Increased Latino representation in Michigan Senate yields positive impact on policymaking 

Hispanic Heritage Month, observed annually, celebrates the rich culture and histories of Latino Americans in the United States. It begins on September 15, commemorating the independence days of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and concludes on October 15. This month also includes the Independence Day celebrations of Mexico on September 16 and Chile on September 18. Originally established as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, it was later expanded to a full thirty days by the Reagan administration and became law on August 17, 1988 

On Thursday, September 14, Sen. Mary Cavanagh offered a resolution to declare September 15-October 15, 2023, as Hispanic Heritage Month in the state of Michigan.  

 After moving to Michigan from San Diego, California at age five, Sen. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Twp.) was dissuaded from speaking Spanish to avoid potential discrimination and ridicule. Upon election to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2020, she recognized a lack of Latino representation in state government and desired to carve out more spaces for Latinos to be their authentic selves. Therefore, Sen. Cavanagh’s next course of action was to use her lived experiences to shape the policymaking process. This included being a part of the Michigan Legislative Latino Caucus (MLLC) and supporting legislation centered around immigrants’ rights and language accessibility resources.  

“As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and one of only a handful of Latinos to ever serve in Michigan’s legislature, passing policies that uplift the voices of this state’s Latinx and Hispanic residents, remove barriers to success for new Michiganders and promote Michigan as a welcoming and inclusive place to call home is core to my policy principles and priorities as a legislator,” said Sen. Cavanagh, Chair of the MLLC.  

Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), another lawmaker of Latino descent, is also using his platform to highlight the unique needs of his community. At 31, Sen. Camilleri serves as the youngest member on the Growing Michigan Together Council and helps lead the Democratic Caucus as Assistant Senate Majority Leader. Prior to being an elected official, Sen. Camilleri was a teacher who decided to run for office to change the state of education and uplift working-class families. Championing initiatives like Hispanic Heritage Month holds personal value to him as it reflects his background.  

“For me, this month is about celebrating the countless men and women who came before us and didn’t have the opportunities or representation we do. Until 1998, we didn’t have any Latino representation in the state legislature at all, and while we’ve made great strides since then, we still have a lot more work to do,” said Sen. Camilleri. “I’m excited to keep building power in our community and promoting honest, hardworking representation and empowerment in the Michigan Legislature.” 

Latinos have continued to increase their visibility through record achievements, all while remaining a vital asset to American culture. In recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month, many residents will be greatly informed about the diverse history of Latinos who hail from a variety of places: Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.  

Additionally, there will be a series of organized events held across the state throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, such as cultural festivals, educational programs and community-led discussions. But the work of the MLLC and the Michigan Senate Democrats will continue to be a driving force in cultivating Latino communities.  

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