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City of Charleston working with Hispanic community to improve relations

The City of Charleston wants to hear input from the West Ashley community Tuesday as its...
The City of Charleston wants to hear input from the West Ashley community Tuesday as its leaders begin to compose the city’s 10-year plan.(Live 5/File)
Updated: Sep. 19, 2020 at 5:50 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston is working to improve relations with the Hispanic and Latino community. The city’s Latinx Advisory Council is creating subcommittees to tackle issues like police relations and opportunities for business growth.

The council is made up of diverse members of the Hispanic and Latino community and range from educators, lawyers, medical experts to community activists. The goal is to advise the mayor and city council on issues impacting that community.

Vanessa Gongora works at Norsan Media and is a member of the Latinx Advisory Council.

She said the committee reflects the representation in the community and brings the community’s needs to light, so the mayor will be able to make more informed decisions and focus on initiatives that will help the community.

“At the mayor’s direction he has asked us to form subcommittees and those are enhancing relations between the community and the Charleston police department, as well as increasing community engagement in the City of Charleston government, and exploring opportunity for business growth and development,” Gongora said. “This is really exciting for South Carolina and especially Charleston. While we don’t have an enormous Hispanic population, it is one of the fastest growing Hispanic populations.”

Even though this is all in the beginning stages, the members are hoping this will be the start to making a difference.

The council said addressing these primary concerns will be the first step to getting more understanding and representation in the community.

“We are part of the daily life and the daily business environment within the City of Charleston,” said Paula Tejeda, another Latinx Advisory Council Member. “We can bring a lot to the city and we can also work with the city to improve some of the conditions that are currently happening.”

Focusing on businesses and entrepreneurship seems to be especially important in the Hispanic and Latino community.

Diana Saillant is the CEO of Saillant Language Consulting and the former president of the Hispanic Business Association. She says Hispanics need more political and local representation in the Charleston area, especially in terms of business ownership.

“During the last five years, the South Atlantic Census Division has experienced explosive growth in the number of Hispanic-owned businesses surpassing the Pacific Census Division. Specifically, from 2012 to 2017, the South Atlantic Division grew 42.8 percent to a projected 1,141,328 Hispanic-owned firms,” Saillant said. “However, most business owners are unaware of the resources available to them. This is why we created the Hispanic Business Association. We are a non-profit organization created to advocate, promote and support Hispanic entrepreneurs and business owners.”

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