She introduced herself with the ancestors of 300 years. Stiff in our backs from carrying the weight of a broken immigration system for so long, we breathed in deep as the clarity in her voice softened the rows of shoulders in the conference room. San Antonio Council Member Rebecca Viagran reminded us that Mexican families like hers have called this land home since the early 1700s. Since before the concept of citizenship. Since before the crooked borders made a country. Since the time of Indigeneity. This is the rich American history on which the 58.9 million Latino community members stand on today as the nation’s largest ethnic and racial community in the United States. Yet despite this visible presence, which revitalizes our streets and infuses life into our schools, in Minneapolis only approximately 1 percent of our city employees are Latina women.
In Minnesota alone, we have more than 276,000 Latinos. The State Demographer’s office projects that by the year 2035 Latinos will make up 9 percent of Minnesota’s total population, making it the largest ethnic and racial community in our state. Locally, Minneapolis’ Latino population stands at 10.5 percent of our city’s total population. Still, out of the 4,220 City of Minneapolis employees, approximately 4 percent are Latinx (this includes both male and female identified workers).
New public policies aren’t enough
These numbers illustrate a sobering reality of the necessary work before us to achieve true racial equity for not only our residents but also for our city’s employees. It’s not enough to promote public policies that address racial injustices; we must also bring racial justice to the inside of City Hall. As Minneapolis’ demographics change, our government too must change. Striving to proportionately reflect the diversity of experiences, languages, culture, and talent our city is blessed with will ensure that our city government is able to deliver meaningful, effective, and long-lasting solutions that will carry us into the future.
As the city’s first Latina City Council member, a few short months ago I teamed up with the city’s first Latina City Coordinator, Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, to support Leda Schuster – one of the most visionary Latina policy aides in City Hall – to address one question: How could the City of Minneapolis do a better job at growing and supporting the number of City Latinx employees?
Soon, this journey empowered leaders like Leda and Daniel Bonilla from the City’s Community Planning and Economic Development Department to launch ¡SOMOS!, the City’s first Latinx Employee Resource Group. ¡SOMOS! is now the fourth official employee resource group for the city, joining ranks with the African-American, women, and military employee resource groups to drive forward better representation. The process of establishing this group contained bursts and bumps, but it was foundational to be a part of an idea that turned into a concrete reality for systemic change to better support the Latinx professionals who serve the people of our city.
Will help the city achieve equity goals
Employee Resource Groups offer city staff the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues and city leaders to help achieve the City of Minneapolis’ racial equity hiring goals and improve the workplace by promoting policies and practices that are free of racial discrimination. ¡SOMOS! will focus on advancing recruitment, retention, and career development strategies that benefit Latino employees. It will also provide recommendations on how to better create an inclusive, representative, and empowering work environment for Latino workers. Each year ¡SOMOS! will create opportunities for visibility and institutional learning during Latino Heritage Month and will highlight our Twin Cities Latino leaders.
This past Friday, March 15, marked the inaugural launch of ¡SOMOS! as Mayor Jacob Frey and the City Council participated in a morning ceremony joined by more than 30 Latinx employees representing countries like Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, and Colombia to recognize the value and rich contributions of Latinx employees as history makers and legacy leaders. We acknowledged their vital role in the growth and strength of our nation, region, and in Minneapolis as we celebrate this nascent effort to elevate the voice and impact of Latinx employees. We know our entire city will be able to reap the benefits of this unique and positive work.
Alondra Cano represents the Ninth Ward on the Minneapolis City Council.
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