Sylvia Puente: leading with ‘ganas’


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While the holiday malaise has abated the battle to redraw Chicago’s 50 wards, for the time being, both Latino and Black council caucuses are taking a breath, eyeballing each other, looking for signs of weakness before the next round.

Latinos demand more wards in the new map (15 Latino wards and 16 Black wards), arguing population growth (up 5 percent). Still, Black representatives do not want to give up more than one ward (17 Black wards and 14 Latino wards) despite a population decrease (10 percent). Currently, the City Council comprises 18 Black wards and 13 Latino wards. The only thing both sides can agree on is the first-ever Asian American majority ward with a population increase of 30 percent.

The final decision may go all the way to June.

Speaking about the strong stance of the Chicago City Latino Caucus, Sylvia Puente, President, and CEO, of The Latino Policy Forum, said, “We had a Latino caucus ten years ago that didn’t have the “ganas”, the will that I think this Latino caucus has.” Puente was a guest on the Latino News Network (LNN) podcast, “3 Questions With…”. “We have several new members (Latino Caucus) who are being very vocal about saying equity means that we are 30 percent of the City and that means 15 (wards).

Puente also spoke about McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski disparaging texts to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Calls for Kempczinki’s resignation came after it was made public recently that he blamed the shooting deaths of two children earlier this year on parents who “failed” them. 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams was killed when two gunmen fired into the car she was riding in at the drive-thru of a McDonald’s in Garfield on April 18. 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on March 29.

“When you have privilege. When you don’t know what it’s like to have two or three jobs so you can put food on your table. When you don’t know about all those societal pressures and challenges that so many in our community face; it’s easy to say that the parents failed without recognizing their reality and what it is they’ve had to struggle with,” said Puente.

Kempczinski met with members of the Illinois Latino Agenda 2.0 and has apologized for his remarks.

The Latino Policy Forum’s mission is to build the power, influence, and leadership of the Latino community through collective action to transform public policies that ensure the well-being of our community and society as a whole. 

Increasing civic participation in the Latino community is a priority for the organization. Despite the group reaching a record 32 million eligible voters nationwide in the 2020 presidential election, the largest minority voting group, and the country’s second-largest voter bloc by ethnicity – the numbers at the polls did not meet expectations.

“The challenge is that when we look at Latino adults; we have obviously a higher portion of our community that are not citizens and therefore not eligible to vote,” said Puente. “When we look at the entire population, we have a much higher share of our community that is under eighteen. And because we (Latinos) skew younger, we also note that young adults have lower voter turn out rates.”

According to The Majority Makers study by Univision, more than 566,00 Hispanics-Latinos in Illinois voted in the 2020 general election;
the majority of them were between the ages of 35-49-years-old.

Why Latinos don’t vote is the subject of a special series by the Latino News Network as part of the Advancing Democracy: Connecticut Solutions Journalism Initiative that (CTLN) is leading as one of eight reporting projects in 10 newsrooms across the United States.

The six-month program is sponsored by The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN); its mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.

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