Phil Austin hopes that in 20 years there won’t be an organization like the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens.
“Hopefully, there would be no need for an advocacy group, and the society could work together for the benefit of all and not for the exclusion of any,” said Austin, association president and candidate for Mesa City Council District 5.
Until that day, the group continues to focus on education, economic development and leadership in Mesa’s Hispanic community.
Today, the association will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
In Austin’s view, some of the group’s greatest accomplishments include involvement in political issues, raising scholarship money, memberships on city boards and improving communication between parents and school leaders.
In past years, three members of the association have campaigned for public office but haven’t been elected.
Austin filed as a candidate for the District 5 seat on the Mesa City Council. He would be the first Hispanic member.
“We are providing support for people to consider that and prompt them to act,” Austin said. “We need a wider base to get elected. Some base of support is helpful.”
Carmen Guerrero, association member and a celebration organizer, said the group’s biggest contribution to the community has been keeping Latino issues at the forefront of public discussion.
She noted that contributions from the Latino community in business and diversity often are overlooked.
“We are the diversity, and a lot of businesses are Latino,” she said. “Nobody gives us credit.”
People tend to forget the city’s Latino roots, Guerrero said.
“Mesa before was a ranch area. It was called 'La Mesa’ and people spoke Spanish here,” she said.
The theme of Saturday’s event is “Celebrating our Past, Building our Future.” The celebration highlights the group’s accomplishments. Founding member José Cardenas will be master of ceremonies.
The dinner and auction will raise money for student scholarships. The group has raised $40,000 in the past 20 years.
What: Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens 20th Anniversary Celebration
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Commemorative Air Force Museum, 2017 N. Greenfield Road.
Cost: $30 per person for dinner, dance and silent auction