Latinos are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the entire country. In Illinois they constitute 18% of the population and in Chicago more than 28%, according to the US Census.
Despite the growth in population size, the Latino community is underrepresented in politics, with less than 2% of Latinos in elected office nationwide.
Many Latino leaders have called for more political representation.
“As far as politics goes, we’re not quite there yet to try to get that power, but we’ll get there,” Ald said. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward), who also serves as Chairman of the City Council Latino Caucus.
This summer, Villegas championed a redistricting plan that would increase the possibility of greater Latino representation on the City Council with 15 majority-Latino constituencies. While the map was not approved, the final map included 14 majority-Latino constituencies.
Juan Carlos Linares, a member of the Illinois Latino Agenda Committee, agrees that more representation is needed.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” he said.
“But even if we are not represented by Latinos, we want to make sure that our representatives are culturally competent in how they serve us,” Linares said.
Representation has been particularly difficult in the Illinois court system, where there are no Latino justices on the Illinois Supreme Court.
“Having more diversity in banking creates more trust in the system… how can we have faith in a system if we are not really represented?” said Martha Soto, attorney and member of the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Illinois.
In September, the Illinois Latino Agenda, the Chicago Latino Caucus, and the Illinois Puerto Rico Bar Association expressed concern about the recently filled vacancy of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.
The Illinois Supreme Court did not appoint a Latino judge, while Burke’s district is 26% Latino.
“This was a missed opportunity for the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint a Latino or Hispanic appellate court, any Supreme Court justice,” Soto said.