DENVER – The Hispanic voice, in sheer numbers, is growing stronger by the day in America. The key is to channel a collective voice and understand that it comes with responsibility and a role in the reinvention of our country.
That was the message delivered by Glenn Llopis, founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership, who brought his 2012 Hispanic Voice Town Hall tour to Tivoli Turnhalle Tuesday evening. The event drew a sparse group of 15, prompting Llopis to observe that the Hispanic community’s fear to be heard is part of the problem.
“You had a lot of guts to come here,” he told the audience. “If you really want to know why most people don’t come it’s because they don’t have the courage. But this is not about why. This is about what: what do we do to advance ourselves as a community.”
The event was organized by the CU Denver Career Center.
The tour in this presidential election year is designed to create a dialogue within the Hispanic demographic — now at 60 million nationally and growing — and cultivate the community’s authentic identity and its economic prosperity, Llopis said. Nobody owes the Hispanic community anything, he emphasized.
“Today this country is reinventing itself and no one has the answers — no one,” he said. “We’re all trying to fabricate one. You know what the answer is? The people. The people in this country will decide its future. It’s not the president — it’s the people.”
The national discussion around Hispanics, fueled by rhetoric in political debates, tends to center around immigration and the Dream Act, Llopis said. He said those discussions end up weakening the Hispanic community. The real issue is the fact that by 2050 Hispanics will make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, and they have the unique skill sets to reinvent the nation.
“You don’t have to teach us about entrepreneurship. We are naturally wired to be leaders,” Llopis said. “In America you have a choice to be an entrepreneur, but in a developing country you must be one just to survive. Our ability to build relationships, advance commerce and better humanity is an inborn survival mechanism.”
Llopis said the problem is that Hispanics don’t have a voice that people trust. In a survey of 5,000 Latino professionals, the Center for Hispanic Leadership found that Latinos have trouble trusting others as well as each other. “So we would rather play it safe as a community and assimilate to be accepted and thus follow the rules of the workplace and societal engagement in order to advance. But while we’re doing that we ask ourselves inside, ‘Why am I doing that?'”
Dennis Mont’Ros, a 20-year veteran of the Air Force and current creative writing major at CU Denver, said that while Latinos are a growing demographic, he’s noticed they aren’t “putting ourselves forward commensurately. As our population grows in this country, our power and influence doesn’t seem to keep up. I wanted to learn how, maybe through art or other activism, I could get involved in that.”
Rafael Arvizu-derr, a member of the CU Denver Student Government Association, said Llopis helped open the door for a dialogue “that’s desperately needed.”
He said the perspectives offered by Llopis and others provides a “better understanding of the different issues that people in the community are facing and how they feel they can find their own upward mobility.”
(Photo: Glenn Llopis, founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership, holds up a recent issue of Time Magazine during the 2012 Hispanic Voice Town Hall at Tivoli Turnhalle.)