If the 700 delegates and visitors to this year's convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens here are any indication, America's 15 million Hispanics have a much more diversified agenda than the predictable issues of immigration, bilingual education and U.S. policy in Latin America.
Politics is one concern. Another is business and economic development. Two of the leading candidates in the race for president of the 54-year-old organization are jousting over those issues. Linda Martinez Alvarado, a construction executive from Denver, is emphasizing the power of money while Mario G. Obledo, a lawyer and former state social services director from Sacramento, is stressing the power of the ballot box.
The delegates' priorities were illustrated this afternoon when Richard B. Stone, the administration's special envoy to Latin America, gave the speech that had appeared to have most potential for controversy. He defended President Reagan's policies in Latin America, policies that league President Tony Bonilla had criticized as arrogant and bellicose.
At no point during his 17-minute speech was Stone applauded. Neither was he booed or hissed. For many in the audience, which clapped politely at the end, the concerns were broader than war and peace in the lands of their ethnic roots.
The growing pains of integration into American society are being felt by some here, who, denouncing tokenism, say that they no longer want to be in charge of a company's Hispanic affairs but want to run the company.
When one Texas-born Detroit teacher here talked of education, she emphasized approaches that would make Hispanic children leaders in corporate America. When a Los Angeles computer operator voiced her concern about immigration, she said that she fears the loss of jobs to low-wage undocumented workers.
And yet for some who identify with mainstream American aspirations and traditionally liberal movements, discrimination remains a reality.
Lily Cervantes, the daughter of farm workers from Salinas, Calif., said that she is in favor of affirmative action that will provide jobs and upward mobility "for Hispanics and all other minorities, including women."
Yet, when asked if she were simply a feminist in brown skin, she demurred. "There's more strength in identifying myself as a Hispanic," Cervantes said, adding, "If I'm going to be catching hell, I'm going to be catching hell as an Hispanic."
Her view was in sharp contrast to that of Commander D.E. Hernandez, regional head of the U.S. Naval forces in the Caribbean and the second highest ranking Hispanic in the Navy. Applauded as a role model for Hispanic children, Hernandez said that he has never been held back because of his race.
"You don't have to be twice as good" in the Navy he said to an interviewer. "You just have to be better than the competition."
The diversity of Hispanic interests was one of the main points that organizers of this four-day gathering wanted to emphasize. And that variety has been evident in some of the workshops--even though attendance often is drained by organizational political caucuses and the lure of tourist activities.
There still is concern over traditional Hispanic issues. One of those concerned about immigration, for instance, was Frank Orozco of Houston, who said that he fears that imposition of sanctions on employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, as proposed in a Senate-passed bill pending in the House, could lead to discrimination against Hispanics.
"It's not so much that we worry about the undocumented worker," said Orozco, a Mexican American, as are most at the convention. "It is that the Hispanic who has worked here--they will be characterized with the undocumented," and neither will be hired.
The interest in business was voiced this morning at a "Salute to Business," breakfast by Jesus Chavarria of Santa Barbara, publisher of Hispanic Business magazine.
Fueled by the well-connected and well-financed entepreneurs driven out of Cuba by the Castro revolution and blessed with a concentration of brown buying power in the economically healthy Sun Belt, Hispanic business has boomed.
The top 100 businesses listed in the Hispanic Business 400 generally are larger than the Black Enterprise Magazine Top 100. While blacks have been more successful in securing federal contracts and in subcontracting with major firms, Chavarria said, Hispanics have been more successful in raw economic enterprise.
"They have positioned themselves between the whole southeastern part of the United States and the Caribbean," Chavarria said.
Earlier, he had told the convention, "It's true that our communites are still beset with problems of education . . . police relations . . . . But, it seems to me that the emphasis has to be on that power that has the thrust to move our community forward today. And that is the Hispanic business sector."
Former vice president Walter F. Mondale, the last of five announced candidates for the Democratic nomination for president to appear here, illustrated the breadth of Hispanic concerns.
Mondale, enthusiastically greeted as an old friend, was applauded when he criticized Reagan administration policies on jobs, school integration, civil rights, Hispanic appointments, bilingual education, education in general, small business, immigration and foreign policy.
"We're getting into a lot of trouble in Central America that we wouldn't be getting into if we listened to Hispanic Americans," Mondale said, promising Hispanics a role in making foreign policy, if he is elected.
Stone, in his luncheon address, had told the group that the administration's policy is based on the expressed concerns of Hispanics.
"Washington is doing more listening and more consistently acting on the views of our neighbors than at any time in the past," Stone said. "We must work with the Latins, not impose on them," he added.