In 1968, LBJ declared the week beginning September 15 as national Hispanic Awareness week; 20 years later, Ronald Reagan extended it to a month. This week, county supervisors Das Williams and Joan Hartmann led the charge to change the name to commemorate Latinx Awareness month. Forty-five percent of the county’s population, the supervisors noted, are of Latinx origin.
Supervisor Gregg Hart took the occasion to honor World War II veteran Private First Class Arthur Peterson — born in Mexico and naturalized two weeks before the D-Day invasion, in which he participated — as Veteran of the Month. Peterson, now 98, could not attend, but his long involvement in community affairs was enumerated in considerable detail.
Meanwhile, representatives of the financially ailing La Casa de la Raza showed up to plead for help. Ana Huynh, one of La Casa’s new co-executive directors asked the supervisors “to help save our community center, our sacred land.” La Casa, located on East Montecito Street in downtown Santa Barbara, was founded in the early 1970s to function as a cultural and political hub for the nascent Latino rights movement then gaining traction.
For the past 15 years, La Casa has suffered ongoing and serious financial and management problems that could well prove fatal. The new directors are teaming up with some of the original founders in a cry for community help. Depending upon whom one asks, the group’s debt ranges from $500,000 to $1.2 million, and final foreclosure on what had been an integral part of Santa Barbara’s cultural landscape now appears imminent.