Latino advocacy groups cited South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who died at 95 on Thursday, as an inspiration to their struggle in the United States.
Many said they had adopted quotes by Mandela as their mantra.
The Cesar Chavez Foundation, named after the labor organizer who fought for better treatment of farm workers, said on its website: “When we apply Nelson Mandela's life and work to our own movement, two of his thoughts stand out with particular meaning: ‘Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again’ [and] ‘It always seems impossible until it's done.’"
Like Mandela, the site said, Chavez encountered constant efforts to defeat his work on behalf of the disenfranchised.
His life inspired us while his humble demeanor will continue to move us towards a more just and loving world.
- Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
“But every time he suffered a failure, Cesar too picked himself up, dusted himself off and went back to fighting for what he believed in,” the site said.
Gustavo Torres, the executive director of Casa de Maryland, which advocates for immigrants, said of Mandela: “He is a true hero and inspirational for me and our movement.”
“He fought for justice, freedom and respect,” Torres said. “This quote from him reflects Casa’s philosophy and principles: ‘Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.’”
Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, praised the first black South African president for his humility and resilience.
“Nelson Mandela’s life embodied the idea of prophetic activism with an unquenchable thirst for justice,” Rodriguez said. “His struggle for equality brought down one of the final strongholds of segregation and subsequently empowered an entire continent to overcome by doing justice and loving mercy. His life inspired us while his humble demeanor will continue to move us towards a more just and loving world.”
Brent A. Wilkes, the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the country's largest and oldest Hispanic organization, said Mandela merited credit for rising above resentment and not letting it consume him.
“His life inspired us while his humble demeanor will continue to move us towards a more just and loving world,” Wilkes said. "Nelson Mandela noted, 'As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.'"
"It was this resounding belief in forgiveness that set the standard for reconciliation in a country that was left scared and vulnerable to racial tensions by years of apartheid," he added.
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