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A Turning Point: Cleveland's Latino population and its political reach

The growing Hispanic and Latino population in Northeast Ohio has the potential to make a big impact at the polls.

CLEVELAND — The growing Latino community in Cleveland is exercising its political influence. Just as in other parts of the country, Latinos here are showing political muscle. 

Nationwide, Latinos make up 20 percent of the population. Here in Cleveland, they are 13 percent of the population. And they're being empowered to head to the polls.

Selina Pagan, executive director of Cleveland's Young Latino Network, understands the potential political power Cleveland Latinos have in their hands. She contends that, for years, Latinos have been "on the backburner and forgotten," but But that there is a power shift currently happening. 

"We have a growing political body that will allow our community to be seen and heart," said Pagan. 

Any candidate courting local votes has to campaign in the Latino community.  As well, voters have to understand their potential power through voter registration and more.

"We need to prepare our people tor really self-educate in this process because this political process in this democracy is not easy," Pagan said. "Voter suppression is real."

Pagan prefers the term "Latino" over "Hispanic." Latino refers to people who are from, or descended from, Latin America. Pagan is quick to point out the group is not a monolithic group because Latinos come from different backgrounds.  

"We have Latinos or individuals from every country and Caribbean in Northeast Ohio and people often forget that," she says.

But together, there is a strength, which is growing and a population looking to gain more political momentum.

Pagan calls Cleveland a "slow-moving train," as far as Latino progress. But she's optimistic that the train is picking up speed because of political power and political strength.

"This is going to be the last election that Latinos, Latinas, Latinx individuals will be on the back burners and forgotten because coming in these next elections, you will see the power that we have," Pagan said.

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