Hispanic Heritage Month Blues


Celebration of an earlier year Hispanic Heritage Month at Orlando City Hall. / Maria Padilla

Ahhh, Hispanic Heritage Month, the time between September 15 and October 15 when people pay slightly more attention to Latinos because it’s “our month.”

Not always sure what to make of this. Mixed feelings abound. That’s why you won’t find me at many Hispanic Heritage events this year. No singing and dancing for me.

Is it great that people are paying a little more attention to the 56 million Latinos in the United States – over 4 million in Florida – even though most don’t know that Latinos comprise not one group, as the name implies, but many cultures? About 16, to be exact. Do you know who are the Latinos in your area?

Is it great that people are paying attention to Latino cuisine and enjoying our music and dance?

Is it great that municipalities, counties and states with high Hispanic populations likely will host some sort of event?

The answers to all of these questions is “Yes, But…”.   hispanic-heritage

While it’s a good idea to acknowledge who is living among us – indeed, who are our neighbors – it’s disappointing that many of the events do not go beyond the festivities, food and dance.

The activities, as we say in Spanish, are por encimita. Just grazing the surface, nothing more.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Por Encimita

Some might even say the events distract from what is not happening – that Orange, the county with the third largest Puerto Rican population in the U.S., has no local elected official , save for Daisy Morales, on the Soil and Water Board. Nobody on the Orange County School Board, nobody on the Orange County Commission, even though the county is one-third Latino, half Puerto Rican.

Latinos are 27 percent of the city of Orlando but last time I checked, nowhere near that figure in city employment. The city touts that “Hispanics represent more than $10 million in buying power for the local economy.” That is surely an error. It’s maybe more like $10 billion.

Solid Contributions

Hispanic buying power in the U.S. is over $1.3 trillion – larger than Mexico’s – according to consumer buying power stats from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, in Georgia. And it’s projected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020.

In 2012, Hispanic buying power in Florida alone was $213 billion. What is the figure today, considering that Latinos have a high growth rate?

Nearly one of every five businesses in Orlando is Hispanic-owned, according to the city.  You’d be hard pressed to find that news in Orlando Inc., otherwise known as the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce. The chamber only provides links to organizations like the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund on its “Doing Business in Orlando” page. Of the chamber’s management team, only one of a total of 20 is Hispanic. Why?

In the Orlando metro area about 17 percent of Hispanic firms are Puerto Rican-owned, compared with 31 percent for Cubans and 8 percent for Mexicans, states the Economic Census.

I could go on but you get the idea.

Latinos are not just eating, dancing or partying. They are creating businesses, jobs, gaining in voter strength, economic power, and more. Not just soaking up resources, as  is often the misimpression.

It would be great if Hispanics were given their due. Something that is not por encimita.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

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