Latino Leaders Kickoff Hispanic Heritage Month

Photo courtesy Texas Military Department via Flickr

The Washington D.C.-based Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month last week with one of the country’s largest virtual gatherings of Latino leaders. They attracted several thousand participants over several days for discussions on key issues, including immigrants and the economy, education, healthcare, youth leadership development, and social and racial equity.

Recent calls for equity in the United States, for instance, have shaped how the Hispanic community thinks of itself and advocates on its own behalf, said panelists at a session focusing on how Latinos and Latinas have different experiences and how important it is to highlight how they practice solidarity to advance equity.

“Peoples’ lives and the organization of power … are better understood as not being shaped by a single axis of social division, race or gender or class, but by many accesses that work together,” said Nancy López from the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Justice at the University of New Mexico.

Race and equity also mean working more closely with other communities of color.

“I started off by saying I’m a Black Latina. And the question is how Latinos can be better allies to the Black community and fighting for racial justice,” said López. “We have to trouble the myth that blackness is mutually exclusive.”

“I believe that we have a responsibility to create the world where we can all succeed,” added Marina Mazzini, vice president at the consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, which has a number of programs promoting equality and tackling racial bias, including #WashTheHate. “I like ‘you are Black, you are Asian (etc.),’ and that’s how I do it in my day in and day out. I value the person for the person itself.”

When it comes to advancing issues of identity, leadership and equity, it is important to establish programs that can help people become successful, including what some participants say are proven efforts, such as employee resource groups and mentorships.

“I think at large corporations you see more Latinos and Latinas in higher positions. To me that really is the marker,” said Wells Fargo’s Rubén Barrales.

It’s about being real assertive and proactive, says Diana Mogollón of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

“I feel like we are undervalued and underestimated, and we need to make sure that we are at the forefront and that we are driving the change,” she added. 

While race and equity were one of several topics at the 44th-annual conference, CHCI is headed by one of the few Afro Latinos in leadership positions nationwide – CEO and President Marco Davis.

Davis has said he wants to continue pushing for more discussions on the issue, including fighting discrimination within the Latino community.

Conferees also discussed advocating for more Latinos in senior-level positions in the Biden administration. There are nearly 5,000 presidential appointments, including key deputy director and assistant secretary positions. While some Latinos and Latinas have filled those positions, many remain vacant.

CHCI is part of Proyecto 20%, a coalition of Latino groups pushing for these appointments – the 20% represents the close-to-parity with the percent of Latinos represented in the U.S. population (18%).

Fabian Osorio is a Colombian-Canadian senior student at FIU pursuing a bachelor's degree in broadcast media and a master's in Spanish language journalism. He has extensive experience in coordinating social media platforms, writing, photography, and videography. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he wants to work for the Hispanic television network in Miami, becoming a strong voice for the Hispanic community.