force behind Unidos?
Baermann: That's one of the main driving forces. Obviously, equality for all is, as well, and part of that gets you to that economic access and economic development. And, as you just said -- I mean, all boats rise, right? If the Latino community does well, the entire country does well, and that we have to recognize that more than 16% of the population today is Latino and growing even more. So it's in the best interest of not only us to look at the Latino community but look at the Latino community as part of the greater American -- the country and everything that we have to strive for as a country.
Traynham: Zandra, walk us through why you decided to change the name to Unidos.
Baermann: UnidosUS. Traynham: Thank you. UnidosUS. Why?
Baermann: Well, it was actually our community that led us there. We embarked on a process of evaluating our organization and evaluating the name NCLR as we started to plan for our 50th anniversary, which is next year. In that process, we heard a lot from our community leaders, we did an online survey of Hispanics, we had one-to-one meetings, and in that process, what we learned is while there was a lot of support for our mission, it looked like our name was a barrier.
Traynham: How so?
Baermann: It wasn't as relevant to our broader group of Latinos that we reach today. At one point, National Council of La Raza was very relevant maybe more to the Mexican-American community, but as our community continues to diversify and be broad-reaching, it wasn't relevant to all audiences.
Traynham: And, Zandra, for the benefit of those who are watching at home or perhaps on their smart device who may not be native Spanish speakers, what does "UnidosUS" and/or "La Raza" mean?
Baermann: Right. So, UnidosUS means "United U.S." And Unidos for us is a nod to our heritage and the people that we serve, but also a nod that we're part of the fabric of America. It is a call to action not only to Latinos but all who want to join us in an effort to really move the country forward.
Traynham: And "La Raza"?
Baermann: La Raza means "the people."
Traynham: I see.
Traynham: Let's transition now to the future, and let's talk about this country that we all love and how it's changing for the next generation or so. Are you optimistic that organizations such as yours and others will continue to be relevant 15, 20, 30 years from now?
Baermann: Absolutely. We think, and because of our name change, that that's -- It's seeded in that thought that united we can accomplish anything. Our president and CEO, Janet Murguia, likes to say that in unity there is strength, and in strength there is power, and I think the more united we are, the stronger we are as a community and the more power and influence that we have to move forward our agenda and the rights of all communities, not just Latino communities.
Traynham: Zandra Baermann, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Baermann: Thank you.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Robert Traynham.