From its inception, the focus of Barrios Unidos has been on building an organizational base to support the peace movement rather than simply building an agency. The long-term vision of Barrios Unidos' founders is to establish an Institute for Peace and Community Development based in Santa Cruz and focused on supporting an organized peace movement and community development effort in California and eventually throughout the United States.
The ultimate goal of the Institute is to transform the most impoverished and disenfranchised sectors of society—our ghettos and barrios which are currently plagued by poverty, violence and internal conflict—into peaceful and prosperous communities in which human, natural, technological, and financial resources are fully developed and utilized for the individual and social well-being of all members of society.
The work of the Institute will draw from and expand upon the multiple strategies and activities that have been developed over the years by Barrios Unidos staff, which are guided by cultural, spiritual, and non-violent principles, to promote social justice, economic equity, civic leadership, democratic participation, community development, self-reliance and peace.
By first strengthening and building upon the important and central role of the family, the Institute would seek to contribute to the cultivation and stabilization of a communal environment, both locally and nationally, that fosters the evolution of children and adults to the fullest expression of their humanity. Within such an environment children, youth, adults, and elders are all nurtured and afforded full participation in every aspect of the economic, social and civic life.
A central focus of the Institute will be the recapturing of the cultural and spiritual traditions of our native ancestors while also teaching understanding and respect for the dignity of all cultures and spiritual traditions. The Institute will harness the power of culture and spirituality to reclaim and restore imperiled young lives, prevent interpersonal violence, provide an avenue to end gang warfare and develop and promote promising strategies for building healthy and vibrant communities.
Cultural Identity and Tradition
We believe that the expression of cultural and spiritual traditions are central to the humanity, health, and well-being of people of Chicano, Latino, and indigenous descent. Our highest humanity and communal values flow from the understanding and practice of our traditions. Our culture is expressed through our hearts, minds, enterprise, ingenuity and community service through which we contribute to all facets and dimensions of American society.
We assimilate cultural consciousness, understanding and expression into all aspects of our core strategies, organizational endeavors and community life. The leadership, staff and volunteers share the responsibility to preserve the integrity of the organization and apply its guiding values across all aspects of our work.
Cultural Integrity and Respect
We believe that respecting the cultural integrity and dignity of people from all backgrounds is central to the well-being of our community and society as a whole. Practicing tolerance and respect for those who are different, respeto a lo ajeno, is central to our mission. We value inter-cultural exchange and mutual learning for societal benefit. We recognize the importance of and work towards development of a high level of cultural fluency amongst our leaders and within community, social, public and private institutions.
Justice and Community Peace
Central to our mission is achieving peaceful and healthy communities (i.e. social and economic well-being for all people) by advancing civil rights through solidarity, partnership, collaboration and coalition with other activists and social justice institutions.
Economic Self-reliance and Empowerment
We believe that community centered economics begin with regaining and maintaining the responsibility for stewardship of the land and its resources and living in balance and harmony with the earth. All of our economic development enterprises, including the attainment and management of our assets, are socially responsible, serving broad community benefit and promoting self-reliance through equitable access to quality education, training, labor market, and business opportunities.
Civic and Political Empowerment
Central to our mission is supporting the informed involvement in political and civic life by all community residents: youth, parents and elders as stakeholders in positive social change. All of our leadership development, education, organizing, community mobilization and political action are guided by non-violent principles for social change.