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Annual Latino conference moves to Allentown

Local Latino leaders hosted a press conference April 28 announcing plans to host the fifth annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention Sept. 29 through Oct. 1 in Allentown.

According to convention chairwoman Olga Negron it is the only statewide Latino conference in the Commonwealth. She said Latino number over 1 million in the state and is the largest and fastest growing population in the state today. “The convention is the place to develop the community’s statewide agenda,” said Negron. Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk, himself a Latino, welcomed the Latino convention planners.

State Chief Diversity Officer for the office of Community and Economic Development Norman Bristol-Colon spoke of the importance of women entrepreneurship in the Latino community. “Latinas are opening businesses six times faster than any segment of the U. S. population,” said Bristol-Colon. “We must invest in these Latinas because they are [also] closing business doors more than anyone else as well.”

“They don’t have the tools,” said Bristol-Colon. “They don’t have the support. They don’t have the loans. They don’t have the opportunities. In a humorous twist, the Latina owner of Sarina’s Berries LLC, Sarina Torres, was introduced as a member of the audience. As she mentioned her business at 1136 N 22nd St. (https://www.sarinasberriesllc.org/) and described her product, a convention planner booked her on the spot to provide her berry treats to the upcoming convention.

“The Latina women are the poorest of the poor,” said Bristol-Colon. “They know it. “The poorest households in Pennsylvania today are single- parent households that are [headed by] Latinas.”

Bristol-Colon also addressed the importance of the Latino vote. “I believe this going to be a very contested election,” he said. “We will only win if Latinos get out and vote in unprecedented numbers [which] will decide who [will be] the governor of Pennsylvania.

“And the center of the political movement will happen in the Lehigh Valley. We are going to be knocking on doors and we are going to be mobilizing on the radio to make sure we have a very energized Latino voting base.”

According to supporting documents handed out at the hour-long press conference, Latinos represented almost 50 per cent of Pa.’s population growth between 2010 and 2020.

Pennsylvania tops the nation in percentage of total Latino population change, according to convention organizers.

Negron said Latinos represent more than 54 percent of Allentown’s population and Lehigh County has the highest Latino population percentage of all 67 state counties.

Latinos are, at more than 65 million, the largest minority ethnic group in the United States.

The press conference was also an opportunity for the Latino conference organizers to ask for sponsorship.

Karen Rollins-Fitch of Highmark Whole Care attended with Adrie Laboy and Jane Brooks. Highmark is a “presenting sponsor” of the planned conference.

The mission of the Pa. Latino Convention is “to promote Latino and Hispanic achievements and preparation for local, state, national and global competitiveness by fostering excellence and ensuring equal access to all aspects of Pennsylvania’s shared prosperity and responsibility.”

The convention will be held in the Renaissance Hotel at Seventh and Hamilton streets, with some events scheduled in the Americus Hotel.

Press photos by Douglas Graves “The convention is the place to develop the community's statewide agenda,” said Conference Chair Olga Negron.
“I believe this going to be a very contested election,” Norman Bristol-Colon. “We will only win if Latinos get out and vote in unprecedented numbers [which] will decide who [will be] the governor of Pennsylvania.”