They are liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.Puerto Ricans from New York, Cubans from Miami, Chicanos from the Southwest, Central Americans from Washington. They work for varied organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza, U.S. Catholic Conference, D.C. Superior Court and U.S. Congress.

They are the members of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a 2-year-old advocacy group for Hispanics whose main purpose is to "look at national issues with a Hispanic view," says President Edward J. Avila. The 2,000-member organization held a "Salute to Hispanic Leadership" Sunday at the Organization of American States at 19th Street and Constitution Avenue NW to stress the value of unity among Hispanics.

Speakers including Rep. Robert Garcia (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Calif.), asked Hispanics to put aside the regional and political differences that have often divided them and to concentrate on issues on which Hispanics can present a united front, including more appointments and better job opportunities in the federal government and opposition to proposed cuts in federal jobs programs.

"What we're doing here is higher than politics. We're forging ourselves into an alliance. We want to participate in government as full partners. No longer will we accept tokenism," Garcia told the crowd of 450.

Avila said the association's goal is to become the most forceful lobbying group for Hispanics, who are fast becoming the nation's largest minority.