This year marks the 30th anniversary of the formation of the San Benito County League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Youth Council. BenitoLink reached out to several individuals who shared their experiences with the organization.
At an early age, Andres Rodriguez got a glimpse of local leadership up close when he accompanied his brother to League of United Latin American Citizens events. Now the national vice president of LULAC Young Adults, Rodriguez, 26, aims to implement what he’s learned to help the community.
His formative experience planted the seed for Rodriguez to pursue higher education. He recently received his master’s degree in social work, with an emphasis on social change and innovation from USC. Rodriguez also holds a bachelor’s in political science and Chicano studies from CSU-Northridge.
Rodriguez said he can now call on his assemblymember or state senator and he’ll be recognized “when things pop up.”
“It all stems back from LULAC because we had that exposure and we recognize that it’s possible to get to that position.”
As a LULAC member, Rodriguez participated in many fundraisers, conventions and retreats, including a visit to Cesar Chavez’s burial site in Keene, southeast of Bakersfield.
For him, LULAC is more than an organization that helps students create a path to college. It’s a Latinx group that helps students learn and experience their culture. Helping students feel like they belong helps them realize the power they have for change through advocacy, he said.
Involved with the organization for more than half his life, Rodriguez said LULAC continues to advocate for the Latinx community by adjusting to changes in federal leadership and administration.
“That’s why we are able to be at the forefront of all the injustices that occur throughout the country.”
While he advocates for migrant rights and social equality, Rodriguez wants to continue those efforts as an elected official. Before he begins that journey, he said he wanted to come back to his community to better understand its needs. He is also contemplating pursuing his doctorate.
Rodriguez was born and raised in Hollister to Mexican immigrants Sergio and Manuela Rodriguez. He said they are his motivation to give back to the community. As farm laborers, his parents were exposed to pesticides, which he said contributed to his brother’s health problems as a child.
Brother Gerardo, 39, was born with underdeveloped organs which required medical treatment. Manuela suffered seeing her firstborn fight for his life, which led to post-traumatic stress disorder in the form of memory loss.
“My mom has like five comadres that they were out there with her, but their sons are in a wheelchair. That’s why I consider my brother lucky because he got his undergrad, he got his master’s. He is a probation officer.”
His family struggles inspire Rodriguez to fight for the Latinx community through LULAC.
“That’s what really to this day keeps me going because I know it’s possible to be able to represent our community at that level,” Rodriguez said. “If it weren’t for my brother, I would think that it’s impossible.”