Ever since 1971, the Latino Civic Association (LCA) has had such a strong presence and history in Ithaca, specifically in Tompkins County. From starting off as a small community, and having small gatherings in an apartment complex to now having annual parties (fiestas), holiday festivities, volunteer work and so much more, the LCA community and executive board have done nothing but assisted many Latino/Hispanic families and communities between Cornell University, Ithaca College, though most importantly, in Ithaca.
After noticing the limited number of people of color, particularly Latinos/Hispanics within Ithaca, de Castro felt isolated. “I felt culturally isolated. I wasn’t socially isolated [because] I met a large number of really amazing and nice people, but I felt the need for friendships in my own cultural group.”
As she continued to be a member of LCA, she eventually served in the executive board as Secretary for many years, which allowed her to learn and be a part of the organization more. A few years after that, she was then elected President. She emphasizes that she’s not in charge of the organization, but she leads the board. “It is a collaborative group of people. We try not to let hierarchies impinge on our work. It’s a board of colleagues really and some of us just have different functions.”
The ones that are very well known within the organization include: Aiding Latinos/Hispanics agriculture immigrant workers and their families outside of Tompkins County by providing them with food, furniture, more information on COVID-19, voting rights and information, and assistance on U.S. documentation, their annual Holiday Party in December, their yearly Picnic at Stewart Park during the Summer and celebrating Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month through Films, Art and Dance.
After arriving in Ithaca with her family in June 2018, Azucena Campos Lopez, through many connections, got in touch with de Castro. One year later, she became one of the three Co-Directors of Cultura (Culture) at LCA. The other two Co-Directors include: Enrique Gonzalez-Conty, a Spanish professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at IC, who is in charge of the film festival, and Paulina Velázquez Solís, who is in charge of the Art Exhibition.
Both de Castro and Campos-Lopez, who have been in relations with IC and Cornell through numerous programs such as: Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) at Cornell, the Latino Living Center at Cornell, the Latino Studies Program both at IC and Cornell, and the Native American/Indigenous Studies both at IC and Cornell, they both hope to widen their connections even more within the Ithaca area, build those bonds, and create a diverse community.
"I was new in town and I was looking for my people, to know and build community. I found the association in its early stages, it was not incorporated at the time and it was basically a group of people getting together on a very voluntary basis. (There was) a shared desire to touch base with other Latinos in the community." de Aragon said.
De Aragon says LCA continues to be a volunteer based group while still having so many resources for those in the Ithaca community. He’s proud of how the grassroots organization can do so many things like advocacy for people trying to become U.S citizens, scholarship opportunities, providing legal resources for those who have experienced discrimination and even accessible healthcare options.
De Aragon says the holiday Christmas party has been one of the most unifying experiences hosted by the LCA, that has been an ongoing tradition for almost 30 years. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions there was no holiday party last year and it's unlikely that LCA will host one in person this year.
The LCA has collaborated with both Ithaca College and Cornell through events like café con cultura, where students and guest speakers would enjoy coffee together. De Aragon also says LCA has been able to take advantage of artists coming to visit the schools in order to arrange for additional performances in town hosted by the organization. Artists hosted by LCA also have events near the schools in order for students to participate.