Latino community leaders gather in Minneapolis for LíderCon conference

A room with a lot of people and a projector
Actor and Author Christopher Rivas spoke at the annual LiderCon conference run by Latino LEAD on Thursday.
Simone Cazares | MPR News

Latino community leaders are gathering in Minneapolis for the LíderCon conference Thursday and Friday. This is the second time LatinoLEAD has held the conference, and its first in-person LíderCon due to the pandemic.

Professionals from many different fields united together at the community-led conference to empower and learn from each other. They celebrated the contributions Latinos have made in many Minnesota industries and say they do not take the responsibility they owe to their community lightly.

Through uplifting each other, they hope to pave the way for others to become leaders in their community and have a seat at the table in what some described as predominantly white spaces.

“Finally, we have something that is going to continue to support our development as Latinos and professionals and leaders within our own community, '' said LatinoLEAD’s executive director, Irma Marquez Trapero. “We have heard so many exciting comments and this is something we hope to continue to do every single year.”

According to 2021 U.S. Census population estimates, Latinos make up nearly six percent of Minnesota's population. Organizers said while they are happy to see the growth in the number of Latinos living in Minnesota, the community still lacks representation in many fields. They hope having the conference each year will help open more doors for community members by giving them skills they can use. 

Today’s sessions included empowering leaders to be their authentic selves in career advancement, getting more Latinos involved in boardroom leadership positions, and financial wellness.

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It also included speeches from Latinos who are paving the way for others across the country, including Juan Angustia, a visual designer at Google and actor and author Christopher Rivas. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa will speak to attendees on Friday. 

When Rivas spoke, he challenged leaders to show up as themselves in their workplaces when possible and use the power they have achieved to help others thrive.

“I hope that that's what this space provides for people two days to really, honestly look at their life, take a sort of radical accountability and responsibility of what it means to be Brown in America, what it means to be Brown in the world and what it means to be Latino and Latina, Rivas said. “We have been conditioned to think and believe things for a long time that are not our stories. We are worth so much more and we're capable of so much more. But I believe that only comes by compassionate challenge.”

Marquez Trapero says she hopes having the opportunity to connect with national and local leaders who are Latino will inspire the next generation of leaders and support Minnesota’s Latino community long term.

“We want to make sure that folks feel like they don't have to let their identity and culture aside. Instead, we want to make sure that we are always highlighting and being unapologetically us, as Latinos, no matter what,” Marquez Trapero said. “That is where our power lies, our unity, our connections and our development and the investment that we make to this community.”

The LíderCon conference continues through Friday.