WACO, Texas – Behind the busy LaSalle Avenue stands the Waco Mutualistas, one of the longest running Hispanic organizations in Central Texas.
Mutualista societies originally began in Mexico during the 19th century to provide crucial aid to poor families. The idea quickly migrated to Texas cities like Corpus Christi, Houston, and Waco.
“Because at that time the Hispanics didn’t have a place where they can get help,” says Lydia Abbott.
Support includes paying for medical bills, legal services, and funeral expenses.
Abbott has been a member for the past 26 years. She comes from a long line of Mutualistas. Her grandfather, Sixto Martinez, was one of the founding members of the Waco Mutualistas.
In 1924, local Hispanic farmers started the organization near The St. Francis On The Brazos Church. They quickly gained profit as they hosted a barrage of festivals celebrating Mexican Independence Day, Cinco De Mayo, and quinceaneras. The Mutualistas describe themselves as a non-profit group, where all the money made goes back into the organization.
“The money that is generated from the parties and quinceaneras, we set aside some of that money to buy more merchandise,” Abbott says.
As they moved into a new building in 1952, things took for the worse as the historic 1953 Waco Tornado demolished the building.
“I know that people struggled for quite a while to generate funds again,” says President Louis Fajardo.
Nearly a decade later, the group has thrived by moving to a new location. Since then, they have continued the tradition of giving back to the community.
“They gave me a scholarship, which allowed me to buy text books and dorm supplies. It makes you feel like you’re not alone and you have a whole community that’s standing behind you,” says Student Member Tiffany Verdana.
Back in July 2019, the group celebrated it’s 95th anniversary. The one thing that makes them keep coming back is determination.
“I’m going to be here. I want this organization to celebrate 100 years,” Abbott says.
Despite being one of the oldest, the Waco Mutualistas are struggling to find young and new members. But with the use of social media and word of mouth, they are optimistic their numbers will begin to grow.