Where are the heroes?


By Sandra Navarro

About 75% of Latinos living in the United States say their community needs a leader and almost the same number is unable to name a leader or consider they don’t exist, according to Three-Fourths of Hispanics Say Their Community Needs a Leader; Most Latinos Cannot Name One, a report published by Pew Research in October 22, 2013 When asked to name the person they considered “the most  important Hispanic leader in the country today,” 62% of the respondents replied they “don’t know” and 9% answered “no one.”

A few months ago, I conducted interviews with members of youth groups between the ages of 18 and 26, from the parishes of St Charles Borromeo, St Anthony of Padua, and St. Jerome in Chicago Responses to similar questions about leadership were equivalent to those found in Pew, with the exception that most view their parents as heroes and leaders in society and in their homes.

Most of these young people see Pope Francis as a leadership figure in the Church; the Pope was the only person they named without hesitation or much thought immediately after the question According to their responses, they identify with Pope Francis because his words and actions resonate in young people; furthermore, the “Pope is someone who is current on things and understands today’s culture,” said one of the youth who participated.

For these young people, there is a need for leaders in the Hispanic community, not only in politics, but also in the Church. Their responses say a lot, reflecting a lack of leadership identification at all levels. “We need to educate our community,” said Josué, a youth of Mexican origin interviewed Josué explained Hispanics need leaders we can identify with and who hold positions where they can exercise power and make changes The 23-year-old young man recognized that there are many challenges in the Hispanic community as a result of the different generations of immigrants; however, he highlights that leaders are needed in light of the constant changes in the society.

“I think we will always need leaders especially Hispanics because of the amount of negative publicity against us and other minorities,” said Francisco, a 19-year-old, who participated in the group of interviewees. 

 Without a doubt our Church, community, and society has much work ahead, beginning with informing others about the leaders or heroes who made history, leaving us a legacy. To portray these stories as examples for youth and children to follow; show them that yes, there are leaders in the Hispanic community with whom we can identify, and who are role models. It is also important to plant the seed of leadership and self-esteem in them, so they can find and recognize the leaders they carry within, and can begin to make the changes the Hispanic community of the United States need.



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