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LULAC National President Domingo Garcia speaks as LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides and Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) listen during a news conference. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation's oldest Latino civil rights group, isn't getting any younger — but the people it represents are, a reality that's quickly reshaping its focus.

Why it matters: LULAC's median membership age is 66 and its meetings still open with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. But the median age of today's U.S. Latino population is 19.

  • Many Latino Gen Z and Millennials are more likely than their parents and grandparents to identify with multiethnic coalitions fighting systemic racism.
  • Latinos' political influence is growing. The U.S. Hispanic population, now 61 million, could nearly double in the next four decades.
  • These factors are helping to drive the evolution of an organization that was founded in Texas in 1929 by Hispanic veterans of World War I, and whose early initiatives focused on court fights over desegregation, education, and minimum wage protections.

Driving the news: Today, Domingo Garcia, LULAC's national president since 2018, is speaking out against anti-Asian American violence, standing with the Black Lives Matter movement, and supporting Native American activists seeking the removal of public monuments to Spanish conquistadors.

  • He's encouraging the creation of LGBTQIA councils and pushing his group to open student councils on community college campuses.
  • LULAC also is active in opposing voter suppression proposals in Texas, Georgia, and Arizona.
  • He's seeking to attract younger members as the group's Mexican-American Baby Boomer base ages.

What they're saying: "This is not your grandfather's civil rights organization anymore," Garcia tells Axios.

  • "We have to make these changes to survive and continue to fight for our communities," he said. "The nation's changing. We have to, too."
  • The organization reports about 132,000 members across 50 states and Puerto Rico and says it's grown by about 15,000 over the last 15 years.

Between the lines: LULAC's national board and its local councils across the U.S. are still led by Baby Boomers who kept the organization alive through membership declines in the 1980s.

  • Women have gradually taken on more leadership in the organization, after some councils blocked women from being members as late as the 1990s.
  • The organization has become increasingly outspoken on immigrant rights.

What we're watching: Can a modernizing LULAC expand its core beyond a base in Texas and the American Southwest base and attract more Puerto Rican and Central American leadership?

This story first appeared in the new Axios Latino newsletter. Sign up here.

Go deeper

Updated Mar 30, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on key issues in the Latino community

On March 30, Axios justice and race reporter Russell Contreras hosted one-on-one conversations with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) for the launch of the Axios Latino newsletter.

Dolores Huerta discussed immigration reform, equality for marginalized groups in America, and unpacked the history of Asian-American and Latino solidarity in labor organizing in the 1960s.

  • On how the foundations of activism remain the same: "[Social media] gives organizers a great tool to be able to bring people together. But in terms of really educating people...I think sometimes we really have to sit down and have one on one talks with people so that we can make them understand. "
  • On immigration as a cornerstone of American history: "Every single immigrant group that came to the United States got their legal status and eventually became citizens of the United States. And our first immigrants, we have to remind them, came from Europe...It's been the policy of the United States since this country was formed."

Sen. Ben Ray Luján discussed Latino representation in the federal government, the economy in New Mexico, and how the latest COVID-19 relief package will impact constituents.

  • On the American Rescue Plan on New Mexico: "Ninety-five percent of families with children in New Mexico will benefit from the new child tax credit. That's an investment in them and in their futures."
  • On Latino representation in Congress: "We have a responsibility now that we are at the table to ensure that the Latino community in the Hispanic community are not going to be left out."

Subscribe to Axios Latino.

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Dems pick white woman over Latinas, Native American for Haaland seat

New Mexico state lawmaker Melanie Stansbury. Campaign photo.

New Mexico Democratic officials on Wednesday nominated a white state lawmaker over Latina and Native American candidates for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's former U.S. House seat.

Why it matters: The selection of state Rep. Melanie Stansbury to replace one of the nation's first Native American female U.S. House members could put a relatively safe Democratic seat in play for a special election in the heavily Latino central New Mexico district.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations were "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.