Local Government and Politics

53% of registered Latino voters in the US do not think political leaders are concerned with problems of particular concern to them.21

This statistic demonstrates feelings of disenfranchisement among Latinos.  Throughout American history, growing minority groups have constantly struggled to become recognized by the government.  Like all other US citizens, voting is the method most rely on to be heard.

But sometimes one vote every four years is not enough, and change is rarely instantaneous.  Instead, change on the national level is often a response to growing grassroots and local support.  For this reason, it is important for Latinos to get involved and build strong local governments in their communities.

How have the Latinos in Miami been getting involved?

Director of Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center, Darío Moreno, believes Latinos in Miami are empowered, “They control the city politically,”44  The information below clearly demonstrates this.

  • Mayor Manuel A. Diaz - Diaz was born in Havana, Cuba in 1954.  After leaving Cuba in 1961, he moved into the Little Havana district in Miami.  Diaz was elected mayor in 2001 following years of public service and working specifically to defend bilingual education.  For a complete biography, visit Mayor Diaz's Biography on the City of Miami website.

  • Commissioners
    • Angel Gonzalez (District 1). 
    • Joe M. Sanchez (District 3).  Born in Cardenas, Cuba, Sanchez moved to Little Havana at age five and has now lived there for over thirty years.
    • Tomas P. Regalado (District 4).  Regalado was first elected in 1996. Throughout his time as City Commissioner, he has beoome "one of the most important voices for the South Florida Hispanic community."  In addition, he strongly advocates making Miami an international world trade trade and has traveled to over 60 countries as a member of the White House Press Corps.22
  • City Manager Joe Arriola
  • City Attorney Jorge L. Fernandez
  • Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto
  • Election ballots are printed in three different languages.  To see a copy of the 2004 General Election Ballot distributed in Miami, click here.

Having gained representation locally, Latinos created a solid base from which to influence politics on the national scale.  From a nonpartisan perspective, the recent election of Florida Senator Mel Martinez to the US Senate in November 2004 is a major accomplishment for Latinos.

Opportunities for Continued Involvement

Don't let other people speak for you!  Look into joining America's Union Movement to protect your rights as an employee.  Visit http://www.aflcio.org/.

Attend a public meeting.  Whether your local officials will be discussing plans for a large new industrial facility in your backyard or talking about funding for local community art festivals, hear and be heard!  For a calendar of events and locations, visit http://egov.ci.miami.fl.us/calendar/publicmeetings.aspx.

Get in touch with the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development partner which seeks to bring more jobs into the community and help current businesses survive.  Visit http://www.beaconcouncil.com/

For up-to-date information on proposed legislation in Congress, visit the National Council of La Raza's Legislative Action Center.

And don't forget, your elected representatives are accountable to you!  Contact their offices--ask your questions, let them know what you think.  To find out who your officials are, visit Find your Legislators.

Site created by Kim Brow, Carmen Lafia, and Umang Malhotra 2004