A major national Latino organization is gearing up to hold its annual conference in New Orleans for the first time. The National Council of La Raza is offering workshops and family events at the Convention Center open to the entire community.
The local affiliate for La Raza is Puentes New Orleans.
Scarlett Lanzas is Puentes New Orleans's executive director. She says La Raza choosing New Orleans for its national convention shows the importance of the region’s growing Latino community.
She says the 2010 Census found a soaring Latino population, especially after Hurricane Katrina attracted recovery workers in 2005.
“There was a 78 percent increase of the Latino population in the state of Louisiana," she said. "And, in addition, Orleans Parish currently has 6 percent of the population is Latino, and Jefferson is 12 percent and growing.”
Lanzas says she hopes the conference will raise awareness of Latino community needs. She says that in New Orleans, topping the list is a need for more English classes for Spanish-speaking residents.
The conference is also putting together resources and information for all minority communities in the region.
“Our main goal is to support Latinos but if you look at the faces of our youth group, we have African-Americans," she said. "We have Vietnamese. We have Caucasians. And we also have Arabs. We work with several groups.”
First Lady Michelle Obama is the keynote speaker Tuesday.
She’ll discuss childhood obesity, which affects 40 percent in the Hispanic community — higher than the national average.