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La Liga de Las Americas

Latinas/os meet to discuss 2008 political strategies


“It is imperative that the Latino community be fully prepared to maximize our participation in all up-coming elections between now and 2012, and be fully engaged in the census and redistricting in between.”


Thus sayeth Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr., president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, based in Chicago and which hosted a Political Strategy Summit, Dec. 15-16, 2006.


This theme was echoed in Lorain, Ohio last Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006, where some thirty Ohio community leaders met at the Multicultural Center in an historic, political skull session.

Ricardo Peña listens to Henry Guzmán discuss an issue at last Saturday’s Latino Political Seminar coordinated by Rubén Castilla Herrera at the Multicultural Center in Lorain.


Coordinated by Rubén Castilla Herrera of Columbus and captioned “Latino/Democrats in Ohio – Stategic Dialogue,” participants included:  Richard Romero, Rubén Torres, José Ramirez, Dave Flores, José Candelario, and María Santiago of Lorain; Melissa Cárdenas, Ezra Escudero, Melissa Giraud, Henry Guzmán, Germán Trejo, Dean Hernández, and Lupe Velásquez of Columbus; Susana Galindo of Fairview Park; Adrian Labra and Armando Labra of Canfield; Ricardo Peña, Belinda Saldana, José Santiago, Jenice Contreras, and Milagros Santiago-Hodges of Cleveland; Roberto Torres and Rico Neller of Toledo; and Rosita Uricia of Cincinnati.


Despite its name, Republicans were also present.


As reported by John Zogby in the Dec. 6, 2006 issue of La Prensa, “2008 may be the most significant election of our generation,” with Latinos making up 10 per cent of the vote. In reviewing the Nov. 7, 2006 election results, Zogby concluded that “Republicans took a drubbing among Latinos,” primarily because of Republican bill initiatives concerning immigrant-bashing and the construction of almost 700 miles of double-layered wall, separating México from the United States [HR 4437 and HR 6061].


With the 2008 presidential elections in the offing, Latinos from around the nation were meeting to discuss political strategies.


In Lorain, numerous charts/diagrams and break-out groups were initiated, with core questions such as: “Who are You?,” “Why are You here?,” “What process for submitting Latina/o candidates will have the greatest impact and potential?,” “How can we use existing processes to establish a common goal?,” and “Where do we go from here?”


Issues, goals, and strategies were developed over a five-hour period by the participants, grouped into the categories of: employment, education, immigration, and politics.


Herrera specializes in such work shops and explained to the group the “café process,” where participants could go from group to group and “pollinate between” the two (the Bumblebee approach), “harvesting” conversation; the creation of other groups (the Butterfly technique), and separating from the group or groups when needed (the Law of Two Feet). 

Herrera informed La Prensa, “I believe that many times, Latinos and Latinas may not be heard because we first have to develop a process for us to come together and speak with each other. But not just speak; we have to listen to each other as well.

“We have to get to know each other, develop trust and realize that there is not one person who has the great wisdom and knows what exactly needs to be done. Collective knowledge and wisdom is always the best. We can only do this through creating a space for safe, strategic conversation. I think we did this in Lorain.”

Rubén Castilla Herrera and Mary Santiago

Germán Trejo Caballero (Consejero Titular, Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior) concluded that: “I believe that the meeting was a great success, not only because it gathered a group of the most important Democratic Hispanic/Latino leaders, but also because all of the attendees participated in drafting a common strategy to benefit our community statewide.”


Other conclusions by participants included

Armando Labra (Consejero Titular, Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior): “Clearly, the meeting set the groundwork for goal-oriented dialogue of Latino leaders statewide. It was a start, and a good start for many more in the future. Someone mentioned the word “historical” at the conclusion of the meeting. No doubt, we need more qualified Latinos in positions of power in the newly elected administration. It remains to be seen if the newly elected Democrats deliver the promises made to our communities.”


Richard Romero (Commissioner, OCHLA): “I believe the Latino community in Ohio is ready to come together to move our community forward. The dialogue to put forth an agenda for the community was productive and well thought out. The needs of the Latino community will be served better with a plan. The gathering and workshops were inspiring and motivating.”


Jenice Contreras (Director of Development, Care Alliance Health Center, and president of the Young Latino Network): “Participating in the Democratic Strategic Dialogue gave me hope. I realized that people across the state are actively engaged politically to ensure the well being of Latinos. This was priceless.”


Chicahua Necahual (poet): “Things ran smoothly and I came away a much richer person for having been to the meeting…as I learned, shared, and embraced our beautiful community from many different levels.”


More such sessions are anticipated.


Conference Summary  (PDF)








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