In rural California, "the political, economic and social exclusion
of Latinos is far greater in that area than in San Francisco or Los
Angeles," according to Richard Martinez, executive director of the
Southwest Voter Registration Project in Los Angeles. However, in
rural towns, "the so-called minoritization of California has already
happened," according to Paula Cruz Takash, a professor of ethnic
studies at University of California San Diego.
Dinuba is a city of 14,000 in Tulare County in transition.
According to the 1990 COP, Dinuba was 60 percent Hispanic, but
xpected to elect a majority Latino city council for the first time in
November 1994, The election of three Latinos to the five-person
council was the result of a switch from at-large or citywide
elections to district elections after lawsuits were filed in 1990-91
alleging that the at-large voting system used to elect persons to
local office discriminated against Latinos.
Three of the five city council districts have Latino majority
populations. Joaquin Avila, the lawyer who filed the suit on behalf
of Dinuba Latinos, is asking the city to pay him $850,000 in fees.
The city has offered $350,000.
Dinuba's economy is dominated by fruit-packing and food-processing
plants. Latinos live in the west and southern parts of the city. In
1992, some parents had their children boycott schools for six weeks
because Dinuba schools allegedly prepared students for farm work.
Dinuba schools are 70 percent Latino, and the Dinuba school fight was
likened to the desegregation battles of the 1950s and 1960s. Some
predict that Latino parents are likely to protest school inadequacies
before getting involved in local politics.
Orange Cove, a town of 6,000 that is 90 percent Hispanic in
southeastern Fresno county, has had a Latino majority city council
since 1978. The activist mayor for most of the period since 1978 has
drawn praise for e.g., holding several city council meetings in
Spanish, and blamed for not doing more to improve the city's economy.
Hispanics hold about 70 percent of all city jobs, from accountants
to policemen. But local businessmen and Lions Club members are
reportedly 90 percent Anglo, and many say that they are no longer
represented in city politics.
The major issue in Orange Cove is housing vs. infrastructure.
Using redevelopment funds from property taxes and federal and state
grants, Orange Cove is building almost 500 low-income apartments and
houses, many of which house orange pickers, some of whom might
otherwise be crowded into garages and sheds.
The candidate opposing Lopez for mayor argues that, instead of
housing, scarce resources should be spent on police and fire
protection and other items desired by the owners of the eight orange
packing sheds that are the backbone of the region' s economy.
Gordon Smith, "Coming to Power: How Hispanics are gaining in
political influence; Mayor delivers jobs and housing," The San Diego
Union-Tribune, April 24-5, 1994, A1; Dan Morain, "Latinos Lead
Campaign for Better Education in Dinuba," Los Angeles Times, January
20, 1992, A1.