Planning Public Policy Means Knowing Your Latino/Hispanic Audience


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By Vicky Carrasco, University of Maryland and Cecilia Giusti, Ph.D., Texas A&M University

According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center’s most recent report, the nation’s Latino/Hispanic population has increased by

48% from 2000 to 2011.  As communities throughout the U.S. diversify, addressing the shifting demographics and planning needs

of a growing Latino/Hispanic population is a timely discussion for planners.

The Latinos and Planning (LAP) Division of the American Planning Association (APA), which provides demographics trends to

to help inform public policy, was created to address planning issues related to working with Latino communities. What are the

current trends in the U.S. regarding this growing population? What are some of the considerations that planners should take

into account when trying to engage Latinos in the planning process?

Know Thy Audience: The Latino/Hispanic Community

Becoming familiar with the changing demographics in the Latino community is essential. Knowing your Latino/Hispanic

audience, like in every planning process or outreach effort, is ‘muy importante’ (very important). Who are the Latinos in

your community? How long have they been there? The LAP division’s past chair, Leo Vasquez, states “An important thing

to understand about planning in Latino communities is that even in small concentrations, Latinos are diverse and sometimes

divided. Though they get batched together in census stats, Latinos can come from more than a dozen countries, be of

any race, and may be divided by income in the United States, class, heritage, and levels of assimilation with Anglo culture.

It’s a good idea to find out about the diversity of Latinos in the community before conducting formal outreach methods.”

Furthermore, planners should be careful in making assumptions. Trust is built by knowing the individuals and being

interested in their perspectives. Though they get batched together in census stats, Latinos can come from more than a dozen

countries, be of any race, and may be divided by income in the United States, class, heritage, and levels of assimilation with Anglo culture.

Engaging and Planning for the Latino/Hispanic Community Learning and adapting public participation processes for your target

audience, especially for the Latinos in a community, is critical. Leo states that “The traditional town hall models of community

engagement, which was refined in Anglo-American civic centers and African-American churches, may be foreign and intimidating

to Latinos who have never been involved with collaborative planning. There are various ways to engage Latinos and anyone

else who may not feel comfortable in the town hall setting.” Various approaches include working with sports clubs, ethnic

organizations, Catholic and Spanish-language churches, and social service agencies in the area. Planners should also

consider the language barrier. “It’s good to have materials in Spanish as a sign of respect to those whose first language is not

English” (Leo Vasquez).  As planning in diverse communities grows, planning third place was New Haven County, with

programs have an opportunity to update the curriculum to include public engagement of Latino populations.
How Can Latinos and Planning Division (LAP) Help?
When APA’s Latinos and Planning Division formalized in 2005, a series of ‘Dialogos’, or dialogues in Spanish, were
held in the form of public meeting for planners across the nation. Some of the top issues and challenges identified were:
• Increase numbers of Latinos participating in planning in their communities
• Improve the ways urban planners understand and relate to the needs and desires of Latino communities
• Help facilitate continuously improving planning processes to provide and improve results for Latino community residents and stakeholders
For more information on the Latino and Planning Division of the American Planning Association visit:  org/divisions/join.
Or Contact LAP Chair Vicky Carrasco
at or Vice-
Chair Monica Villalobos at monica.
 This article first appeared in Connecticut Planning” A publication of the Connecticut chapter of the American Planning Association and is reprinted with permission and some editing for length.