Latino advocacy group sets goals

ROCHESTER — New goals, action items and timelines were established during La Cumbre’s Spring Renewal last month.

The May 11 event hosted by the ad-hoc Latino advocacy group also provided progress reports from committees working on La Cumbre’s four focus areas. Those four areas are: economic development, government representation, education, and arts and culture.

"La Cumbre is a connector … for our community," said Mauricio Riveros, one of the group’s founding members. "It is a forum to meet, discuss, coordinate, facilitate, organize and collaborate. … The idea is to put the common goals of the Hispanic community all together, working together with the same objectives. That is extremely important."

Presenting the status of projects that La Cumbre has spearheaded since forming three years ago was an important element of the event, which served to motivate and encourage existing and new committee members, noted City Councilwoman Jackie Ortiz, who also helped found the group.

"We want to remind people we’re still here," she added. "We want to inform (the community) about what we have accomplished and share that sense of pride. We’re still going, and we’re going strong."

Accomplishments in the group’s focus areas include the following:

* Leading civic engagement sessions for Latinos and partnering with the League of Women Voters to boost Hispanic voter registration efforts in underserved neighborhoods.

* Promoting and supporting programs to boost business development, such as the Minority/Women Business Enterprise certification, and partnering with El Mensajero Católico and other community groups to increase awareness of economic indicators through the newspapers’ new business section called "El Mural de la Comunidad."

* Stabilizing the bilingual-education department in the Rochester City School District by creating a Latino studies position and successfully advocating for the hiring of a director who is a Spanish speaker.

* Community promotion and building awareness of Latino artists and arts organizations and events.

La Cumbre members also are in the midst of updating a 2012 Center for Governmental Research survey on how well Latinos are doing on several economic indicators, including employment, income and educational attainment, said Luis Ormaechea, who is vice president of the Rochester Hispanic Business Association.

"We want to be able to (measure) how much progress we are making with all our efforts," he said.

Following workshops held during the May 11 event, the committees also came up with new goals and strategies.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren participated in the economic development group and provided information on opportunities available to realize the La Marketa mixed-use development on North Clinton Avenue, which has been in the works for several years. She said the group could connect with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Council’s Pathways to Prosperity to find resources on workforce development and creating business plans for entrepreneurs.

"Clinton Avenue could be an economic hub of the Latino community," agreed Miguel Meléndez from the Ibero-American Development Corp. "We want to bring people up along with us and create new opportunities."

Warren said the city could partner with Ibero and Rochester Institute of Technology’s new Center for Urban Entrepreneurship to also explore business opportunities for the Clinton area.

The government group focused on enhancing voter-registration efforts by going door to door, identifying and creating pools of potential Latino candidates for office, and reaching out to registered voters through social media and advertising using real people to explain important issues.

"We want to ensure we have enough representation on the various levels within our community to make sure our stories are being told at the tables where a lot of decisions are being made," said Yversha Roman, who led the government group’s workshop.

The arts and culture group plans to develop a directory of artists to add to La Cumbre’s website, explained Julio Esco Jordan, a local author and actor with the Rochester Latino Theatre Company. The process of creating a Latino arts center, which was discussed in the initial years of La Cumbre, also will continue, added Annette Ramos, cofounder of the theater company.

"We can take baby steps," she said of the planning that will continue over the next three to five years. "A business plan already has been written. We’re looking at a building. There are some things happening behind the scenes."

All of these projects require the work and support of all the La Cumbre committees, noted Abraham Hernández, who also helped create the group.

"One can’t fail, because if one fails, all the others fail," he added.

But the success that La Cumbre groups have achieved provides forward momentum for the group, noted Riveros.

"This didn’t die," he said in regard to naysayers about La Cumbre when it was formed. "It’s so amazing the future that we have. But the only way we are going to achieve that future is working together as a unified (community)."

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