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Posted Sep 16, 2013, 8:09 pm
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
As we honor Latino culture this month, we should reflect on what makes Latinos such a strong contributing force in America. Latinos across America have made countless positive contributions to our military, education, the arts, the economy, and the social fabric which makes our nation unique.
With over 50 million Latinos across the United States, Latinos now make up the largest minority group and represent nearly $1 trillion in buying power. Latinos also represent the fastest growing segment of the American electorate.
In Arizona, Raul Castro served as our first Latino governor in the 1970s. In 1991, Ed Pastor was the first Latino elected to represent Arizona in the U.S. Congress; today there are two Latinos in Congress: Pastor and Raul Grijalva. In a few years we have an opportunity to send our first Latino U.S. Senator to Washington.
In Tucson and Pima County, Latinos have sent a strong message by turning out to vote and leading the state in the number of Latinos that have been elected to governing bodies such as the state Legislature, Pima County government, Tucson city government, local school districts and Pima Community College's Governing Board.
The 2010 U.S. Census showed the Latino community grew by four times the national average, accounting for more than half of the total U.S. population increase of 27.3 million. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, or four times the nation's 9.7 percent growth rate.
As we increase our population, we need to continue to increase our participation at the polls. In Tucson, during the 2011 election, which was conducted in an all vote-by-mail process, turnout increased in the South and West sides, where a majority of the Latino community resides, by 36 and 27 percent respectively. According to the most recent DATOS report, Arizona foreign exports in 2012 totaled $18.4 billion. The state's largest trading partner was Mexico - $6.3 billion, representing 34.2 percent of the state's total.
During this Hispanic Heritage Month, let us reflect on where we have been but not lose sight on where we still need to go. President John F. Kennedy stated, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country". The best thing we can do for our country is to register and vote.
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TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.