The Latino Consortium for Action
United We Stand!
“We know that there are these Latino non-profit organizations in this community,” said Mayra Medrano, the former chair of the Latino Chamber of Commerce before
she moved to Washington, D.C. “It’s very important to know what each organization is doing as advocates for our Latino families. Typically, we share
communications via email, social media or some kind of email update. We would all communicate, which was fine and it still continues as such. However, what
was missing was that back and forth discussion, having full discussions around certain things that are occurring in the city or on a nationwide basis. What are
some of the things affecting our Latino families whom we are serving? We needed to have a dialogue. And so this group was created to have that dialogue, so that
each organization can send a representative. A lot of these organizations are Latino or Latino-led. The heads of these organizations come together to share updates
on what each organization is doing in terms of events. And we come together to see how we can help each other out. What are some of the challenges and barriers
that are currently existing within that organization that prevents them from carrying out their mission. We really throw out ideas at each other. We get pretty creative
in ensuring that each organization can really help out Latino families.”

The LCA has also proved to be instrumental in providing a unified voice to the greater community on issues that are impacting the Latino community.

“One of the things that we did was update a report United Way had done around 10 years ago,” said Oscar Mireles, director of Omega School and the convener for
LCA. “It was a state of the state as it related to the Latino community. In 2016, the LCA group was instrumental in doing another post on our community called
Cuéntame Más. It was economic development, which included business development and workforce development, quality of life, access to affordable housing,
access to health care, k-12 education and post-secondary. We took the pulse to see where we are at 10 years later. I think that was a milestone for the LCA because
we came together and said, ‘This is what is currently going on. How do we make sure that we are benchmarking so that we can have metrics that are attainable and
we are making sure that our work is being impactful?’”

The LCA also facilitates discussions with non-member entities whose work is having an impact on the Latino community. On this particular Saturday, Abril Moreno
Casa from Voces de la Frontera updated the group on their immigration reform efforts.

“One of the things that we have been able to have is speakers come into our meetings once per month on Saturday mornings,” Medrano said. “There have been a
lot marches for unity. There have been a lot of marches supporting our Dreamers, our DACA recipients. It’s really important to get a behind-the-scenes look to see
what some of our allies are doing in our area regarding our Dreamers. The work of the LCA is to not only get updates on a policy level when it comes to our state and
our region, but also do we provide messaging to the people whom we are supporting. We really are a funnel of information. We get information from our guests who
come into our meetings, but then it is also up to us, for each organization, to circulate that information within our constituency. One of the things that we’ve done, as
well as provide information on resources that currently exist to help our Latino immigrant families, is having very candid conversations around what is going on
politically in this area and nationwide and to help answer some of those questions. From the LCA standpoint, it’s been very critical that we have one voice and this
is our group that really advocates for our Dreamers.”

And the LCA is doing more than just advocate for policy changes on immigration that would have a positive impact on the lives and futures of Dreamers. The LCA is
almost assuming that this country will be stuck in the worst possible scenario for years to come and are making plans to ameliorate the negative impact as much as
possible.

“We look at other issues that are coming up like a municipal ID and ways to work with some of the DACA recipients to provide support so that they can go to school
and work,” Mireles said. “We’re trying to work on whatever issues are currently on people’s minds. We work together to make a better decision for all using our
collective energy and experiences. We try to make sure that decisions that are made are well thought out and people are willing to share past experience and
insights to make a better decision. In order to get that, you have to have a couple of individual conversations of individual people. But here, you get a kind of group
feedback. We’ve looked at scholarships and higher education for Dreamers and kind of explored ways to handle it and ways to get more students over to the new
Madison College South campus. We want to steer students there for the two-year associate’s degree, which isn’t as expensive as UW-Madison, and then transfer to
UW-Madison. UW-Madison is creating some scholarship programs. We’re making sure that we are aware of all of the options so that we maximize the limited dollars
for people who want to support scholarships. By steering students to Madison College South, we use the funds more wisely and can support more students instead
of helping a student for four years at UW-Madison. We’re looking at ways to maximize the impact of the funds.”
By Jonathan Gramling

Back in the 1980s when it was first founded, Centro Hispano was pretty much the
only non-profit, social-service agency in town except for Centro Guadalupe run by
the Catholic Church on Beld Street. And Centro Hispano’s executive director was
pretty much the only Latino leader in many community spheres, although there
were Latinos who held positions of some authority at high education institutions
in Madison. Coordination — and in-fighting — was relatively simple because a lot
of it happened within one organization.

But as Latinos got elected to different positions in Dane County, as Latinos rose
through the ranks in private and public institutions and as the number of Latino-
serving organizations grew with the explosion of growth in the Latino community,
Centro Hispano was among peers, but not that peer — although it continued to be
an important actor.

The Latino leaders in Dane County began to realize that they needed to be more
proactive in their communications and coordination and so the Latino Consortium
for Action was born. The LCA is an informal group that meets one Saturday per
month to discuss and share.
Sitting: Karen Menendez Coller (l-r), Gloria Reyes, Abril Moreno Casa, Fabiola
Hamdan, Patricia Tellez-Gíron
Standing: Juan José López, Salvador Carranza,
Norma Gallegos Valles, Oscar ireles, Jessica Cavazos, Christian Abhouras, Nicole
Sandoval, Veronica Figueroa, Shiva Bidar, Mayra Medrano, Alex Ysquierdo
For Leslie Orrantia, UW-Madison director of community relations, LCA is a way to
find out what the emerging needs of the Latino community are so that all of the
members can be proactive in meeting the challenge.

“It is a way to find out about emerging issues,” Orrantia said. “In general, Centro
Hispano serves 5,000 families per year and it’s really wrap-around services that
they provide. Outside of that organization, a lot of organizations that are
represented have very narrow intentional focuses. And they are intentional and
narrow for very specific reasons, to better effectively serve the needs of that
community and that particular hardship or opportunity area. No matter, it is critical
that we better understand the complexities of intersectionality of how we can
band together and make political change or sustain these programs in the long-
term. We also need to make sure that collectively we are nimble and responsive
to the needs of the growing community and a changing community.”

The focus of the LCA mirrors the interests of the members and the missions of the
organizations they lead.

“The LCA has primarily has dealt with political and fiscal proactive relationship
building and advocacy on behalf of the local Latino demographic given that it is
the largest growing demographic in our community” Orrantia said. “And there are
five key issue areas that are intersectional for families, but aren’t necessarily
intersectional in the concept of policy. They are health, criminal justice reform,
immigration reform, education and workforce and economic development. Those
are the primary issue areas we focus on.”

And the LCA is also about building relationships with the broader community to
promote a safe and conducive environment for the Latino community.

“Immigration reform is one of the five-pronged priority areas,” Orrantia
emphasized. “I would say that part of this is also for this demographic to maintain
relationships with city and county leadership, being intentional about building and
maintaining those relationships and to help, promote and sustain change. Many of
the folks involved in this have been active in the creation of Fabiola Hamden’s
position, securing funding and actively collaborating with other community
partners to ensure that was successful. That would be a prime example.”