Los Cien Founder Herman J. Hernandez took a few minutes out of his exceptional schedule to answer questions about Los Cien Sonoma County. Their work with Latinos and Amigos continues to provide opportunities to broaden our community dialogue and engagement in a meaningful manner for all. Community Foundation Sonoma County is proud to support Los Cien through our Latino Leadership grants program.
You founded Los Cien several years ago with other community leaders to engage the Latino Community and build a better future for Sonoma County. Tell us about Los Cien’s work.
Los Cien Sonoma County was inspired in 2009 by an informal lunch I was at with a handful of local Latino leaders, such as, Juan Nieto, Franicsco Vazquez, Jaime Penneherra and others. We wondered why so few Latino leaders were involved in local policy and decision-making bodies, and why issues and concerns to our community did not appear to be understood or prioritized by the wider community. A year later, I began to convene a small group of Latinos in the backroom at the downtown Santa Rosa Mary’s Pizza Shack to talk with local political leaders, to build a dialogue and mutual understanding.
Seven and half years have now past, and Los Cien Sonoma County reaches out to more than 1,000 Latinos and amigos who meet monthly to create community understanding and unity through shared learning and leadership. We have hosted 96 lunches and three State of the Latino Community Forums as well as a number of cultural gatherings. Ultimately, we are building community together – Latinos and amigos together because Sonoma County belongs to all of us and its healthy, prosperous future is our shared responsibility.
What is your vision and goals for Los Cien?
Our vision is to provide the basis for bridging the interests of the Latino community with the wider community, thereby strengthening the vitality of all who call Sonoma County home!
The goal is to create community understanding and unity through shared learning and leadership.
Latinos are the fastest growing demographic group in Sonoma County. What are the most important issues you are seeing in the Latino Community right now?
California is home to more super rich than anywhere else in the country – and it also exhibits the highest poverty rate in the nation. The average net worth of Latinos just 15 percent that of whites. Access to equal and high quality education, health, and affordable housing are persistent basic human needs that combine to build strong, healthy families and communities. Additional concerns are law enforcement and community relations, equal access to public resources, such as library services and public safety, Latino leadership in public office, and the need for immigration reform.
Los Cien strives to build bridges and fill gaps between the Latino Community and other communities in Sonoma County. What are some of the ways that we, as individuals, can do to bridge gaps?
Start by bringing awareness and understanding of the Latino community, such as learning and experiencing the culture and traditions.
We can all support and mentor leadership programs, where by your action can inspire Latino’s to step up by getting involved. Having those college-bound students returning home, going to elementary schools, to encourage students and their parents the importance of higher education is incredibly powerful.
We can attend ESL programs throughout the county, and speak to the students about leadership and education! Let’s create actions that will make a difference.
Utilizing the Portrait of Sonoma’s data in our daily lives helps to create awareness and empathy.