Voices representing people of Latin culture in East Texas

From political figures to radio DJs, across East Texas Hispanics are stepping up to represent their communities.

TEXAS, USA — I’m from South Texas where growing up Hispanic representation was always front and center.

From leaders in San Antonio to the legendary Selena in Corpus Christi.

One thing I noticed when I moved to East Texas is how silent the Hispanic community can be.

So, I decided to take a deep look in various parts of East Texas to find who are the voices representing people of Latin culture.

“We’re not just from Mexico anymore, we’re from everywhere,” Vickie Murillo, an active board member of the Henderson Housing Authority said.

A city where she grew up, and where she says the Hispanic population is increasing but across East Texas representation is not.

“It lacks, I feel that we need more Hispanic representation,” Murillo said. “We’re better than we were a couple of years ago, but I think that we still need more.”

Vickie has seen Hispanic organizations rise and fall.

From dancing entertainment like baile folklorico to the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC in Longview.

She remembers what it was like to grow up being Hispanic in East Texas.

“In the early, like 90s, mid 90s, later, 90s, you felt it more as a Hispanic, you could see that it was still very hard to walk into a business and be treated equally or the same,” Murillo said. “You know, there were places that didn’t want to hire any Hispanics or bilinguals, and I remember being told they need to learn English.”

Since those experiences, today she’s says East Texas is starting to transition.

First and second-generation Hispanics in East Texas are stepping up and voicing their needs.

Showing that even when there is a lapse in representation there is still room for growth.

“We need to continue representing, we need to continue celebrating our culture, doing it in a positive way,” Murillo said.

After talking with Murillo she led me to two people in Longview of Hispanic descent who are currently running for an office position in city council.

“Hispanic representation to me is not only being represented out in public in print or text, but it means really going out to the community, and outreaching the Latino community,” Michelle Gamboa, a candidate for Longview City Council District 5 said.

Politicians going head to head to represent Longview.

“Hispanic representation to me is making sure we are at the table and making sure we are heard,” Jose Sanchez, another candidate for Longview City Council District 5 said.

These proud Latinos are ready to bring change to the city.

“There’s never been a Latino council person,” Gamboa said. “I want to encourage all Latinos, all Hispanics to get involved today. Whether that’s in a nonprofit board, whether that’s running for local government, or big government, whether that’s running for anything, I just really want Latinos to know that they are powerful.”

Gamboa has many roles from working with Miss Texas Latina, the Texas Latino Conservatives PAC, and Longview Community Ministries.

“So not only am I proud of being Latino, I’m proud of Longview,” Gamboa said. “I’m so happy and excited that God brought us here from Mexico.”

Another candidate on the ballot is Jose Sanchez.

A former leader of the Longview LULAC chapter, until he had to move to attend Harvard University.

“I’m the only Hispanic in Longview that’s a lawyer,” Sanchez said. “And it’s been like that for years.”

Helping Spanish speaking clientele with legal suits.

“I think over time, once we get somebody like me elected, it’s going to give hope for other Hispanics,” Sanchez said. “To reach out and run for something. Even my friends in Tyler have ran for city council.”

Sanchez wants to focus on educating the immigrant community in East Texas to ensure they don’t fear speaking up for themselves.

And on election day, Longview history could be made.

“I’m trying to get more Hispanics involved,” Sanchez said. “Especially business owners involved with the chamber, so we can make sure that they’re providing services to the whole community.”

I also got in contact with another small East Texas town that is currently planning their next Cinco de Mayo celebration.

“We’re having May Fiesta Days in the timeframe of Cinco de Mayo, so we’re really doing a culture Hispanic day,” Silvia Reyes, a Mineola community supporter said.

One of the few towns in East Texas that has their chamber of commerce plan a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

“We have a lot of Hispanics here in Mineola,” Reyes said. “And so most of them felt like there’s nothing for us. So a lot of community leaders approached each other, and we approached the chamber.”

And the chamber listened.

“We’re going to have Brianna Arteaga, we’re going to have a mariachi band,” Jessica Romine, Mineola Chamber Manager said. “We’re going to have the low riders, a truck show, we’re going to have vendors.”

Bringing the community back together for this event for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our last one was in 2019, so COVID kind of put a stop on everything,” Romine said. “But this year, we are expanding expecting a huge turnout.”

“Not only people from Mineola come, but other families from other areas come,” Reyes said. “We have people from Nacogdoches come one year, Dallas, Longview. It’s a beautiful town. So, you guys got to come out and check it out.”

(Need it labeled “Spanish Christian radio station connects families across East Texas”)

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