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Pa'Lante: Letter from the President & CEO

  ·  Sylvia Puente

Friends and neighbors,

On March 23rd, we celebrated our tenth Latino Unity Day: "Latinos Pa'Lante: Beyond Recovery." Oh my goodness, how far we have come in that time. It has been nothing short of a sea change over the past decade—especially the last few years. Not only in democratic leadership, but in our Latino leadership in Springfield. 

We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of our Latino elected officials, including in suburban representation. We now have six Latino legislators representing our suburbs, which is so important because that’s where the Latino growth is occurring. And in my lifetime, I have never seen so many Latinos within the Governor’s inner circle—and I first came to Springfield some 40 years ago.

Today, we have 10 Latino representatives and six senators in Springfield. In the 1970s, those numbers were zero.

The Latino Policy Forum is so proud to have helped nurture these stewards along. They include former staffers, such as State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas; Deputy Governor Martin Torres, who was with us for eight years; Deputy Governor Sol Flores who was one of the founders of the Latino Policy Forum; and Dr. Carmen Ayala, a former board member. I could not be more proud.

We have their voices, voices that are rooted in the community, serving as key decision-makers across the continuum. They are changing the tenor of our politics, as they come from backgrounds in organizing, advocacy, and community spaces. And now, they’re bringing the skills that they honed into our legislature and to key policy decision-making tables. 

So not only do we have unprecedented access, as they are our friends and family, but we also have the peace of mind in knowing their heartfelt commitment, their devotion to the community. They have huge agendas that will strengthen the entire state, as well as the Latino community. While we still have a ways to go with respect to equitable representation in our general assembly and in other leadership roles, I cannot overstate the significance in acknowledging this presence that we have today.

One thing that I’d like you all to consider today is our population growth and what it means. According to 2020 census data, the Latino population grew by 15 percent in the state—and there was a 5-percent undercount. What that means is, as we pursue equity, we need an additional investment of 20 percent in the community at a minimum, just to remain even. Anything less than that widens the gap of inequality between the Latino community and the rest of society.

That 20-percent number also means that we’re driving population growth, workforce growth, homeownership growth, and overall spending power in Illinois. Latinos are key contributors in our state’s economy. And, we need that 20-percent growth reflected in our election turnout. We need that 20 percent in the voting booth for the primaries in June and for the general election in November. 

If there is one number that I'd like you to keep in mind moving forward, it's this. 20 percent. 

Wishing you peace and wellness.