Latinos are one of the fastest growing demographics across the nation. In Illinois, they make up 18% of the population and in Chicago more than 28%, according to the U.S. Census.
Despite the growth in population size, the Latino community is underrepresented in politics, with less than 2% of Latinos in elected positions nationwide.
Many Latino leaders have been calling for more political representation.
“As it relates to politics, we’re not there yet about trying to get that power, but we’re going to get there,” said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward), who also serves as the City Council Latino Caucus chair.
This summer, Villegas championed a redistricting plan that would increase the possibility of more Latino representation in the City Council with 15 Latino majority wards. While the map was not approved, the final map included 14 Latino majority wards.
Juan Carlos Linares, a member of the Illinois Latino Agenda Committee, agrees that greater representation is needed.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” he said.
“But even if we are not represented by Latinos, we want to make sure that our representatives are culturally competent in how they serve us,” Linares said.
Representation has been particularly tricky in the Illinois judicial system, where there are no Latino Illinois Supreme Court justices.
“Having more diversity on the bench, it just creates more trust in the system … how can we have faith in a system if we are not truly represented,” said Martha Soto, an attorney and member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois.
In September, the Illinois Latino Agenda, Chicago Latino Caucus and the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois all raised concerns about the recently filled vacancy of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.
The Illinois Supreme Court failed to nominate a Latino judge, while Burke’s district is 26% Latino.
“This was a missed opportunity for the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint a Latino or Hispanic appellate court, any judge to the Supreme Court,” Soto said.