American Latinos: Forging a Stronger America

new-american-allianceAna-María Fernández Haar, Chair of the Board, New America Alliance Institute

When the New America Alliance (NAA) Institute convenes the 2nd Biennial American Latino National Summit in San Antonio this August 5-6, it will be with the same laser-focused vision, unwavering commitment and steadfast resolve that inspired its founding almost 15 years ago. Together with equally committed Latino/Hispanic driven organizations – AJC, Excelencia in Education, HACU, MALDEF, NALEO Educational Fund, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber, The Latino Coalition, Voto Latino and important significant others – we continue to apply inspired action to our mission of propelling the progress of our communities; thus forging a stronger nation and, yes, a more perfect Union. A critical goal of our original mission is also being fulfilled as a new generation of accomplished Latino leaders is already taking its rightful place and moving forward with unstoppable energy and speed; an envisioned future that is already here. In the informal vernacular: we are talking the talk and walking the walk… together.

The scheduling of the NAA American Latino National Summit in election years serves to amplify our positions as articulated by the leading experts convened, precisely in the areas of greatest interest to all Americans: education, healthcare, voter participation/civic engagement, immigration and economic growth. As a non-partisan organization, we establish productive collaborations with a broad spectrum of like-minded public and private sector organizations and individuals; keenly aware that as engaged U.S. citizens, our growing voting clout matters, often providing decisive margins in electoral outcomes. Prior to the 2012 elections, our Miami Summit, in a battleground state, anticipated just such a difference playing out on the national stage. It did.

Likewise, our presence in San Antonio, Texas in 2014 bespeaks not only of the city’s rich Hispanic heritage but also of its vibrant economic development and superlative bench of Latino leadership across all sectors: entrepreneurial, educational and political. Attorney Frank Herrera, Jr., NAA Chair of the Board and Henry Cisneros, NAA Co-Founder, Executive Chairman of CityView and Founder of the Cisneros Center head a stellar Host Committee. In keeping with the organization’s economic capital mission, the latter will also moderate an important panel showcasing Journeys of Entrepreneurial Success as Contributions to a Stronger America.

It is not lost on anyone that “According to Pew Research Center tabulations from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, in 2012 there were 10 million Latinos and 11.6 million non-Hispanic whites living in Texas, making up 38.2% and 44.4%, respectively, of the state’s 26.1 million residents… the Hispanic population is growing more quickly than the non-Hispanic white population—since 2000 Hispanics have made up 63.5% of the Lone Star state’s population growth”.(1) No doubt, this growth will add interesting dimensions to the political landscape in the  near future. Leticia Van de Putte, Texas State Senator and Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Texas is certain to elucidate the demographic and psychographic ramifications of these trends coupled with the concerted efforts underway to increase voter registration and participation in the state.   

The national picture tells a similar story. At the risk of repeating facts well known to Latinos and marketers, but often unreported or misreported, the Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2012, was 53 million, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority. Hispanics constituted 17% of the nation’s total population (2); and 1.2 trillion of its buying power in 2012, projected to reach 1.5 trillion by 2015. (3)  But to put future growth in perspective, an Hispanic child born in 2014, at the age of 46 in 2060, will be part of a population cohort of 128.8 million,  or 31% of the nation’s total, the U.S. Census’ projected Hispanic population of the United States in that year. (2)

Throughout the two days of the conference, we will report progress on almost all fronts: educational attainment, healthcare, elected and appointed officials, voter registration, immigration, Hispanic outreach and the growth of Hispanic-owned businesses, a number that was expected to top 3.16 million with an estimated $468 billion in sales last year, 2013. (4)  As important,  and with a clear understanding that American Latinos are naturally connected to all other Spanish speaking groups and countries in the world, our collaborative initiatives extend beyond the continental United States. In this spirit, the NAA welcomes two important partners, Dina Siegel Vann, Director, Latino and Latin American Institute of the American Jewish Committee and Alberto Bacó Bagué, Secretary of Economic Development & Commerce of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and his delegation.  As was the case in 2012, the NAA will issue the American Latino Agenda Report including recommendations and actionable goals.

The long and winding road aptly describes our journey and the journey to any promised land. It is seldom straight and more often than not, marked by roadblocks (natural and imposed), detours and unexpected obstacles. Ours is no different. Despite our progress we have much to do and a long way to go, ready as we are to give it our all and invest in our own solutions. We are disheartened that in certain sectors the national discourse about Latinos has deteriorated from two years ago, moving from misinformation and even ignorance to the realm of outright insults, accusations, untruths, and mischaracterizations, made even more heartbreaking when directed at innocent children. Few have been spared: not a supreme court justice, not Hispanic men and women in uniform, not elected or appointed officials, not sports icons, not entertainers, not scientists, not even the Pope himself. In this light, we appreciate even more the struggles and achievements of our African-American friends and colleagues, and the community as a whole; knowing full well that their experience is painfully unique in American history. It serves us all well to remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s words “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”.

And so, we continue our journey, focused on our mission, accepting no defeat as permanent, forgiving those who trespass against us, standing tall and committed to being the best citizens we can every day, forging a stronger America, because we love our country and because we know that our country needs us.

(1)    Pew Research Center, FactTank, January 24, 2014, Mark Hugo Lopez

(2)    Source: 2012 Population Estimates, United States Census Bureau, Newsroom, Profile America Facts for Features, July 30, 2013

(3)    Nielsen: State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative, Quarter 2, 2012

(4)    Source: Hispanic Businesses & Entrepreneurs Drive Growth in the New Economy, USHCC & Geoscape, 2013 Report

[Photo by SEIU International]

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