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MA Politics

Latinos Gain Seats In Local Elections Across Massachusetts

Newly elected Chelsea City Councillor Judith Gomez in Bellingham Square on November 10, 2015. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Newly elected Councilor Judith Garcia

Riding through her district in the heart of Chelsea, 24-year-old Judith Garcia stops to say hello to a man who campaigned for her in the recent City Council race.

“Mi nombre es Marco Antonio Velazquez,” the man said, leaning into the car window and introducing himself in Spanish.

Asked why he voted for Garcia, Velazquez said he’s unable to vote, so instead, he volunteered.

“I feel very happy because now we have a majority on the City Council,” he said. “So it won’t be the Americans doing what they want, it will be the Latinos deciding what we want for Chelsea.”

Latinos Elected To Serve Across Massachusetts

Chelsea’s Latinos won big in last week’s elections, taking six of 11 council seats and six of nine seats on the school committee.

District 5 is where Garcia was born and raised, and soon she will represent it as city councilor.

Garcia is among some three dozen Latinos elected this month to councils and school committees across Massachusetts, a figure analysts say is the highest number since the first Latinos were elected to local offices three decades ago.

Their platforms were as diverse as the issues important in their communities: whether it’s housing, education or economic development.

For Garcia, one of the issues is gang violence among Chelsea’s youth.

“They are running away from the corruption and the violence in their own countries — how do we provide them with counseling?” she said. “How do we also remember that they’re here in a new country, where they have to learn a new language and basically start from scratch?”

The wave of Latinos elected this month has its roots in the 1980s. In 1989 Nelson Merced was elected as a state representative from Boston, the first Latino to hold the job.

University of Massachusetts Boston professor emeritus Carol Hardy-Fanta says Merced inspired other Latinos to run across the state — and by 1994, seven Latinos held seats between the state Legislature, city councils and school committees. Twenty years later Hardy-Fanta said that number had more than quadrupled.

And next year, at least 46 elected Latinos will be serving across Massachusetts.

photo:  Jesse Cotto, WBUR

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