Prince George’s furthers Latino outreach

By Sophie Petit 

To better represent Prince George’s growing Latino population, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has appointed his first full-time Latino liaison.

Dinora A. Hernandez, a lifelong resident of Hyattsville, said she will speak directly with members of the Latino community, serving as a point of contact for Latinos to discuss their concerns, which she will in turn discuss with and advise Baker on.

“The county executive often talks about the county’s diversity and how it’s one of the strengths of the county, so I believe this position will help us better connect with the Latino community, which I think we’ve been missing,” Hernandez, 27, said.

Prior to her Oct. 10 appointment, Hernandez received her law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan then served for a year as a legislative aide to Baker.

“Dinora Hernandez has demonstrated a true passion for Latino affairs on both a personal and professional level,” Baker said in an Oct. 10 statement. “I am confident that she will work diligently to improve the [county’s] service and interaction with our Latino citizens.”

Prince George’s has the second highest percentage of Latino residents in the state, and the numbers are growing, according to data provided by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C.

Over the past decade, the number of Latinos living in the county has nearly doubled to 132,496, making up 15 percent of the county’s population, according to the data.

Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA of Maryland, a Latino and immigrant advocacy nonprofit based in Langley Park, said he was excited to hear about the new liaison, especially since so many Latinos call Prince George’s home.

“We need someone who is bilingual and bicultural, who understands our community and who, I believe, can make a difference,” Torres said, adding language barriers are a huge issue facing Latinos.

Hernandez said her fluency in Spanish and familiarity with Latino culture as well as the immigrant experience will help her to engage the community.

“Both my parents were immigrants from El Salvador here to the United States and the county, so I know the Latino experience,” she said. “I know that for my parents, language barrier was a lot. A barrier to getting them more involved with the county.”

The District, Montgomery County and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s office all have Latino liaisons, said Baker spokesperson Scott Peterson.

Will Campos served as the county’s last Latino liaison under Jack Johnson, the county’s executive from 2002 to 2010.

“The Latino population is a growing community in our county,” Peterson said. “[Baker] has found it very important to have someone such as Dinora Hernandez in his specific office advising him on the issues, the challenges as well as the opportunities that exist in the Latino community and to improve service for our Latino residents from the county government.”

Originally published in the Gazatte.