Conventioneers gather around the main lobby of the expanded Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Photo by Scott Ball.
Conventioneers gather in the main lobby of the expanded Henry B. González Convention Center. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

After nearly 40 years as a member of LULAC, Rosa Rosales today finds herself still advocating for some of the same things she fought for in the late 1970s.

She and her colleagues in the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, have championed for women’s and immigrant rights, and more education opportunities for Latinos, among an abundance of other causes affecting the national Latino community. While some progress has been made, the nation still has a long way to go, she said.

Still impassioned to increase opportunities for Latinos in her hometown San Antonio and across the country, Rosales is gearing up for the 88th LULAC National Convention and Exposition, a large-scale education, leadership, and community resource event that meets each year in a different city across the country.

The event, which will take place from July 4-8 at the Henry B. González Convention Center, is expected to draw more than 15,000 people to downtown San Antonio to participate in a variety of leadership seminars, workshops, college, career, and health fairs, and youth and adult conferences centered around issues affecting the Latino population.

Rosales – the event’s co-chair – calls it a “training ground” for participants to make a positive impact in their communities and become aware of the various resources available to them to do so. Through her work, she has learned that “issues that affect Latinos affect the whole community.

“Everybody is invited [to the convention],” she said. “You don’t have to be Latino.”

This is the second time San Antonio has hosted the national LULAC convention, which is expected to have a $10 million impact on the city, according to event co-chair Elia Mendoza. With the help of more than 300 partners, including universities, corporations, nonprofits, and labor unions contributing to or taking part in the 2017 program, event planners hope the convention will be one of the biggest and most impactful yet.

The accessibility to the event will help make that possible. While some of the special presentations and luncheons require purchasing tickets, all other seminars, workshops, and fairs are free and open to the public, Mendoza said. That way, more residents of and visitors to San Antonio – home to more than 800,000 Hispanics that make up more than 60% of the local population – can take advantage of the helpful resources at their disposal.

Topics of discussion and services will focus on civic engagement, civil rights, diversity, education, employment, entrepreneurship, financial management, health care, housing, immigration, Latina empowerment, leadership, public service, and technology.

“We want to make sure the public is well informed,” Rosales said.

This year also will feature a youth soccer tournament and numerous free musical and dance performances.

The speaker lineup for this year has not yet been released, Rosales said, but past speakers have included members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, local elected officials, celebrities, and academic experts. Ahead of the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spoke at last year’s convention in Washington D.C., along with former HUD Secretary and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro. The nonpartisan organization invites both Democrats and Republicans to the festivities, Rosales said.

Rosales said her organization has been fundraising to make hosting the national event a reality. Last week, the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court allocated $50,000 to the endeavor. Rosales and her team are also hoping for financial support from the City and other entities to help fund the numerous free workshops and seminars offered throughout the five-day event, as well as LULAC scholarships.

Having the convention in San Antonio is special, Rosales said, not only because it’s her home town but because the majority Latino city is “very unique.”

“We’ve got the Missions, we’ve got the Alamo, we’ve got the Spurs. It’s a very historical place,” she said. “It’s also a very friendly town … full of rich history and culture.”

The LULAC LGBT Council 22198 “Orgullo de San Antonio” also is inviting the city’s top mayoral candidates to “Plática Política: A Political Dialogue,” an event where candidates can share their vision for San Antonio and field questions submitted ahead of time by citizens. The forum will take place Monday, April 3 at 6 p.m. at Luby’s Fiesta Meeting Room, 911 N. Main St.

For tickets and more information about the 2017 LULAC National Convention and Exposition, click here.

Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com