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Film Explores Life And Work Of Latino Activist Willie Velasquez

 Willie Velasquez speaking at a Southwest Voter Registration and Education Event in 1988.
George Velasquez
Willie Velasquez speaking at a Southwest Voter Registration and Education Event in 1988.
Film Explores Life And Work Of Latino Activist Willie Velasquez
Film Explores Life And Work Of Latino Activist Willie Velasquez GUEST: Hector Galán, director, "Willie Velasquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice"

With the record 27 million Latino voters in the US there's a lot of talk about how the vote will shake the election. The Latino voting block was not always the force it is today. In the late 1970s civil rights activist William Velasquez phone to the Southwest voter registration and education project. It's movement is still being felt today. A new film arriving soon on KPBS television explores the life and work of William Velasquez. Joining us is hectic alum director of the documentary, "Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice" . Let me apologize for my raspy voice. I have an allergy attack it's a pitfall of living in Austin Texas and I have it. For those who are not familiar with the late William Velasquez, he worked with Sievers dose Cesar Chavez. When Cesar Chavez started this trike in 1965 in California. It sparked a wildcat strike in Texas. That's when Willie got involved in Texas, with UFW. He became a boycott committee person, creating boycotts across the country. He was on the committee and that's what got him started with the movement. Tell us about how he got into his life works. That's a journey that he took, he inspired a whole generation of us. He is a little older than I am, by just a few years. We had our own movement that we started, will was a Chicano movement the -- he became a part of that. He started a group in Texas which was the Mexican American youth organization and this was a youth movement by young Chicanos, who are demanding better education, they were tired of being alienated and considered second-class citizens in America. That galvanized all of us and he really didn't get into voting registration until he realized and so did I, marching and protesting alone wasn't going to do it. He then moved into where the real power was, that was the power in our hands. He really got intimately engaged in the process. Let's hear a clip from the film so we get to hear his voice. Here is William Velasquez I think we make a contribution. I feel it is with all immigrant groups of done. They are new blood, new blood that revitalizes the Democratic process. I think that's what's going to happen in the next 30 years. The Mexicans, they are laborers, they are making this country true to its ideals. That means even the humblest have a right to elect there representation. That was William Velasquez . Did you know him personally? What was it about him that inspired you? What's really interesting, I interviewed him in 1983. The majority of the footage in this documentary is what I shot back then. There was very little footage of anything dealing with Latino civil rights men. His Southwest voter registration project helped to transform the political landscape. How much impact is his work having today? What can we see today that is the result of his work? You have spinoffs, bring out the vote campaigns, Victory Latino, Republican groups. I think it inspired a whole group of people. He was the spark that got it going. That spread all the way to California, the Southwest, Colorado and throughout the southwest. The interesting thing is that, when will he was starting there were 3 million registered voters -- Latino voters. Today, there are [ Indiscernible ] its predicted there are 18 million who will vote and we wonder if we ask this in the documentary, Latinas have been called the sleeping giant. I am wondering if in this particular election, because of all the rhetoric, if that giant is not going to wake up. Hector, why do you think it is that the Latino vote continues to lag. I think it has a lot to do with education. We have a lot of newer people. You have to understand that every year we have million Latinos turning 18. You have to get those new people, the ones that are making the huge numbers now, we are talking about over 53 million Latinos. We have to do what will he was doing. We have to get back out there. I am very impressed and I'm very surprised at the social networks that did not exist back then. I see them today, I see the engagement of young Latinos getting involved. I think a lot of it has to do with what's been happening, also with the dreamers and with the idea of what's going on about a wall and immigration. I am hoping that this will motivate the people to get out there and let's see. Frankly, I don't think anyone can be President of the United States without the Latino vote today. The documentary "Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice" airs Monday, October 3 at 9:00 on KPBS television. Hector Galan, thank you for joining us.

With a record 27 million eligible Latino voters in the U.S. there's a lot of talk about how the Latino vote will shape the 2016 presidential election.

But the Latino voting bloc wasn't always the force it is today.

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In 1974, Latino activist William "Willie" Velasquez founded the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project.

The non-partisan group held 1,000 voter registration drives aimed at the Hispanic community around the nation. It's a movement still being felt today.

"You have spinoffs, bring out the vote campaigns, you have Victory Latino, you even have Republican groups. I think it inspired a whole group of people and he was the spark that got it going and it spread to California and the Southwest," said Hector Galán, director of a new film about Willie Velasquez's life and work.

Galán joins Midday Edition Tuesday to preview the documentary, "Willie Velasquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice."

Free screenings are scheduled on Tuesday at noon at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union theater and Friday at 6:30 p.m. at San Diego State's Imperial Valley campus.

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The film airs on KPBS television Monday October 8, at 9 p.m.

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