Chandler Hispanics gaining numbers, influence
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 14, 2007

Edythe Jensen

According to city and census estimates, one in four Chandler residents is Hispanic - a ratio that has been growing steadily as the former farm town has grown to become the state's fifth-largest city.

With numbers come clout and responsibility, community leaders say. More Hispanics are becoming active in neighborhoods, seeking appointments to city commissions and weighing in on political issues, said Alberto Esparza, founder and president of Chandler-based Si Se Puede! Foundation.

The city is responding positively, he said. About 16 percent of Chandler's 1,700 municipal employees are Hispanic; up from 14 percent from 1989 to 2004. The Police Department and library have initiated programs in Spanish. City Manager Mark Pentz created a Diversity Office overseen by former Spanish teacher Leah Powell.

In 2005, the Human Relations Commission hosted the state's first regional day-labor forum with Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix, Gilbert and Scottsdale. That same commission is hosting more than a dozen cultural events this year including a Hispanic Heritage Month.

The city has initiated cultural diversity training for employees, expanded bilingual programs and increased the numbers of all cultural celebrations, spokeswoman Nachie Marquez said.

"If we don't participate, it is our fault," Esparza said. "We learned the importance of dialog and we are proud to see things are now headed in the right direction."