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LUPE holds third Biennial Gala, welcomes Cristela Alonzo

Cristela Alonzo, comedian, actress and San Juan native, speaks during LUPE’s third Biennial Gala last Thursday at the Mayrin Banquet Hall in Edinburg. BRYAN RAMOS/THE RIDER PHOTOS

La Union Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) held its third Biennial Gala last Thursday in Edinburg to honor members’ achievements with awards and a keynote address from comedian, actress and San Juan native Cristela Alonzo.

LUPE and community members alike joined to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at Mayrin Banquet Hall, where the theme was “Community Resistance: Our History is more powerful than any threat.”

Alonzo, the first Latina to create, produce and star in a network TV sitcom, spoke about growing up and living in a diner in San Juan, where her undocumented mother showed her the definition of hard work and perseverance.

During her keynote address, she spoke about how the good people in the Rio Grande Valley deserve to dream big and pursue those dreams. Alonzo also touched on President Trump and his actions.

Andres Chávez, the grandson of César Chávez, speaks during the LUPE third Biennial Gala last Thursday at the Mayrin Banquet Hall in Edinburg.

“If I could do it, anyone could do it, and that’s what I need to tell people here all the time,” she said. “I’m not special, I just didn’t quit, and that’s the message that we need to tell people. People come here for a better shot because that’s their only choice and that’s the message that we need to talk about. I know that I’ve been very lucky to have the opportunities that I have, and because of that, I know that I have to do something with that. For me, the best way to do that is to come here and do things for my home town.”

LUPE was founded by César Chávez in 1989 on the belief that when people work together, they can impact change. César Chávez envisioned LUPE would unite low-income communities to organize, advocate and articulate for the issues and factors that impact their lives.

Andres Chávez, the grandson of César Chávez, also spoke about the work he saw firsthand growing up in a home where activism and fighting for equal rights was the norm. Although he played little league baseball like many other kids, the influence Andres Chávez witnessed in his youth from family stuck with him and inspires him to continue the work his grandfather started years ago.

“I think the message here tonight is, we know that we have a few years ahead of us that may be tough, but the message that my grandfather always engrained in people is you only lose when you give up and when you stop fighting,” Andres Chávez said. “Our message today is, look, we’re here together, we’re a community, we’re strong, let’s continue resisting, let’s continue pushing to see change.

“So our fight is about respect and that’s the same fight we’re in today. We have this presidency who has these decisions and actions that are affecting our communities, and our fight for today, like it was 60 years ago, is a fight for respect; a fight for dignity and the fight to be seen as equal, so that’s the fight we’re always going to fight.”

Four LUPE members received awards recognizing them for their commitment to spreading hope, self-help and respect in their communities. Olivia Zarate, a LUPE leader and community health educator, received the Si Se Puede Award for her work since joining LUPE in 2005. She has organized colonia cleanups and even had public lighting installed in her colonia. Maria Romero received the Auto Ayuda–Self-Help Award for her work as a community health educator and LUPE advisory council member. Reverend Ed Krueger, a human and civil rights activist, and David Hall, executive director of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, took home Lifetime Achievement Awards for their years of service and commitment to helping migrants and farmworkers.

For more information on La Union Del Pueblo Entero, visit lupenet.org.

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