An Emerging Power

Yes, there were salsa tunes and mariachi bands, but when more than 25,000 Latinos from across the nation gathered in Las Vegas on July 7-10 for the 2012 National Council of La Raza Conference, you couldn’t miss the emphatic presence of such mainstream sponsors as Walmart, Coca-Cola, Toyota and Johnson & Johnson. It was a testament to the buying power of the 50.5 million estimated Latinos living in the U.S.—the nation’s largest minority. When all this good old global capitalism comes to the support of a civil rights and advocacy group, surely a paradigm has shifted. The news has been both bad and good for U.S. Latinos—on one hand, the unemployment rate still hovers around 11 percent; on the other, Hispanic-owned businesses are growing more than twice as fast as U.S. businesses in general. So when speakers from financial guru Suze Orman to Vice President Joe Biden stepped up to the La Raza mic, they knew they were addressing a community capable not only of leveraging political power, but of giving the economy a healthy boost as well.