(The following is a reprint of an oped written by Councilmember Fimbres)
Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
As we work to honor Latino culture this month, we should reflect on what makes Latinos unique and such a strong contributing force in America. Latinos across America have made countless positive contributions to our military, education, the arts, the economy, and the social fabric which makes America unique.
With 50 million Latinos across the United States, Latinos now make up the largest minority group and represent nearly $1 trillion dollars in buying power. Latinos also represent the fastest growing segment of the American electorate.
In Arizona Raul Castro served as our first Latino Governor for the state. Ed Pastor was the first Latino elected to represent Arizona in the U.S. Congress in 1991 and today, there are two Latinos in Congress, Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva and in this election, we have an opportunity to send our first U.S. Senator to Washington in Richard Carmona. In Tucson and Pima County, Latinos have sent a strong message by turning out to vote and leading the state in the number of Latinos that have been elected to governing bodies such as the State Legislature, Pima County government, Tucson City government, local school districts and Pima Community College.
Latinos are a sleeping giant which needs to make the long term investment, by registering to vote and casting their ballots to empower our families and our neighborhoods. The 2010 U.S. Census showed the Latino community grew by four times the national average, accounting for more than half of the total U.S. population increase of 27.3 million. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, or four times the nation’s 9.7 percent growth rate.
As we increase our population, we should increase our participation at the polls. In Tucson, during the 2011 election, which was conducted as an all, vote-by-mail, turnout increased in the South and West sides, where a majority of the Latino community resides, by 36 and 27 percent respectively. The sleeping giant is awakening in the Old Pueblo and now it is time to do so in the rest of Arizona.
During this Hispanic Heritage Month, let us reflect on where we have been but not lose sight on where we still need to go. President John F. Kennedy stated, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country.” The best thing we can do for our country is to register and Vote.
(Richard Fimbres is the Councilmember for Tucson’s Ward 5, and has been in office since 2009.)