(president), Jesús Espinosa (secretary), and Luis Pérez Tavera (treasurer) and accepted by the State of Ohio on November 7th, 1928—thus making it the oldest Mexican social organization in Ohio.
Its founding purpose was for: “aiding the members of this society in the case of illness, or their families in case of death, and to teach them how they may become more useful and better citizens of the United States.” Additional founders and members were listed in the club’s program booklet which was made available at the dinner/dance.
The semi-formal dinner and dance was held at the Amber Oaks restaurant in Sheffield Lake. A social hour was followed by a prime rib/roast chicken dinner, then an evening of entertainment featuring DJ José “Pepe” Rivera, Los Mariachis Locos, Tammy Alicea, and the folkloric dance group Alma de México.
“It was a nice turnout and a beautiful evening,” said David Flores, MMS vice president. “There were some past members, some past officers, and their families. There were some people even in their 70s and 80s. We had a lot of people represent the club, the community, and our veterans.”
“It was definitely a monumental occasion,” added Joel Arredondo, MMS president. “Few ethnic organizations survive, but the biggest reason we did it was to honor the veterans, all those who came before us and the great work they’ve done. I hope we continue working in the community for another 85 years.”
The Mexican Mutual Society also honored military veterans of Mexican ancestry. The Lorain High School JROTC presented the colors, and a slide show featured Lorain’s Latino veterans. More than 70 photos were in the slide show, with approximately 50 names listed in the program booklet.
“That was one of our themes—to say thank you to our former officers, our veterans, even the young ladies who served as our Cinco de Mayo princesses in the past,” Flores said. “With a lot of the ethnic clubs going by the wayside, this was a good way to celebrate 85 years and I hope we keep going strong.”
“I think it was one of the best events we’ve ever had,” said Marie Leibas, who served on the organizing committee. “We had a really nice hall and about 140 people in attendance, everyone having a good time with the mariachis and the speakers and the dancers.”
The club began in the 1920s as the Mexican Mutual Benefit Society, offering health, death, sickness, and educational benefits to immigrant families who came from Texas and México to work with the railroad and U.S. Steel.
“It started to help Mexicans coming into Lorain and help them assimilate into the community,” said Ms. Leibas. “The gentlemen who were here and founded the Mexican Mutual Society back in 1928 would have programs to help the new people coming in. Pretty much, that’s what we’ve continued to do.”
“We try to keep the traditions and the heritage alive,” said Flores, boasting that the club even keeps Mexican music in its jukebox. Among the annual events sponsored by the club are tamale sales and buffets. But perhaps the biggest Mexican Mutual Society event is the Cinco de Mayo parade and festival—17 years running now and one of the largest annual parades in Lorain with community-wide participation.
The club also taught English as a second language to help those families assimilate into the community. MMS now has nearly 60 active members and another 70 social members. Some of the remaining members are original club founders.
“We’ve pulled a lot of people out from migrant farmworkers and unskilled labor—and now we’ve come full circle with lawyers, nurses, doctors, and judges,” said Flores, himself a former three-term Lorain city councilman.
Ms. Leibas stated the organization has evolved over time and now helps to elevate young Latinos through its scholarship fund. A steak fry is held each year to award scholarships to high school seniors so they can continue their education.
“This keeps the teenagers interested and they become aware because of the culture and they see that all these families are still here,” she said.
The scholarship program helps the club continue to reach younger generations of Mexican-Americans, something she attributed to the longevity of the organization as a whole. Ms. Leibas also stated the little princess pageant as part of Cinco de Mayo parade and festival helps introduce new families and their children to the club.
“So here’s a little girl getting acquainted with a group that’s been there for years and that really helps to continue the culture also,” she said, pointing out that every ethnic club in Lorain is struggling to stay relevant. “That’s happening with the Puerto Ricans, the Polish, and the Hungarians, too. Right now it’s a struggle. Everyone’s struggling. We’re a struggling club, just trying to keep our name out there in the Lorain community.”