By Martín Martínez
Vida en el Valle
The number of Latino elected politicians in the United States has risen substantially in the last 10 years, which has consequently assured better representation in the political and social level of Latino in the country.
This was the conclusion by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) after an investigation at the national level to obtain information on the current impact of Latino leadership.
“Not only have we been growing in numbers but also in influence and political leadership what will give us a better and greater representation in all important social aspects of the country,” said Marcelo Gaete, director of programs for NALEO.
According to Gaete, this growth is credited to the constant flow of immigrants, which means that each day the presence of Latinos to represent this community is needed.
According to the study, the number of elected Latinos in important positions has grown to 37 percent since 1996, which means that currently there are 5,129 elected politicians.
The elected officials that stand out are mainly the U.S. Sens. Ken Salazar, D-Colorado; Mel Martínez, R-Florida; and, Robert Menéndez, D-New Jersey.
Additionally New México Gov. Bill Richardson. Meanwhile, the positions of mayors and vice-mayors held by Latinos represent 700 elected officials at the national level.
“This clearly means that the number of Latinos in important positions has grown at a constant level with a significant growth in the states and cities where the Hispanic community does not have a lot of representation,” said Rosalind Gold, NALEO’s political, research and defense director.
The study indicates the major growth of elected officials has been at the federal and state legislative levels. In both levels the growth has been at 75 percent. Women being the ones with the most positions, while the men only represent 25 percent.
Assemblymember Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, said these numbers show the importance that the Latino community has gained in the last decade and how the influence of this group has gained way in all social environments of the country.
“We have seen an important growth in elected Latinos but what is most incredible is that the growth has been in states were the majority is not necessarily Latino, which means that we have gained presence at a national level,” Caballero pointed out.
The states in which up until last year there was no elected Latino representation but now the situation has changed are Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia.
Caballero said that as the Latino population grows as expected, the number of voters will also grow, which will allow the power of this group to continue growing.
In the same way, Assemblymember Héctor de la Torre, D-South Gate, said the perspective of the power and influence of Latinos seems very problematic and it will continue growing in number of elected officials in all geographical areas of the country.
“In addition to the growing presence in non Latino traditional areas, in the following years we will see that as Latinos we will continue advancing and positioning in areas that are not traditionally ours,” said De la Torre.
According to de la Torre, states such as New York, California or Texas will see Latinos expand in other areas where the Latino presence is not very strong.
“Cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles have a great Latino population and representation but other cities in the State still do not have a strong presence but that will change up to the point where they will be well represented,” explained De la Torre.
He indicated just as well that there is a good probability that other population groups such as Asian or Anglos that live in areas that are mainly Latino have voted in Latino representatives.
“Upon being the majority population we need to gain the confidence of other groups and we have been gaining it little by little.”
Harry Pachón, director of Tomás Rivera Policy Institute in the University of Southern California, said that although there is a good representation there is still much to do.
“It is true that the Latino representation has risen in an astonishing way but there are states where there is still a lot to do, inclusively here in California where there is a great amount of Latinos but there are areas where they are not adequately represented and there is still a lot to do,” Pachón said.
He added that in the United States there currently are 500,000 public officials throughout the country, which is why 5,000 elected Latinos still is not enough representation.
Nonetheless, the professor said that the future of the Latinos is seen as very promising because there are millions of people in the community that are about to become 18 years of age, which means that the vote will increase considerably.
“The immigrant’s children, legal or not, now are citizens and are the ones that will make change in the situation in such a way that in the next years we will see how Latinos will be changing the image and course of this country,” said Pachón.