“We had to pivot from the areas we (CWCSEO) were trying to prioritize to what the people needed”, said Werner Oyanadel, the Latino Policy Director with Latino policy division for the Connecticut General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity (CWCSEO). Oyanadel explained on the Latino News Network’s podcast, “3 Questions With…”, the Commission’s listen-to-what-the-community-says-is-important approach in providing targeted advice to the legislature.
As the numbers from the 2020 Census arrive there are strong signs that the fast-growing Hispanic-Latino population is poised to acquire greater political influence at the national and state levels.
In Connecticut, residents identifying as Hispanic-Latino in the decennial headcount increased to 17.3% or 623K people, a 144,000 person jump.
“Connecticut will need to invest in Latino children,” observed Oyanadel given the large number of Hispanics-Latinos under the age of 18.
Oyandel shared a presentation on the changing Hispanic-Latino population of Connecticut at the ¡Extra! ¡Extra!: A Conversation on Latino Journalism virtual roundtable discussion hosted by El Instituto, UCONN’s institute of Latino studies, co-sponsored with the Connecticut Democracy Center (CDC) at the Old State House, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Among the findings Oyanadel shared were that eight out of ten businesses are started by Hispanic-Latinos, the group represents nearly $2 trillion in purchasing power, and Latinas create small businesses six times faster than any other group.
Still those impressive stats have not translated to equitable representation in government, and participation of Hispanics-Latinos on Election Day.
Part of the problem is the lack of attention Democrats and Republicans pay to the Hispanic-Latino electorate, favoring instead to focus on traditional voters. Oyandel says that is a particular issue at the national level, “Connecticut is a safe blue state…the Republican and the Democratic party do not reach out to the Latino community as much as they should.”
Culture Concepts, a private research consultancy collaborated on a study that found eligible Hispanic-Latino voters feel disenfranchised due to sporadic outreach by campaigns. New voters or those who haven’t cast a ballot in recent elections are not actively courted through phone calls or door-knocking.
“You have to create a culture of voting,” Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News just before the November 2020 election. “You have to engage voters not just before an election but you have to do it continuously in order to create that culture of voting.”
Publisher’s Note: Why don’t Latinos vote is the subject of the Advancing Democracy: Connecticut Solutions Journalism Initiative that CTLatinoNews.com (CTLN) is undertaking as part of eight reporting projects in 10 newsrooms across the United States.