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Hispanic Democrats form new Puerto Rican and Latino caucus to address community needs in Connecticut

File, 2019: Rep. Minnie Gonzalez is president of the newly created Puerto Rican and Latino caucus.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
File, 2019: Rep. Minnie Gonzalez occupies her seat on the first day of session.

Hispanic Democratic legislators have created a new group called the Puerto Rican and Latino caucus, aiming to address the struggles of the Hispanic community and gain more influence.

Rep.Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, is president of the new caucus. She alleged that for the past years, Hispanic Democrats had not received enough support to address issues in their community.

Gonzalez highlighted that the Black and Puerto Rican caucushas been active since 1976, but the Latino and Puerto Rican communities have grown so much that some lawmakers felt they had their own specific community needs to address.

Gonzalez said Hispanic legislators have constantly asked Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont to appoint Latinos in his closest advisory circle, but she says he hasn't done enough.

“Latinos expected to have more commissioners and more people in key positions, and that didn't happen,” Gonzalez said. “And we’ve been complaining about that.”

In an email to Connecticut Public, a spokesperson for Lamont said, “the governor is willing to meet with any legislators to discuss issues that are important to them.”

In the recent legislative session, Gonzalez said Hispanics needed more financial support to address the growing community's needs. According to the 2020 census, the Hispanic community in Connecticut had increased 30% since 2010. Now, Latinos make up 18% of the state population.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists urged newsrooms to stop labeling communities of color as “minorities” in August 2020.

“The word ‘minority’ has a connotation of an oppressed group,” the organization said. “The way it is too often utilized minimizes historically marginalized people and promotes erasure.”

Gonzalez said some of the Hispanic community's biggest issues are education, role models for the youth, housing, employment and immigration.

At a Hispanic bakery on Maple Avenue in Hartford, local resident Ramiro Araujo agrees. He considers it about time to fix issues in his community.

“The needs for Latinos are to find jobs and help undocumented immigrants obtain their status. That way they can work legally,” he said. “They face so many problems.”

“I think each community has their own problems that are different,” said Carlos Vega, a shopper at a grocery store in Hartford. He agrees that Latino leaders should step up to help the community.

Gonzalez said she's had enough of broken promises to the Hispanic community

“When the politicians need the Puerto Rican and Latino vote, they are there knocking on doors. And as soon they get elected, they forget about us. Enough is enough. It’s very disrespectful from the Democratic Party not to help the Hispanic community. We have the same rights as everyone else. ”

In the 2022 state elections, key districts, such as Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, voted to reelect Lamont.

“Our community is growing day-by-day. So at the end of the day, we got the numbers to do a lot of changes,” Gonzalez said.

Back at the Hartford grocery store, Vega argues that Hispanic residents need to get educated about state leaders before voting for them.

“We Hispanics should support the people that represent our values and families. It's not about just working Monday through Saturday,” Vega said. “We should give time to conversations that are important, that affect us everyday, especially state and municipal politics.”

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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