Back to top

Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
Color image of MCLA staff visit Willmar, Minnesota, for a listening session with residents, June 6, 2017. Used with the permission of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.

MCLA staff visit Willmar, Minnesota, for a listening session with residents, June 6, 2017. Used with the permission of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.

The Spanish Speaking Affairs Council, later renamed the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs, was established in 1978 to serve as a liaison between the state government and the Chicana/o and Latina/o community.

During the 1960s and 70s, activists working as part of the Civil Rights, American Indian, and Chicano Movements lobbied for reform of local and national government agencies. Leaders strived to elect more people of color, American Indians, and women of all races. They worked to create policies that reflected the issues important to their communities and make government processes more transparent. In Minnesota, their organizing led the legislature to establish six state councils designed to advocate for marginalized residents. They hoped that these councils would serve as a bridge between the communities they represented and the state government.

The Spanish Speaking Affairs Council was established under the 1978 Minnesota Law, Chapter 510. Decades later, 1996 Minnesota Law, Chapter 420, changed the council’s name to the Chicano Latino Affairs Council (CLAC). On July 1, 2015, the council was restructured once again, under Chapter 77, Article 2, Section 2, and renamed the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs (MCLA).

The purpose of the council is to advise the governor and legislators on issues pertinent to Chicana/o and Latina/o communities. The council is a bipartisan entity, meaning it is not allowed to advocate for any specific political party. Instead, it works with Republicans, Democrats, and third-party members to ensure that Chicana/o and Latina/o issues are represented. The council is made up of fifteen voting members, eleven of whom are appointed by the governor. Three are at-large representatives, and the remaining eight represent each of the congressional districts.

In the council’s first few years, the Chicana/o and Latina/o community was actively involved in shaping its vision. At times, over fifty people attended council meetings, which rotated among community spaces. During one month, members met at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in St. Paul; during another, they gathered at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. In May1980, the council hosted “Somos Uno, Somos Familia: Hispanic Leadership Conference,” which resulted in three main areas of focus: employment, economic development, and women’s rights. (These issues continue to shape the council in the 2010s.)

During the l980s, the council initiated several key partnerships for Latina/o advancement. It supported the development of Aztlán Cultural Organization, an education and mentorship program for inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater. It also worked to create the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Program, which was the state’s bilingual education program. During the Cuban Refugee Crisis, the council aided resettlement for Cubans from the island with over 1,200 people coming to Minnesota.

The council highly prioritized resources for women. In March 1981, it organized “Un Primer Paso” (First Step), a two-day conference that eventually became a college-ready leadership program for Latina high school students in Minnesota in partnership with St. Catherine University. Another program, Casa de Esparanza (House of Hope), provided shelter for domestic abuse survivors. To reach its diverse and geographically distant constituency, the council created Al Día, a newsletter spearheaded by the council’s community liaison, Elsa Vega-Perez. The newsletter included council updates, reports on Latina/o issues, artwork, poetry, and a community calendar.

In 2016, the MCLA reframed its mission to focus on four main areas: education, health, immigration, and economic development. In each area, MCLA staff investigate these issues across the entire state. Oftentimes the Twin Cities, as an urban epicenter, receives more attention and resources than rural spaces. The council staff work hard to build partnerships with institutions and leaders across the state to ensure that all constituents are heard. This requires staff to have a strong understanding of educational concerns in Minneapolis as well as, for example, Willmar.

While there are similarities between the cities, suburbs, and rural towns, there are also several differences that must be reflected in state policies. Working collectively with residents, organizations, and elected officials, MCLA ensures that Chicana/o and Latina/o contributions to Minnesota are recognized and that issues faced by the community are supported. As the formal liaison between the legislature and residents, MCLA’s ultimate goal is to empower people to become agents of change in their state government.

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.
https://mn.gov/mcla/

Jiménez, Henry (executive director, Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs). Conversation with the author, September 28, 2017.

Related Images

Color image of MCLA staff visit Willmar, Minnesota, for a listening session with residents, June 6, 2017. Used with the permission of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.
Color image of MCLA staff visit Willmar, Minnesota, for a listening session with residents, June 6, 2017. Used with the permission of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.
Students and organizers with local officials and leaders, 2017.
Students and organizers with local officials and leaders, 2017.
Color image of MCLA staff member Violeta Hernández Espinosa testifies during the SF1585 hearing, 2017. Used with the permission of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.
Color image of MCLA staff member Violeta Hernández Espinosa testifies during the SF1585 hearing, 2017. Used with the permission of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.
Color image of MCLA staff (left to right): Violeta Hernández Espinosa, Eric Armacanqui, Rosa Tock, and Henry Jiménez, 2017.
Color image of MCLA staff (left to right): Violeta Hernández Espinosa, Eric Armacanqui, Rosa Tock, and Henry Jiménez, 2017.
Color image of MCLA staff visit Marshall, Minnesota, for a listening session with residents, 2017.
Color image of MCLA staff visit Marshall, Minnesota, for a listening session with residents, 2017.
Color image of MCLA Board Members and Executive Director Henry Jiménez celebrate Minnesotanos Day at the Capitol, 2017.
Color image of MCLA Board Members and Executive Director Henry Jiménez celebrate Minnesotanos Day at the Capitol, 2017.

Turning Point

On July 1, 2015, the council is restructured under Chapter 77, Article 2, Section 2 of Minnesota law and renamed the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs (MCLA).

Chronology

1978

The legislature creates state councils, including the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council.

1978

Jose H. Trejo becomes the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council’s director.

1989

Trejo’s tenure as director ends.

1996

The council is renamed the Chicano Latino Affairs Council (CLAC).

2012

Over 200 people attend Latino Legislative Day at the Minnesota State Capitol. The event is a collaboration between CLAC and state legislators.2015 — The Minnesota legislature restructures all ethnic councils.

2015

The council’s name is changed to the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs (MCLA).

2015

Henry Jiménez is hired as the council’s director and reshapes it to focus on four areas: education, health, immigration, and economic development.

2017

MCLA releases a community engagement report detailing the results of its outreach efforts in rural Minnesota. The report includes profiles of communities in Willmar, Worthington, Marshall, Long Prairie, Northfield, Mankato, and St. James.