It comes as no surprise that the new Pew Hispanic Center survey revealed that 64% of Latinos were unable to name the person they consider to be “the most important Latino leader in the country today.” Latinos are too diverse a population to identify with just one leader. We have many political and community influentials, as well as community organizations, whom we regard as leaders but that lack the national name recognition. If a similar question were posed to other groups, the outcome may be similar in that not one individual would be the victor. While media outlets often take the shortcut approach of anointing one individual as the representative for one entire ethnic group, that is not a practice that is accepted at the community or individual level. We do not have one leader in the Latino community. We have many.
According to the survey, the most frequently identified individual was Sonia Sotomayor, appointed last year to the U.S. Supreme Court. Some 7% of respondents said she is the most important Latino leader in the country. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) of Chicago is next at 5%. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa draws 3%, and Jorge Ramos, an anchor on Noticiero Univision, the national evening news program on the Spanish-language television network Univision, drew 2%. Most of the named individuals are media magnets which helps boost their name recognition and visibility among Latinos.
To identify with just one national leader would not pay homage to the countless Latino men and women that are helping make a difference in our communities. Although individuals may not recognize Thomas A. Saenz, they have benefited from his work. As President and General Counsel of MALDEF, he has been part of groundbreaking legal victories granting equal access to education all Latinos, regardless of residency status, and just recently challenged in the court Arizona’s discriminatory SB 1070. Frank D. Alvarez may not be a name or face that is top of mind for most people, yet as President of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, he is responsible for managing the nation’s largest Hispanic higher education fund, granting millions of dollars in scholarships to deserving students.
For Latinos our diversity is our strength. We come from many countries, have many reasons for coming to the United States, we vary in our acculturation and education levels, and certainly do not have one leader. Why expect one person to be able to speak for all of us when we can all speak for ourselves? To read the entire report visit: http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=131