National Council of La Raza left behind the name it’s had for almost half a century in an attempt to unite Latinos in the new millennium.
NCLR, the largest Latino advocacy organization in the country, will now be known as UnidosUS. The nonpartisan groups’ President and CEO Janet Murguía told AZCentral the new name, which translates to UnitedUS, or United U.S., is meant to encourage unity within the community.
The announcement was made on Monday during the 2017 NCLR Conference held in Phoenix, the city where the organization was first founded in 1968. Murguía told NBC News that the organization has been working on the name change for three years and it was prompted by members in the organization who didn’t feel the term “raza” resonated with them.
In the past, politicians have created controversy around the organization’s use of “la raza,” which translates to “the race” but is more commonly used as “the people.” When Sonia Sotomayor became a Supreme Court nominee in 2009, then-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) argued she should be disqualified for belonging to the organization, which he said was “a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.”
Last year, Donald Trump also attempted to argue federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel was unfit to oversee his Trump University case because he was Mexican-American and belonged to a “pro-Mexican” group. Trump seemed to confuse the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, which advocates for more diversity in the legal field, with NCLR.
Attorney and NBC News contributor Raul A. Reyes wrote an op-ed Tuesday in support of NCLR’s name change. Reyes noted that nearly 50 years ago the term “la raza” was meant to appeal mostly to Mexican-Americans who had been involved in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.
“In 2017, ‘unidos’ is better than ‘la raza’ because it can better appeal to all U.S. Latinos — not just Mexican-Americans,” Reyes wrote. “This is a sensible move, especially at a time when Latinos continue to lack a national leader.”
But Christine Marín, historian and curator of Arizona State University’s Chicano Research Collection, told AZCentral the move could also alienate long-time members of the organization.
“Over time, labels change and the interpretation of those labels change,” Marín said. “The new name isn’t going to offend anybody, but I also don’t know who will connect ‘UnidosUS’ with NCLR. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”