With Election Day approaching, leaders of Chicagoâ€™s Puerto Rican community convened a press conference to express Puerto Rican unity and show support for North Side Puerto Rican/Latino elected officials. Eighty well-known educators, lawyers, executive directors, activists, business people, artists and residents in positions of leadership, who have dedicated themselves to improving the quality of life in the Puerto Rican community, signed the â€œPapeleta de la Unidad Boricuaâ€ (Puerto Rican Unity Ballot) to set an example for Latino/as in the community to come together to take part in this important and historical political process.
Despite the real possibility of losing an elected position, the central theme of the January 15 press conference at La Casa PuertorriqueÃ±a (1237 N. California) was not only of hope and optimism, but coming together to take an active role for progress. â€œWe need to take action now. We should mobilize with the same spirit with which we have moved in the past. This relates to our future and we will respond to this challenge as a united community,â€ said Eliud Medina Sr., executive director of the Near Northwest Neighborhood Network. While the â€œPapeletaâ€ urges voters to support all the Latino Northside incumbent, it focuses on those facing challengers. The Northside incumbents include: Rep. Luis V. GutiÃ©rrez (4th), State Sen. William â€œWillieâ€ Delgado (2nd), State Sen. Iris Y. Martinez (20th), State Rep. Cynthia Soto (4th), State Rep. Maria â€œToniâ€ Berrios (39th), State Rep. Luis Arroyo (3rd), Comm. Joseph Berrios as well as Ward Committeemen: Ald. Manny Flores (1st), Comm. Roberto Maldonado (26th), Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), Rey Colon (35th).
Marisol Morales, of the Puerto Rican agenda, a cohort of Humboldt Parkâ€™s prominent leaders, and one of those who signed the ballot, spoke on the history of solidarity that has been forged between Latinos in Chicago especially with the Mexican community and expressed her confidence in Mexican/Puerto Rican unity in this pivotal point in time. The President of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Xavier Nogueras, stated, â€œThis is the moment to be united! There is a possibility of losing our Senatorial seat in the north of Chicago, which will result in losing the highest-ranking Latina in the state. This would be such a loss for the Puerto Rican and Latino community in general.â€
For the last 20 years Latinos in Chicago have struggled to establish programs and institutions that address the needs of the Latino community. Community leaders argue that Puerto Rican and Latino incumbents know the issues faced by Latino constituents and have maintained an open ear to the public, often speaking on the communityâ€™s behalf in order to protect what has been established.
For these leaders, February 5 voters will decide if they are interested in continuing community building efforts or not after the long struggle to attain access to educational institutions, healthcare, cultural spaces and Latino representation in state and federal government has been accomplished.