We are defined as Americans by our beliefs – not by our ethnic origins, our race or our religion. Our beliefs in religious freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom – that’s what makes an American. Our belief in democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human life – that’s how you become an American. It is these very principles – and the opportunities these principles give to so many to create a better life for themselves and their families – that make America, and New York, a “shining city on a hill.” – Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani
During World War II, Lake Charles began hosting a small but vibrant group of Latin Americans. Many were military personnel posted here at Chennault Air Base. They were proud and patriotic, many of them paying the ultimate price with their war-time sacrifice.
In 1945, this small group composed of residents from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and other countries established their own social group. This local Latin Community decided they wanted to share their culture, but not lose their cultural roots.
With some planning and organizing, the “American Latin Club” was formed. The club had an open-door policy and included many non-Latin members. When the club started to wane in the 1970s, it didn’t take long before the new Cuban immigrants helped revive Latin pride here, that spirit leading to the creation of the “Club Hispano American.”
In 2002, the Board of Directors proposed Dalia Matheus assume the directorship of the club, offering to stay on as an advisor committee. The new Board of Directors decided to change the name to the “International Club of Southwest Louisiana.” Over the years, the club has brought many different types of resources to the area’s new immigrants, that help them feel more involved and a part of their new community. Resources like education workshops, dancing classes, ESL classes, employment assistance, etc., have helped in their assimilation into the American culture.
The foundation of what is now know as the International Club of SWLA is its mission to promote, build, and enhance cultural interchange based on social, educational, and cultural activities.
That’s what makes The United States of America so successful and rich, possessing all the gifts that different cultures bring to the country. Today, the club is blessed to have members from Venezuela, Guyana, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Peru, the U.S., and other countries.