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Wanted: National Latino leader

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Illustration by Jared Rodriguez, (Creative Commons)

Do Latinos lack national leadership? Yes, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report released yesterday. In terms of an identifiable national "leader" for the nation's vast and disparate Latino population, there isn't one.

When asked to name the person they considered "the most important Latino leader in the country today," nearly two-thirds of the 1,375 respondents in a national survey of Latino adults conducted by Pew said they did not know. An additional 10 percent answered "no one."

From the report:

The most frequently named individual was Sonia Sotomayor, appointed last year to the U.S. Supreme Court. Some 7% of respondents said she is the most important Latino leader in the country. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) of Chicago is next at 5%. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa draws 3%, and Jorge Ramos, an anchor on Noticiero Univision, the national evening news program on the Spanish-language television network Univision, drew 2%.

Even if she was only named by 7 percent of respondents, it's a nice nod to Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court and possible coiner of the phrase "wise Latina." No one beyond those cited above was named as a national leader by more than 1 percent of respondents, including United Farm Workers of America co-founder and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta.

The survey was conducted before the midterm election. The report continues:

In the November 2, 2010 elections, three Hispanics, all of them Republican, were elected to top statewide offices: Marco Rubio won a U.S. Senate seat in Florida, Brian Sandoval was elected governor of Nevada, and Susana Martinez was elected governor of New Mexico.

The prominence of these offices conceivably could provide platforms from which any of the three could emerge as national Latino leaders, but to do so they would have to overcome some strong partisan head winds. Nationwide, Latinos supported Democratic candidates for the U.S. House this month by a wide margin, according to the National Election Pool’s national exit poll—continuing a pattern of strong Latino support for Democrats that has persisted in recent elections.

Not surprisingly, familiarity with the leaders' names presented in the survey varied by whether respondents were immigrants or native-born, and whether they were more dependent on Spanish or English.