According to the Census Bureau, Hispanics-Latinos make up more than 60-million of the U.S. population, a 23-percent increase from 2010 to 2020.
In Rhode Island, the community is180,000+ strong, making up nearly 17-percent of the state’s total population; the twelfth highest percentage among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Encouraged by the Census findings, organizations like the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University are pushing to ensure that Hispanics-Latinos are an integral part of Ocean State’s strategic planning moving forward.
Marcela Betancur, Executive Director of LPI, was a guest on the Latino News Network podcast, “3 Questions With…” and shared insights on engaging Hispanics-Latinos beyond Hispanic Heritage Month, ensuring investments focus on gaps in determinants of health, and eliminating barriers to voting.
“It’s a sore spot,” said Betancur of the lack of genuine engagement and thoughtfulness that some elected officials or people who are running for office pay to Hispanics-Latinos, and not just during election years. “Election officials are only pandering to the Latino community just because there’s such a large percentage (of voters).
Betancur says it is essential for organizations like LPI to provide the community with information about why they need to participate in the electoral process. “(Focus on) How are we informing voters about issues, and the importance to vote in elections.”
When asked, in an interview with WPRI, about how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Hispanics-Latinos, Betancur was thoughtfully critical of the state’s response. “While our state has a great percentage of insured Rhode Islanders; 24-percent of Latinos are uninsured,” she said, arguing that when the pandemic happened, a lot of individuals were uninsured or underinsured. “I don’t think that as a state or as a society, we have focused enough on the Latino community in the important issues that affect our life – our education, our health, our economic wealth.”
Betancur grew up in Colombia and immigrated to the U.S. at age 12. She said that her experience shaped her interest in advocacy work, like LPI that dives into policymaking to achieve more significant social, political, and economic equity. “The community that I grew up in had many hurdles, but also had a lot of strengths – especially within our immigrant community.”
Last month, RI Latino News and the Latino Policy Institute announced a partnership to best serving the Hispanic-Latino community by giving greater voice and visibility to perspectives that aren’t typically heard or seen in mainstream media.
“The Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University is excited and proud to partner with RI Latino News to continue our mission of communicating the evolving Latino experience in Rhode Island through research, advocacy and education,” said Betancur about the collaboration.