It Is Time for Latinos to Seek Leadership Roles

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Campagna

This past month, the U.S. census 2000 counts were released. Not surprisingly, the Latino population has grown substantially during the past 10 years, from 22 million in 1990 to more than 35 million in 2000. That is an increase of more than 58 percent in one decade. And yet, sadly, these increases do not seem to be proportionately reflected in our local, regional or national institutions and offices of government.

During my five years of reporting on and working with local municipalities, I have noticed a distinct absence of Latino leadership in the halls of most administrative departments. Yes, I have noticed a few secretarial and community outreach personnel, but they rarely are in a position to bring about policy changes. Most police and fire departments also have made an effort to hire minorities, but once again, when one observes those who sit in the command positions, very few Latinos can be found.

The question begs asking, with Latinos now making up more than 20 percent to 30 percent of some communities, "Why are Latinos so underrepresented in decision-making positions within our community/governmental organizations?" Are Latinos being discriminated against, or are we just not applying for the jobs?

In all honesty I think it is a little of both. In the past, for many Latinos who grew up in the United States, positions of power usually were held by the mainstream community. Thus, many of today's adult Latinos never saw Latino teachers or policemen or judges or mayors in "El Norte." The situation has changed somewhat in states such as Texas and California, where Latinos can now be considered the "majority minority."

It follows that many Latinos have, perhaps unconsciously, accepted a view of their community which is no longer applicable. Latinos have a right to represent themselves in the decision-making processes of government; Latinos have a right to serve their communities in civil service positions. …