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Chicago to host national Latino summit

Chicago will host a national Latino summit this month – a nod to the leadership role lllinois has taken on immigration issues, and an opportunity for local community leaders to influence the national Latino agenda, host committee members said Wednesday.

The sixth annual National Latino Congreso takes place May 17 to 19 at the Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western, with a youth convention planned for May 16.

“The Congreso’s timing just days before NATO – also being held in Chicago for the first time – presents a unique opportunity to explore transnational issues related to immigration and security from both a Latino and a Midwestern perspective,” according to a statement from local hosts.

The Latino political and policy convention will focus on economic justice, immigration policy, and electoral and civic engagement, said Oscar Chacon, executive director of the National Association of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, one of seven national organizations convening the event.

It’s structured around workshops and panels to maximize dialogue among participants, he said.  First held in 2006, previous Congresos have been held in California and Texas.

One theme that emerged at a press conference at Casa Michoacan was holding politicians accountable after they are elected.

“Latinos are more and more important in elections, but time and time again, our issues and concerns are not addressed after the election is over,” Chacon said.  “We can no longer accept lip service on our issues.”

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Latinos to testify on mental health cuts

Patients and staff from city mental health centers that are being closed next month by Mayor Emanuel will testify on the impact of the closures on the Latino community, Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. at Resurrection Church, 3043 N. Francisco.

Although large swathes of the immigrant population will remain uninsured under federal health reform, the two centers serving the largest number of Latino clients – Back of the Yards, 4313 S. Ashland, and the Northwest center, 2354 N. Milwaukee – are among six centers slated for closing, with much of the bilingual staff to be laid off.

Former City Clerk Miguel del Valle will open the forum, and elected officials are invited to respond to comments.

Pressure is mounting on Ald. George Cardenas (12th ward), chair of the health committee, who has repeatedly promised hearings on the closings.  A resolution calling for hearings was introduced in the City Council last week and referred to the health committee.

Yollocalli at the White House

Young artists and staff from the Yollocalli Arts Reach program of Pilsen were at the White House on Thursday to receive the Coming Up Taller Award, granted by the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities to recognize outstanding community youth arts programs.

An initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art, Yollocalli has lots of interesting programs — and the 2009 award makes NMMA the only organization to sponsor two CUT winners.  Radio Arte won the award in 2003..

Meanwhile, also in Washington, NMMA’s exhibit on The African Presence in Mexico opens November 9 at the Smithsonian Institute.

‘Basta Lou Dobbs’

At a Wednesday noon press conference at Casa Michoacan, 1638 S. Blue Island, local Latino leaders will add their voices to a national campaign urging CNN to drop Lou Dobbs, citing his support for extremist anti-Latino groups and his “promotion of hatred.”  Check the video below from

Latinos lag in tech careers

Latinos are “vastly under-engaged in technology careers,” especially in Illinois — and that could hurt the state’s potential for economic recovery and growth.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Latino Technology Alliance, a new organization formed to bridge the gap in technology employment and entrepreneurship.

While accounting for 15 percent of Illinois’ population, Latinos comprise less than 5 percent of its technology workforce, according to the report, which notes that earnings in science and technology are generally far higher than in other fields.

LTA was founded in 2002 as the Latino Technology Association, a membership association, but found the number of Latino business professionals seeking high-tech careers was declining, said Queta Rodriguez Bauer. Last year the group reorganized as a social service agency to promote education, job-creation and entrepreneurship.

A big part of the problem is education. Lower educational attainment by Latino students limits their access to technology careers, according to the study, and schools in low-income areas have less access to computers and technology and are less likely to use computers for instructional purposes. In addition, Latino parents often have language barriers and less experience with higher education.

The report proposes a variety of programs for students, as well as career fairs, networking gatherings, and a data base of high-tech product and service providers in the Latino community, to promote business opportunities.

Latinos could give the Illinois economy a competitive edge in global and domestic technology and service markets where bilingual skills and cultural competencies are advantages, Bauer said — but as a growing portion of the state’s population, they could also hold the economy back if their potential isn’t fully developed, she added.

Aguijon Theater hosts Elena Poniatowska

Renowned Mexican journalist Elena Poniatowska will discuss the role of women in Latin American literature, Saturday at 1 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art.

It’s part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Aguijon Theater, a company committed to creating Spanish-language theater that addresses social concerns.  (Originally founded as a traveling company housed at Truman College, the theater has occupied its own space in Belmont-Cragin since 1999.) 

Saturday evening Poniatowska will participate in a gala celebration of the anniversary featuring dinner, drinks, music and performances, also at NAMA, 1852 W. 19th Street.  Info at 773-637-5899.

Tarde en el Zocalo

Tarde en el Zocalo — the Resurrection Project‘s 7th annual annual celebration of Mexican music and culture — takes place this evening (Friday, August 21, 5 to 11 p.m.) at Pilsen’s Zocalo. That’s the cul-de-sac at 18th and Paulin, facing TRP’s office, which the group is building into a communty cultural center similar to a central plaza found in a Mexican town.

La Raza in Chicago

The Ressurection Project was awarded the Family Strengthening Award by the National Council of La Raza (in Chicago for its national conference this weekend) in recognition of the role of its financial services program, which helps over 1,000 families a year prevent foreclosure and repair credit.

 La Raza’s conference kicked off with a ceremony of naturalization — not in a courtroom as usual, but at Erie Neighborhood House.  It was a fitting site, since the agency has helped immigrants integrate into a new home since its founding as a settlement house in 1870.

Following the ceremony, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights helped the new citizens register to vote.

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