BOSTON (SHNS) – The Governor’s Council on Latino Empowerment is going to be “focused on solutions” to issues facing the Latino community in Massachusetts, council Chair Josiane Martinez said after their first meeting Wednesday in the governor’s office.
Gov. Maura Healey announced members of the 40-person council on Tuesday, saying they would “break down systemic barriers and expand access opportunity by prioritizing education, job training, entrepreneurship and affordability.” Martinez identified housing, affordability, access to health care, and educational inequity as issues that the council will focus on, saying “these issues are not new to us.” “We know that these issues are rooted in poverty and inequality,” she said. “And we’re going to be working on those, going back to the communities with solutions and hopefully working with the administration to come back with targeting implementation strategies.”
The council will meet with the governor quarterly, and break up into three standing committees — one based on well being, one on prosperity and the last on equity. There will be further subcommittees within those committees, Martinez said. The chair added that the council is intentionally diverse, both in where members live in Massachusetts and what countries in Latin America they or their families come from.
“It is very important because the Latino community is not a monolithic community. People think about the Latino community as one, but we really are multiple countries coming together,” Martinez said. Vice chair of the council, La Colaborativa Executive Director Gladys Vega, said she was “optimistic” leaving their first meeting. “The governor immediately mentioned, at our first meeting, that she wants action. She wants for us to be a working group. We want to be able to work on these issues immediately, and we’re ready to do so,” Vega said.
There are about 850,000 Latinos in Massachusetts, according to The Boston Foundation research center Boston Indicators, comprising 12 percent of the state population. In Massachusetts the largest group of Latinos is Puerto Rican (42 percent), and Latinos are concentrated in Boston and the state’s “gateway cities.”