Benjamin Márquez (REI Fellow, 2018-2019)
The first book about the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the influential work it has done for the Latina/o community, and the issues stemming from its dependence on large philanthropic organizations.
Founded in 1968, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is the Latino equivalent to the NAACP: a source of legal defense for the Latina/o community in cases centered on education, state immigration laws, redistricting, employment discrimination, and immigrant rights. Unlike the NAACP, however, MALDEF was founded by Mexican American activists in conjunction with the larger philanthropic structure of the Ford Foundation—a relationship that has opened it up to controversy and criticism.
In the first book to examine this little-known but highly influential organization, Benjamin Márquez explores MALDEF’s history and shows how it has thrived and served as a voice for the Latina/o community throughout its six decades of operation. But he also looks closely at large-scale investments of the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and others, considering how their ties to MALDEF have influenced Mexican American and Latinx politics. Its story crafted from copious research into MALDEF and its benefactors, this book brings to light the influence of outside funding on the articulation of minority identities and the problems that come with creating change through institutional means.