The Impact of Latin Americans on Politics in Northern Louisiana: A Historical Perspective

Latinos who are native to Louisiana, such as Gómez, have often been seen as more sympathetic to the plight of Mexico due to their culture, religion, and language. Spanish rule in the colony had to take into account the diverse population, which included a large number of Native American tribes, a small but influential European population that was mainly French, and a small but significant number of Africans, both enslaved and free. To accommodate this diversity, Spanish officials maintained the French language and customs. This essay from the Latin American thematic study examines the role that Latino workers have played in the development of labor movements in the United States during the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century. It also looks at their role in the development of the United States.

For example, in Ybor City, Cuban-American workers who belonged to the United States Workers' Alliance and the Popular Front Committee were involved in local and national issues as well as international ones. Before the American conquest, Mexicans from the ranching economies of today's Texas and California worked as sheepherders, cowboys (vaqueros), servants, day laborers and artisans. President Roosevelt's New Deal labor legislation, including the Wagner Act of 1935, expanded the role of Latina workers. This included Bert Corona of the International Union of Longshoremen and Warehouses (ILWU) and Latina women from the International Union of Women's Garment Workers (ILGWU), who were actively participating in and building up the American labor movement.

In April 1973, a group of Latino trade unionists that included 10 international unions and 3 state federations met in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and formed the Labor Council for the Advancement of Latin America.

This section provides a historical context and framework for EDSITEment's resources on Latin American and Latino history, as well as ways to integrate NEH-funded projects in the classroom. The three-caste system, which is more typical of South American societies, persisted especially in New Orleans during the pre-war period and beyond.

In 1980, in San Francisco, Latino members of HERE Local 2 organized United Latinos (United Latinos) to support a hotel strike. At its 1996 annual convention, the Labor Council for the Advancement of Latin America presented resolutions on intensifying Latino organization within the labor movement. Latino labor organizations, union assemblies of AFL-CIO affiliates and central labor councils, associations and centers for immigrant workers have all drawn attention to low wages, labor discrimination and anti-immigrant nativism as well as underrepresentation in the labor movement. In 1971, Cuban-American union activist Joaquín Otero from the Transport and Communications Union (TCU) was elected international vice-president of TCU. Thousands of American colonists including Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark swore allegiance to Spain in exchange for land in Louisiana and western Florida. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States in 1994. The impact that Latin Americans have had on politics in Northern Louisiana is undeniable.

From their involvement in labor movements during the late 19th century to their participation in local politics today, Latinos have been an integral part of shaping this region's history. From their early days as sheepherders and cowboys to their more recent roles as union activists and organizers, Latinos have been instrumental in advocating for better wages and working conditions for all workers. They have also been active participants in local politics by forming organizations such as United Latinos to support hotel strikes. Furthermore, they have been vocal advocates for immigrant rights by drawing attention to labor discrimination and anti-immigrant nativism.

Finally, they have played an important role in international politics by being involved with NAFTA negotiations.

Willem Vermeulen
Willem Vermeulen

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