La Voz Latina celebrates

CEO of U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is keynote speaker

More than 400 people helped La Voz Latina celebrate its 34th year at its annual dinner at the Cliffbreakers Conference Center Oct.14.

Attorney Linda Zuba, chairman of the board of directors, welcomed everyone and started the evening off with good humor by donning a White Sox baseball cap in honor of her husband and son, who are avid fans, attending the dinner while the game was in progress. The fact that Chicago’s opponents, the Los Angeles Angels owner is Latino Arte Moreno, and the White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is also a Latino from Venezuela, made the game more pertinent for the evening and achievement of Latinos nationally and locally.

Zuba also noted that some no longer use the nomenclature “Hispanic,” instead preferring “Latino.” She gave the instance that La Voz Latina’s President and CEO Marco Lenis is a Latino from Colombia.

On the other hand, “I believe many people in this area prefer ‘Hispanic’ rather than ‘Latino,’” Kerlin Fernandez, editor and publisher of El Tiempo newspaper, said. “I believe the evening was a success. They had many more people than last year. I also believe Barrera was very powerful, very inspiring.” El Tiempo is the area’s first Hispanic weekly newspaper.

The keynote speaker for the evening was Michael L. Barrera, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who was introduced byU.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16). Barrera met Manzullo as National Ombudsman for the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), appointed by President Bush in 2001. He spoke highly of Manzullo’s efforts as chairman of the Small Business Committee in the House of Representatives, addressing him as “Chairman” in all of his remarks.

Barrera has extensive experience in law and business, receiving his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1989 and a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University in 1982. Besides private practice in many areas of law and being co-founder and past president of the Kansas City Hispanic Bar Association, he was an assistant prosecuting attorney for Jackson County, Mo.

His business experience includes his roles as a restaurant manager of two family enterprises in Kansas City, Mo. and a marketing representative and area manager for the Miller Brewing Co.

He is no stranger to leadership as the former chairman and president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, where the national Hispanic Chamber began.

He said he is proud of his role in representing the nation’s 2 million Hispanic business people and helping their economic development as the fastest growing minority group.

Besides noting impressive statistics on the economic power of Hispanics, he pointed out that two U.S. senators, one Republican and one Democrat, and 26 congressmen are Hispanic.

Perhaps in reference to Ms. Harriet Miers’ nomination over Alberto Gonzales, he said, “We have to work on getting that Latino on the Supreme Court. It’s time.”

He also championed education equalling financial achievement. Getting down to the basics of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce advocating procurement opportunities on the federal level, he said, “If we are good enough to take your bullets, we are good enough to make your bullets.”

He said just as his family came here for the American Dream, Congress should enact a Temporary Workers Program, to treat everyone fairly.

He also noted the controversy of immigrants in New Orleans doing many unpleasant clean-up jobs, and the Mayor, whom he alleged said, “we don’t want the Mexicans to take over.”

As to immigration and the U.S border issues, 9/11, and the economy, he said, “It’s not just about security. The U.S. will have a shortage of 3.5 million workers in the upcoming years. Hispanic businesses are growing three times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. New U.S. patents are twice as likely to come from immigrants.”

Barrera concluded, “We need to work together on our pocketbook advocacy. I am so proud to be a Latino, but I’m more proud to be an American.”

The City of Rockford was represented by Alderman Doug Mark, who read a Proclamation of Hispanic Heritage Month for October from the City Council and Mayor Larry Morrissey.

The evening’s honorees were: Edward Portillo with the Hispanic Heritage Award; SwedishAmerican Health System with the Recognition Award; Paul Werther and Judge Ronald J. White with Appreciation awards. Cliffbreakers owner Jimmy Vitale and his staff were also given a round of applause for a fine dinner, service and hospitality.

As Marco Lenis says, “Where’s the check?” If you would like to support the great work of La Voz Latina, call 965-5784 or go to

From the Oct. 19-25, 2005, issue

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