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The list, which is based on self-submissions, is aimed at increasing visibility of Latinos in Northeast Ohio.
CLEVELAND — On September 18, the newest cohort of the 100+ Latinos Cleveland Must Know was announced, spotlighting more than 100 Latinos who are living and working in the Greater Cleveland area. The list, started in 2020, is meant to increase visibility for Cleveland’s Latino community, and try to break down barriers in the job market.
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The list was started by Marcia Moreno in 2020, during the pandemic. With business for her consulting firm, Ammore, slowing down, she knew she had to do something to continue her mission of making organizations “Latino ready,” by helping them become inclusive, equitable, and able to “attract, retrain, and recruit and advance Latino talent.”
Moreno said she often saw the stereotypes made about Latinos, such as Latinos being “undocumented,” “that we don’t speak English, that we don’t have money.” However, looking around at her network of Latino friends and colleagues, many of whom have masters and PhDs, she knew these generalizations weren’t true.
“Every time I would talk to a company, regardless of my job, the industry, whatever – ‘we really want to hire more, It’s just that we can’t find them, we can’t find them. There’s a lack of a pool of talent. There’s no qualified individuals,’” she said. “And I knew it wasn’t true, and I still know it’s not true. And the data shows that it’s not true. It’s not a lack of a talent pool, it’s a lack of intentionality.
Moreno reached out to her friends, asking them to complete a simple form. She compiled their names, putting together a list, and sharing it on social media. Before she knew it, the list, 100+ Latinos Cleveland Must Know, was gaining attention.
“It was this celebration from the Latinos being part of the list, this pride – this pride of being recognized, of being seen, of feeling that they are here to say, ‘yes, I’m here. I want to contribute. I’m a leader,’” Moreno said. “‘Stop saying that you can’t find it, find talent, or you can’t find a board member, or you can’t find whatever it is, fill in the blank.’”
The list worked to counter the arguments that Moreno had heard about the lack of Latino talent in the area, and gave spotlight to dozens of Cleveland Latinos already contributing to the community.
“That is really the spirit of the list, it’s visibility,” she said. “It’s a platform for the Latinos that are on the list to be visible, to have a sense of community, to have a sense of belonging. But at the same time, it’s removing the barriers or excuses that organizations have to not have Latinos or to say that they can’t find us.”
Angela Mercado was born and raised in Colombia, works at American Greetings, and is a member of the first cohort of the list.
“It’s an amazing way to just get to know different Latinos in the community, get to learn about what they’re doing, and just be part of a greater experience in the Cleveland area,” she said.
Mercado said the list has benefitted her both personally and professionally, through connecting her with others with similar backgrounds, and creating new ways to connect.
“A lot of people have just knocked on my door because they saw me on this list and just say like, ‘Hey, is there an opportunity to collaborate?’ Or, ‘Hey, I just want to meet you and share a little bit more about my story,’” she said. “So I think it’s just that connection that otherwise I wouldn’t have had.”
Mercado said she would encourage any Latino who is eager to be “part of something bigger” to consider submitting to be on the list, calling it “easy” and “fast,” and adding “the reward is huge.”
“There’s a lot of information that’s shared, but also we create this networking environment where we can work across our companies and do things that are together in collaboration,” Mercado said.
Moreno said being part of the list means having access to networking events, plus different professional development and civic engagement opportunities.
José Colón grew up in Puerto Rico and currently works at JumpStart in Cleveland. Another member of the first cohort, he said the opportunities for mentorship and connection have been impactful.
“There’s nothing like getting mentoring from people that understand who you are, that have had similar experiences or have felt the same way as you because it comes from a different point of view,” he said.
He said those types of opportunities can also help open up doors in the future.
“This group will put you in a position to be in contact with different organizations that might be looking for somebody with your diversity, with your expertise,” he said.
Now on its fourth year, the list continues, with a new cohort recently announced. While the requirements to be eligible for the list are straightforward- a LinkedIn account and headshot, for example – Moreno said an important part of the list is that it’s self-nominated, meaning people must submit themselves to be part of it.
“It’s self nominated because you have to get out of your comfort zone and say, ‘here I am,’’ she said. “If we don’t talk about who we are and our accomplishments, nobody’s going to do it for us.”
As the community around the list continues to grow, Moreno hopes so will the opportunities and platforms for leadership and achievement for the Latino community.
“We’re creating a new pipeline of leaders, of Latino leaders, in the city that hadn’t been done before,” she said. “Now we’re seeing a new generation, or a renewed generation, of leaders in the city, and I love that.”
For more information about the list and how to apply, click here.