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City Officials Celebrate Cultural, Economic Impact Of Growing Latino Population

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

Allegheny County’s Hispanic population has increased in recent years, while the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the overall population has decreased

Pittsburgh city councilors and leaders in the local Latino community celebrated that growth Tuesday, as the city recognized Latino Day.

City Councilman Dan Gilman said the city is becoming more welcoming due to the current administration’s efforts to encourage Latino immigrants to move to the city.

“Looking to make it easier to provide legal support for H1B visas, to make it easier to open a small business, to make it easier for residents to get involved in their neighborhood,” he said.

With the recent defacements of Las Palmas grocery store in Brookline, Gilman said the city has to strengthen relationships with Latino neighbors.

“Latino Day marks an occasion to acknowledge the cultural and economic contributions of Pittsburgh’s Latino community and strengthen the city’s relationships with nonprofit, faith-based and business organizations in order to better address the needs of our Latino neighbors,” he said.

Monica Mendez, director of Dress For Success, a nonprofit that helps immigrant women achieve economic independence, said she has felt welcomed during the two years she has lived in Pittsburgh, but companies and organizations have to be intentional in becoming culturally competent.

“It is companies that need to be hiring and looking at, 'Who do I have to get to get this new consumer?’" she said. "When it comes to nonprofits, making sure that you have personnel that can be linguistically diverse. Making sure you have volunteers, at least, that can translate the documentation.”

She works with victims of domestic violence who aren’t getting the support they need. She said it’s not a cultural problem, but a systemic one.

“Nobody can help them, because there is no interpretation going on," she said. "We’ve seen it in the hospitals. We’ve seen it with law enforcement. We’ve seen it in the sectors that are supposed to be first responders.”

Founder and Director of Café Con Leche, Tara Sherry-Torres, said in order for Pittsburgh to be a just city for all, more Latino leaders have to be visible and represent the needs of Latino immigrants in the community.