Message from the President & General Counsel

As we enter this auspicious 2012 National Hispanic Heritage Month -- the 25th such commemoration since the month was officially recognized by Congress -- we ought to reflect on what the existence of an annual United States recognition of Latino heritage means. Particularly in 2012, a presidential election year that has seen too many unscrupulously ambitious candidates pander to the worst divisive impulses hiding in sectors of our society, it is terribly unclear whether our nation can easily transition from demonization to celebration of the Latino community simply because of our annual autumnal period of popular commemoration. Of course, one of our best responses to the ongoing targeting, through rhetoric and policy, of the most vulnerable members of the Latino community in false and murky service of some national imperative -- whether of security, tradition, or economy -- is to remember, acknowledge, and promulgate the true history of Latinos in the United States, not in a single month but year-round. Below, I invite you to read about one effort to do just that -- to remind, through music and visuals, of our community's long and continuing history of service to our nation's better impulses, principles, and values. I believe that MALDEF's mission aligns clearly and directly with this proud Latino history in the United States. I hope you will agree as you take a few minutes to view this extraordinary short film.

Sincerely Yours,

Thomas A. Saenz
President and General Counsel


When MALDEF announced its lawsuit against Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070 at the state capitol in Phoenix, President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz took with him an iconic delegation of Latino leaders, renowned as symbols of American perseverance, including Dolores Huerta, Arizona native Richard E. Chavez (brother of Cesar E. Chavez), and legendary recording artist, Linda Ronstadt. These leaders’ contributions to American progress stood in stark contrast to the anti-Latino environment in Arizona; it was out of that contradiction that MALDEF was inspired to develop “America, Our Home,” a project to set the record straight and celebrate the Latino legacy in the United States. MALDEF staff works relentlessly each day to spread this message, but MALDEF needs your support to ensure that that message reaches every American in every state and municipality across the country.

MALDEF is releasing a compelling short film featuring The Star Spangled Banner from a new collection of American patriotic songs recorded in Mexican musical styles by the group Ronstadt Generations, also titled “America, Our Home.” The film is directed by Edgar Pablos and features the photography of George Rodríguez, well-known for photographing American legends Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, The Doors, and Dr. Dre, and for documenting key moments in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.

"The truth is that Latinos have been an important part of our nation for well over a century and a half, and the Latino community has a robust historical record of patriotic service to the United States, with significant, albeit too often ignored, representation among our nation's military heroes. This patriotic record continues to the present, as recent immigrants and native-born Latinos take up public service in many forms, including courageously stepping forward to defend our constitutional values against efforts -- such as unfair and discriminatory laws -- that would undermine those unifying national principles.

"This innovative collection musically demonstrates that Latinos are among those who regularly defend our nation from those who would undermine our Constitution and our nation,"
- Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel



The recording, "America, Our Home" was developed under the musical leadership of Michael J. Ronstadt, the younger brother of famed recording artist Linda Ronstadt, , whose "Canciones de mi Padre" collection of mariachi music became the biggest selling non-English album in recording history. "America, Our Home" showcases original arrangements that incorporate bolero, cumbia and son jarocho to give a unique style and sound to traditional American songs like "America the Beautiful," "My Country 'Tis of Thee," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "This Land is Your Land." It is a heartfelt album that has been called "As American as apple pie and Canciones de mi Padre" by the press, and it is worth a listen. Below you can find more information about how to purchase the album, which will also support MALDEF’s critical work to protect Latino civil rights.

To listen to excerpts from the EP, go to!audio/cemg

The music is available for digital download at

Michael J. Ronstadt brought together a group of musicians to collaborate on the songs. Playing a key role in the arrangements was Francisco Gonzalez, a co-founder of the band Los Lobos, the former musical director of Teatro Campesino, and an internationally known string musician specializing in the Mexican harp.

"These are truly original interpretations of American patriotic music that reflect the multicultural roots of my family and of this country," said Michael Ronstadt, who performs with his sons Michael G. and Petie as the Tucson-based folk group Ronstadt Generations. "We're thrilled to partner with MALDEF on this unique project that expresses our pride in America as well as honors our Mexican ancestry."

Among the collaborators on the project was David Damian Figueroa, MALDEF's Vice President of Strategic Development and Communications, and philanthropic leader Mary Lou Fulton. "I've always had faith in the power of music to unify and heal people. 'America, Our Home' is an expression of those beliefs." said Figueroa, a featured vocalist on the project who was raised in the agricultural city of Yuma, Arizona (where civil rights leader Cesar Chavez was born and died).

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund