Report shows lack of opportunities, services for Latinos in Council Bluffs

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November 21st, 2013

Omaha, NE – A recent report published by the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha analyzes the lack of services and opportunities for Latinos in Council Bluffs. Numerous concerns were addressed from the inaccessibility of bilingual services to a shortage of opportunities in managerial positions.

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Its purpose was to document the experiences, needs and aspirations of Latinos in Council Bluffs. It was organized by UNO’s department of Psychology and Sociology, and funded in part by the Iowa West Foundation.

Director of OLLAS and co-author of the report, Lourdes Gouveia, said the objective of the report was simple.

OLLAS began in 2003 and its vision is to help incorporate the growing Latino population into political and economic positions and the community in general. (Photo Courtesy OLLAS)

OLLAS began in 2003 and its vision is to help incorporate the growing Latino population into political and economic positions and the community in general. (Photo Courtesy OLLAS)

“What needs to happen is the opportunities for those Latinos who contribute mightily to that economy and good values to the community as a whole are active participants in the places where decisions are going to be made about the services that must be provided to Latinos,” Gouveia said.

More than 5,000 Latinos live in Council Bluffs, according to the U.S. Census.

This amounts to just over 8.5 percent of the city’s entire population, an increase of four percent from 2000 to 2010.

Census information shows Latino-owned businesses account for only about two percent of all businesses in Council Bluffs.

Currently, Latino-owned businesses in Council Bluffs include two hair salons, an auto sales and auto body repair business, four restaurants, one with an adjacent grocery story, and a variety of small business engaged in home repair, painting, cleaning, child care and specialty food preparation and sales, according to the study.

Gouveia said the report is the next step in helping bring attention to an important issue.

“To fill that huge void that still exists on good data, good information (and) reliable information,” Gouveia said. “That can be generated in very participatory and (in) applied research in order to inform policies, inform programs, inform communities and organizations about the realities that are happening around them but that are often not captured all that well since we all live in small little micro worlds.”

Gouveia said the title of the report “Invisible and Voiceless” also illustrates how Latinos living and working in Council Bluffs feel. She said Latinos in Council Bluffs aren’t represented in management positions.

Lourdes Gouveia (far right) is the Director of OLLAS at UNO. (Photo Courtesy UNO)

Lourdes Gouveia (far right) is the Director of OLLAS at UNO. (Photo Courtesy UNO)

“Not only were they invisible but there was a strong sense that they really didn’t have a voice in the different venues and institutions,” Gouveia said. “And that they were not at the table to some extent at the churches where they belong.”

Researchers conducted 26 interviews with Council Bluffs municipal, administration, education, religious, non-profit, and business representatives. As well as meetings with Latino community members on two occasions.

She said emotions ran high during these discussions as Latinos voiced their concerns over a lack of resources and help.

But following the publishing of the report Gouveia said those who took part in the discussions felt that their voice could make a difference.

Meanwhile, Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan has reacted to the report and said Latinos are a growing part of Council Bluffs. He added that as the population grows so does the knowledge of how to help give Latinos opportunities to flourish.

“This is a study that was done by the Iowa West Foundation,” Hanafan said. “(An) independent study that I think was pretty well done that hits some key issues. And what we can do is we as a government, churches or schools probably need to work on those opportunities and listen to the Latino population living in the area.”

Gouveia said Latinos in the Council Bluffs community above all, want to organize so they can begin to advocate by themselves, for themselves.

One Response

  1. Howard Hinde says:

    This is a subject that needs to be addressed all across the country, for all peoples from other cultures. Up front, I’m not a Native American, so at some point my family immigrated here, and became part of the community, learned the language, and prospered.

    You left your homeland, you left your culture. You moved to a new land with a different language, a different culture, a different outlook.

    What makes you think that the community that you moved to should change its language, its culture, its ideals, to match yours? Why should Americans have to change their language to make things easier for you? If you want to be accepted, move into managerial positions, be part of the community, you need to become part of the community. You can’t expect to be separate and part of the community at the same time.

    Don’t try to force your culture and language down other’s throats, integrate into the community instead of trying to be separate from it and opportunities will open. America’s melting pot doesn’t have partitions and dividers in it, it takes all and melts it “together” to be one culture.

    As long as we have specific separations of the cultures, Latino Americans, African Americans, Polish Americans, etc, you will always be separate. There should only be Americans. Be part of America or not, just stop crying about it when you aren’t a part of the community that you don’t want to be a part of.

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