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Salvadorans Seek Representation on Los Angeles City Council

Salvadorans in Los Angeles are not currently represented in political posts in Los Angeles, but that could change this year because several individuals of Salvadorian descent have announced they are running for public office.

“I am launching a campaign to run as candidate for councilwoman of District 9 to help people have better lives and a clean and safe neighborhood where people will want to live and work,” Ana Cubas, who works as chief of staff for councilman Jose Huizar of District 14, told Efe.

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Although the official candidate filing deadline for the Los Angeles City Council isn’t until November and the election isn’t until March 5, 2013, Cubas knows that this is the right time to aspire to join the City Council.

“Jan Perry, an African-American councilwoman has been in charge of this district for 12 straight years and she is now running for Mayor of Los Angeles. Twenty years ago, the majority here [9th Council District] were African-American, but now Latinos make up more than 78 percent and people are used to a female leader, that’s why I have a chance to win,” she said.

Born in 1970 in the Texistepeque municipality of El Salvador, Cubas immigrated to the Untied States with her parents when she was 10 years old where, thanks to various scholarships, she studied sociology at the University of California Berkeley, and graduated with a masters degree in public administration in 1996 from the University of Pennsylvania in New Jersey.

“From the sociological perspective, the Salvadoran community is already politically mature, we’re no longer only thinking about the politics in El Salvador, and we’re preparing ourselves to run for publicly elected positions such as council members,” Cubas said.

In her opinion, Salvadoran immigrants already have the education and work experience and they consider the United States as their country and they understand that one must “compete for positions of power.”

According to the 2010 Census, close to 250,000 people live in 9th City Council District which encompasses South Los Angeles, and where 78.9 percent of the population is Hispanic.

“Unofficially, it is estimated that there are 2.5 million Salvadorans in the U.S., according to the 2010 Census there 1.8 million; in California roughly 900,000; in the county of Los Angeles 350,000; and in the city of Los Angeles 250,000,” Francisco Rivera, president of the National Central American Round Table, told Efe.

Ron Góchez, born in Los Angeles to a Salvadoran mother and Mexican father, is another candidate for District 9. Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department Terry Hara, business advisor Elaine Gaspard, and Assemblyman Michael Davis have also announced they are running for this seat on the City Council.

“Salvadorans have never held a high public office in Los Angeles, but in local politics we’ve participated for many decades through working for social organizations and protesting for our community’s rights,” Góchez said.

He thinks that the coincidence that various Salvadorans are running for public office is due to the feeling that they are already “prepared” and that they count on “experience” and are “sophisticated enough to do well politically.”

Los Angeles Councilmember Eric Garcetti, who represents the 13th City Council District, is leaving his seat open now that he’s announced he is running for Mayor. Reuben Martínez, born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, is one of the aspiring candidates for that seat.

“The Salvadoran community is the third largest Hispanic group in the U.S, the largest concentration being in California and Los Angeles, yet we don’t have representation in public office,” Martínez, a business man living in the U.S. since the age of 12, told Efe.

“That’s why I believe that it is urgent that we understand that we must educate ourselves more because if we only go ‘blah blah’ in the corner and we don’t educate ourselves in schools or universities, then we will accomplish nothing,” he concluded.