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EPISO and Political Empowerment: Organizational Politics in a Border City

Roberto E. Villarreal


The purpose of this article is to examine the political activities, strategies, tactics, and public policy initiatives of the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO). This preliminary analysis is done in light of demographic/geographic, structural/functional, socioeconomic, political, and historical factors that exist in El Paso. These include: (1) an urban and border community with a heavy Chicano population; (2) a community that is politically and economically dominated by non-Hispanics (Martínez 1980); (3) an urban community where the bulk of the Chicano community is economically poor with high unemployment rates; (4) a community that contains a sizeable portion of Mexican population that is neither naturalized nor documented; (5) a community characterized by a relatively high level of social stratification along ethnic lines; (6) a community that, because of its social stratification, is geographically divided (Goodman and Rivera 1980); (7) a community which, historically, has been relatively unsuccessful at political coalitions; (8) a community where cultural differences are a way of life and inter-ethnic identities remain a critical issue; and (9) a border community where the organizational efforts by Hispanic political elites, to empower the Latino community, have had limited success against the powerful influence of the community's Anglo business sector. The uniqueness of this city is pronounced and no one understands it better than its community of citizens and its leadership.

Methodologically, the paper is based on descriptive and exploratory research, e.g., this information will subsequently be used to formulate a set of hypotheses. The eclectic effort to collect data, however, has provided a number of avenues to evaluate the topic at hand. The sources include participant observations for the past six years, interviews with leaders from EPISO, as well as other leaders from the community, newspaper accounts of EPISO's political activities, literary accounts of El Paso politics, and politically active participantion in community affairs.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229