In a sincere effort to eliminate official neglect and to provide opportunities for Hispanic advancement in Kansas, Governor Robert Docking and the Kansas Legislature created KACAMAA in 1974 (K.S.A. 74-6501). In 1976, Governor Robert Bennett, (in Executive Reorganization Order No. 14) maintained KACMAA and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Human Resources. Governor John Carlin included KACMAA in his 1981 Legislative Message, giving full support to its proposed budget and activities.
During its first four years, from 1975 through 1979, the KACMAA board and staff concentrated on structure: establishing itself thru programs and procedures in the executive and legislative branches, and maintaining itself as a state agency.
Its programs during the initial period under Executive Director Ruben Corona attempted to heighten the cultural awareness of Hispanics. During this time, KACMAA concentrated on projects to examine and highlight the primarily Mexican heritage of the people. Using the medium of culture and the arts, KACMAA sponsored numerous outreach activities, particularly to youth in schools and universities.
The efforts are recognized as important and highly successful first steps in developing the agency.
However, self-knowledge does not provide sufficient strength for a group hoping to take full advantage of all opportunities. KACMAA realized that once we know who we are, we need to assert ourselves politically and economically. To facilitate the process of community evolution and maturation, KACMAA changed its focus in 1980.
KACMAA’s political efforts have been educational and procedural, not partisan. Using the printed medium provided by the KACMAA newsletter and innumerable discussions and speeches, Executive Director Salvador Gomez worked to convince varying groups to see themselves as a single political entity.
KACMAA’s work heightens awareness of the political process, teaching the proper methods to gain access to the governor and the legislature by asserting the community’s natural rights. By example and advice, KACMAA presents models, showing why some methods are effective and others are not.
Political and economic development are interdependent in the group’s maturing processes. One without the other leaves a void, creating frustration. The Hispanic people of Kansas do not seek political access in order to be dependent upon government. Instead, we recognize the need to depend upon ourselves. We know that a political base demands an economic base, and vice versa.
To facilitate economic development for a community in which few people own businesses, KACMAA began with outreach to national resources which assist in this area. It has worked closely with the following groups or agencies, urging them to work with Hispanic businesses in Kansas: the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the National Economic Development Association (NEDA), the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Commerce, and the Kansas Department of Economic Development.
By encouraging and setting up active dialogue among individuals, groups and agencies, KACMAA has developed strong relationships with these important resources on behalf of the community. With commitments from such resources, it then works through the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to encourage Kansas Hispanic business-owners to use the agency contacts it has developed.
Immediate evaluation of KACMAA’s political and economic development efforts is difficult, and can only be gauged over time. However, quantifiable results will be available to judge as more Hispanics take advantage of the opportunities open to them as citizens, and developed for them by KACMAA.
Throughout the years, this name of the office evolved. In 1986, its name became the Kansas Advisory Committee on Hispanic Affairs (KACHA). In 2007, KACHA was renamed once again to what we now know as Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission (KHLAAC).