Home Madison Latino Chamber of Commerce Gala Gets Tropical, Political

Latino Chamber of Commerce Gala Gets Tropical, Political

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers with Lupita and Luis Montoto.

Businesses, sponsors, and community members congregated at the Monona Terrace Convention Center for the Latino Business Excellence Awards Saturday night to applaud the ingenuity of the Latino community.

The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County (LCC) hosted their 15th annual gala and awards ceremony on last Saturday, March 16. Their premier fundraising event was themed “Noche Tropical” to celebrate the cultural influences of the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Between networking over cocktails, Afro-Caribbean dancers and performers, a three course meal and words from Wisconsin leaders, the Chamber hoped to make the evening a night to remember.

“The work you do is not only valuable to the Latino community but an economic driver to the state,” Governor Tony Evers said.

Several businesses making an impact within the community accepted awards for their innovation and for breaking barriers. The governor made an appearance alongside other politicians such as State Representative Sheila Stubbs and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

Evers congratulated the chamber as well as the honorees of the evening in his speech. Evers said the honorees exemplified inclusive economic development, community partnership, and of course entrepreneurial spirit. He also highlighted some of the items included in the new state budget which he said will allocate more funds for bilingual education, early childhood programs and resources for entrepreneurs.

“It’s important to lift up this community and make sure we recognize the important things it has done but it has to be more than just recognition. We have to have people at the table, the Latino community at the table to make sure we can move forward in an inclusive way and have these discussions about immigration because we all have those same goals,” Evers said. He also said the Latino Chamber of Commerce is not shy about giving him advice, something he appreciates.

Politics became an unofficial theme of the evening. Keynote speaker Charles A. Serrano urged Latinos to get political. Serrano currently serves as the Cuba Missions and Public Affairs Director for Caribbean International Relations for The Antilles Strategy Group. He is also a former Legislative Analyst, Public Affairs Strategist and Lobbyist in Illinois, Washington D.C. and United Nations. Serrano’s keynote advocated for Latinos taking charge politically within Wisconsin and across the United States.

“We need Latinos in key decision making positions,” he said.

He also said that non-Latinos do not care for the Latino community like Latinos do. Serrano stated having more Latinos in political positions allows more Latinos to feel empowered and follow in their footsteps.

He said no one ever does anything important alone and emphasized the importance of working together. Serrano also said having more Latinos in office can improve the quality of life for all people.

“We’re not going to be representing Latinos only in this country,” Serrano said.

He views the belief that Latinos can only represent other Latinos as a limitation. Serrano said Latinos represent the community at-large. In his speech, he also called out the governor for not appointing anyone with a Spanish last name.

The program concluded with the awards portion of the evening before the crowd took to the dance floor to dance merengue and bachata. A special recognition was given to Latino Chamber of Commerce co-founder Juan José López who said this is his last year on the board.

He will head a new venture focused on the development of businesses launching later this year. López had no clue he’d receive the Founders’ Award until the evening and thanked each member of the board.