Percy Duran, a 36-year-old Mexican-American lawyer born in El Paso, and raised in the Los Angeles barrio, is anxious that his personal pattern of achievement and growth should become a model for other Hispanic success stories.
"My father was a plumber with a fourth-grade education. My mother did get all the way through high school, though," said Duran, a graduate of UCLA law school, former director of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and now director of the minority associations development division at the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.
"But in my family, there were no professionals. I had no role models for success. I am part of that first generation of Hispanics that came out of the barrio to get an education and compete successfully as professionals in the Anglo world."
Duran, who came to Washington in 1978, was distributed by what he perceived as a lack of qualified Hispanic professionals serving as an active national and local lobby on Hispanic affairs.
The Hispanic Bar Association, founded in 1975, seemed just the vehicle through which to channel his concern. Elected president of the association last year, Duran was instrumental in increasing memberships to the current 150. All full members are lawyers of Hispanic origin who belong to the D.C. Bar; associate memberships are available to paralegals such as law interns.
"One of our main concerns is to see that Hispanics are adequately and fairly represented on a national and local level," said Duran. "As lawyers, we are in a unique position to keep tabs on whether a representative number of Hispanics are being appointed by key local and national jobs. We are a kind of informal lobby for the Hispanic community."
Members of the association are divided into committees -- including community outreach, education, employment, legislation, communications, international contacts and judiciary -- to study these areas and prepare reports on progress or problems. The reports are presented at the association's monthly meetings at which attendance consistently runs more than 50 percent.
Members of the association include Hispanic lawyers working at the White House, on Capitol Hill, at the Federal Communications Commission and at other government agencies. Several members are administrative judges for other agencies of the federal government. The association as yet has no facilities of its own, but the D.C. Bar Association has offered the use of its premises. All association work is done on a volunteer basis.
"It is not a bad thing that we should volunteer to do something like this," said Duran. "Most of us who are young Hispanic professionals have come out of the barrios, one way or another. It is no bad thing that we try to give something back, that we try to go back and show our younger brothers and sisters that it can be done.In fact, we owe it to the communities where we were born to do that."
As part of its lobbying activities, the association has swung its support behind several key local and national appointments, and lobbied for the appointment of more Hispanos to key jobs.
"We are particularly interested in monitoring how the Hispanic is perceived in the local community here," said Duran. "Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the country, and deserve recognition as such. Some Hispanics are foreign-born but most of us are native-born Americans with the same rights as other Americans."
Duran -- whose story was featured in the Emmy-award winning 1971 television special "Cinco Vidas del Barrio" (Five Lives of the Barrio) -- has special advice for young Hispanos.
"They've got to stay in school," he said, "but not just sitting there staring into space. They've got to get an education and to question that education. To question whether they're getting what they need to make it.
"Too often the teachers leave things to the parents, and the parents leave things to the teachers. We've got to make sure our education system is giving the Hispanics and other minorities what they need.
"My generation -- that first generation of completely bilingual, well educated young professional men and women -- now is providing a role model for success that our Hispanic young people never had before. We want to see a new generation come up behind us that is as successful as we are. And, frankly, even more successful than we are, I guess."