Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/1119b2profile19-esquivel.html
LULAC director finally set to do battle in Arizona
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 19, 2003
Samuel Esquivel took over one of the most influential Hispanic
groups in Arizona, ready to carry out his agenda.
At the top of his list: fighting for bilingual education, encouraging more
Latinos to vote and helping defeat a proposed 2004 ballot initiative that would
deny social services to undocumented immigrants.
But it took six months for the state director of the League of United Latin
American Citizens to get a grip on the roughly 1,500-member organization.
It wasn't until earlier this month that Esquivel had access to the group's bank
account, after a Valley newspaper reported about his predicament.
"It has been very difficult, to say the least," said Esquivel, noting that the
group had problems even setting aside a conference center for its annual
gathering because he didn't have access to the money.
Adding his name to the checkbook was a task that should have been done quickly,
Brent Wilkes, LULAC's national executive director, said that on Monday he sent a
fiscal officer from El Paso to review the finances of the Arizona group and that
everything has been resolved.
"There is no impropriety here," Wilkes said. "It was an unfortunate delay and
nobody is to blame."
Esquivel, who has six more months of his one-year tenure, said he will now be
able to pursue his ambitious agenda aggressively.
He will continue to help Valley Hispanic parents who are turning to federal
civil rights laws seeking that their Spanish-speaking children get the same top
education as everyone else.
"The Spanish language is one of the most important parts of our culture," said
Esquivel, who never misses a chance to speak Spanish.
"It was taught to us by our ancestors and we should pass it on to new
generations," said Esquivel, adding that he encourages young Latinos to learn
the language because that's the key to retaining their cultural heritage.
Born in San Marcos, Texas, 52 years ago, Esquivel grew up in the cotton fields
where he worked to help his parents. After graduating from high school, Esquivel
joined the Air Force, where he remained for 24 years as an administrator.
In 1996, Esquivel retired from the Air Force and moved to the Valley. He now
works for Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix.
Most of his free time is devoted to LULAC and the causes the nation's oldest
Hispanic organization promotes.
"Our organization has remained in tune with the many problems facing Latinos,"
Esquivel said. "We will continue our mission."
Reach the reporter
or (602) 444-8948.