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Houston Chronicle

Cisneros Sees Hispanics Filling More Top Positions


February 11, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Houston Chronicle. All Rights Reserved.

Henry Cisneros, whose meteoric rise to San Antonio mayor and presidential Cabinet member made him a national Hispanic spokesman, says the next wave of Latino advancements will far exceed what he and others have achieved.

As Hispanics continue to grow in population in Texas and elsewhere, more of them will get elected to important positions, he said.

This year's Democratic Party gubernatorial primary between Laredo banker Tony Sanchez and former state Attorney General Dan Morales of San Antonio only foreshadows the future, he said.

"To have someone like Tony Sanchez and Dan Morales running for governor means that, in short order, we will have Latinos in the top offices in the state," Cisneros said Monday during a speech before the annual luncheon of Houston's chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Cisneros said Hispanics make up a sizable portion of the populations in the largest states in the country. They represent one-third of Californians, one-fourth of Texans and large shares in New York and Florida.

The 2000 Census indicated there are 35 million Hispanics in the United States, Cisneros said.

As evidence that Hispanic political clout is on the rise, Cisneros noted that President Bush has "uttered words about immigration that are more sophisticated and more progressive than anything we have heard in American life."

Bush has talked encouragingly about increasing immigration from Mexico. However, many of those plans are on hold during the debate over national security in the face of terrorism.

Still, there are serious issues facing Hispanics as more of them rise from blue-collar to professional jobs, Cisneros said.

Schools need to place an emphasis on bilingual education and direct Hispanic children toward college rather than technical schools. Small Hispanic businesses need access to financing to help them with start-up costs. Hispanics need financial assistance to improve homeownership.

If those and other challenges can be met, Hispanics can become a driving force behind the economies in Houston, San Antonio and elsewhere, much as Cubans are in Miami.

"The nickel is in the air, and it depends on how we address the question of education" to tell if it lands heads or tails, he said.

Cisneros said that while neither Sanchez nor Morales may be able to beat Republican Gov. Rick Perry in the November general election, this year's Democratic primary offers a glimpse of the future.

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