Speaker sheds light on historic radical Latino movements

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Felipe Hinojosa, associate professor at Texas A&M University, delivered a presentation at the Gomez Latino Lecture Series on Thursday. He talked about young Latino radicals compelling churches to join movements against urban development in the late 1960s to the early 1980s. (Andrew Nieves)

An expert in Latino history explained to a BYU audience on Thursday how young Latino radicals compelled churches to join movements against urban development, police brutality and racism in the late 1960s to early 1980s.

Felipe Hinojosa, associate professor at Texas A&M University, spoke at the inauguration of the Fernando R. Gomez Latino Lecture Series sponsored by the BYU Department of History and the BYU Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.

Hinojosa has a doctorate from the University of Houston. He discussed his book “Apostles of Change: Religion, Radical Politics and the Fight to Save the Barrio” which discusses the problem of urban renewal policies normalizing the displacement of Latinos in Chicago, pushing them from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Hinojosa discussed how Latino liberation movements regularly crossed religious and political lines. He argued that understanding the history of these radical politics is critical to comprehending the dynamic changes in Latino religious groups from the late 1960s and efforts for Latinos to find their place today.

“This is the Latino story written at large from Puerto Rico to Central America to Mexico. People are trying to find a home,” he said.

Hinojosa said many Latinos come to the United States thinking they made it and then figure out they are going to be displaced once again. Change starts with neighborhood coalitions organizing people together to enact it, not only through politics but also through music, dance and knowing their history.

BYU Western and Latino history professor Ignacio Garcia helped organize this lecture. The said this event is a reminder that it takes all kinds of people to do something good. “This story is about Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, whites and all kinds, seeing a need and responding.”

Garcia said he wants students to know there is a road for them and they can do anything they set their mind to.

Stephanie Morales, vice president of the BYU Hispanos Unidos club, heard about the lecture through her Latino Civil Rights Seminar.

“I think it’s important to the Latino community to not only learn about their history within the civil rights movements but to also know that this scholarship is an ongoing process and work,” Morales said.

The more people learn about Latino history, the more they can learn about how to make a difference now with present-day Latino-Americans’ challenges, she said.

“It has become clear to me that empowering Latinx students to embrace where they come from and what they represent is the key to make significant and lasting change for those who will come after us,” Morales said.

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