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Historic recognition of the Latin-American community by Southwark Council

The recognition as an Ethnic Minority is a necessary step in achieving a more democratic and inclusive society. Without recognition there is no integration.

Claudio Chipana

Latin-Americans are no longer invisible in Southwark, one of the areas, together with Lambeth and Haringey which accommodates the biggest number of Latin-Americans in London, and in the UK.

For the first time, Latin-Americans will be a category in the statistics and on official forms in Southwark. They will not be ‘others’.

After several decades of a Latino presence in London – between 2001 and 2011 their numbers quadrupled (see the report No Longer Invisible by Queen Mary College, 2011) – this is the first time that there has been an official recognition of the Latino community as an ethnic minority.

It places the Latin-American community on the same level as other minorities, and does justice to the calls for recognition from this community.

Recognition acknowledges the contributions in terms of taxes, work and culture by Latin-Americans in London, and in British society in general. In addition, now that such a diverse community as the Latin-American one has been recognized, this will mean that the separate groups within it will not be isolated from each other, but can claim their rights together.

The decision by Southwark Council is the result of efforts by many different community organizations, including LARC – the Latin American Recognition Campaign. It is worth mentioning some of the events which led to this decision. For example the deputation in support of recognition, presented by LARC to Southwark Council in the name of various community organizations.

The campaign for inclusion of the category ‘Latin American’ in the 2011 census must be mentioned. And the publication of the report No Longer Invisible, as well as numerous forums and debates which took place in the community in the last 2 years, on the subject of recognition and the best descriptive category for their ethnicity.

With Southwark Council’s decision a new stage has been initiated for Latino immigrants in London, and a signal given to the rest of the community to extend recognition to other boroughs.

The campaign has also made clear that the way to fight for recognition is starting from the local level, in other words through local Councils. The recent conference at the House of Commons, organized by LARC was also part of this process.

In highlighting the achievement of official recognition, we are also reflecting on its implications and the extent of recognition, and on what still remains to be done.

Finally, we note that – despite the fact that recognition has been given during a period of economic recession and cuts in public spending which affect the most vulnerable (including immigrants) – this has not been an obstacle to the decision being taken.

What matters is that Latin-Americans will now have legal backing in achieving their desire for integration and greater social inclusion.

(Translated by Graham Douglas)

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