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Associated Press Newswires
Latino Minority Plans Community Support Center
January 12, 2003
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Activists representing Maine's Latinos want to build a community support center in the Portland area for a minority group, whose population in the state ranges from under 10,000 to 20,000.
Latinos from across New England who gathered in Portland on Saturday pledged to work toward building a Latino Center. They will decide at future meetings how their center would be developed, where it would be built and other details.
Meetings are planned later this year in Boston, Providence and again in Portland.
Saturday's meeting, the first of its kind for the Latino community in Portland, drew about 30 activists including some from Spain, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. College professors and students, business owners, school teachers and clergy were among the participants.
Maine's Latinos also include migrant workers from Mexico and Central America, who spend several months of the year in the state doing agricultural and forest work.
Many have settled in Maine, but that trend has gone largely unnoticed, said John Connors, Maine state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Activists said it's important for Latinos to become unified, giving them a stronger voice locally and statewide. They say a Latino Center in Portland might provide arts and entertainment programs to the Latino community, serve as a resource for Latinos with immigration or legal questions, offer screenings for minor medical problems and provide a spiritual sanctuary.
"It would be a place to call our own. We have to start somewhere and this would be a good place," said the Rev. Virginia Marie Rincon of Portland.
Latinos represent one of the largest minority groups in Maine. U.S. Census figures show just under 10,000 living in the state, but the Maine Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens believes the number is closer to 20,000.
Luis Rosado, part-owner of a Portland jewelry store, said he came to Saturday's meeting to show others that young Latinos like himself should not be stereotyped as drug dealers or too lazy to work.
Two years ago, Rosado, who is in his 20s, and his two brothers founded a successful Exchange Street jewelry store. Rosado also holds a second job, in a lumberyard.
"When we came to Maine we had nothing. Now, look at us," said Rosado, who arrived from New York in 1991. "We want people to know that we are hardworking."