I’m running to become the first Latino Councilmember in the history of St. Paul. I’ll also share a few reasons why you should take this seriously:

– Nationally, Latinos account for 19 percent of our population and over half our population growth.

– In Minnesota, our Latino community is also growing tremendously, and has more than doubled over the past 20 years to reach nearly 350,000 people.

– About 70 percent our Latino community is based in the Twin Cities metro area.

The central challenge is that we don’t have leadership; we have virtually no political leaders who represent our Latino communities here in the Twin Cities. Beyond this, our leaders have been extremely reserved (to use gentle language) in their efforts to reach out.

The end result is that we see much lower voting rates across Latino communities. I don’t think it is hard to see why: why vote when your leaders don’t represent you?

I’m not going to be so naive as to claim to represent all our Latino communities. But, I think that getting people into seats of power, visibilizing our communities and issues, and inspiring future generations — this is how it starts, and this is what progressive politics is supposed to be about.

I am proudly Peruvian-Minnesotan. My mother immigrated to Minnesota from Peru, and my father is from Minnesota (Minneapolis). I was raised speaking both English and Spanish at home, and grew up going to a camp, La Semana, to stay in touch with my roots while being in Minnesota. At the same time, when I was younger, St. Paul had a much smaller Latino community, and for my brother and I, our Peruvian identity was something that we, unfortunately, tried not to emphasize – when you are growing up, you want to fit in, and you don’t want to be the one eating green peruvian rice and quinoa (very low trade value at the lunch table in Minnesota)!

Over time, of course, I’ve shifted my understanding, and have come to view my Peruvian-Minnesotan heritage as part of what makes me unique, and part of what has given me the perspectives that I have. It has also helped offer me the opportunity to live around the world – I’ve been able to work in Chile (Santiago), Peru (Lima and Cusco), and Mexico (CDMX and Oaxaca). I’ve even had the opportunity of teaching violin for a youth orchestra in a small town in rural Oaxaca. Ultimately, I think restoring the voice of our neighborhoods means being more racially, ethnically, and ideologically inclusive, and St. Paul is full of stories and values we still need to hear about.