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 
Elvia Díaz

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, he said.

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 elvia.diaz@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8948.