The annual fall Somos conference is getting underway with a surging attendance and a revamped slogan highlighting that Latino New Yorkers deserve better now, according to Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, chairman of the chamber’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.

Ahead of the conference kickoff in San Juan today, Crespo told City & State that the event’s tagline “Somos el Futuro,” or “We are the future,” has been revised to “Somos Ahora,” or “We are now.”

“‘Somos el Futuro,’ I believe that that could be misconstrued to, ‘Some day we will have our time.’ And I believe that the time is now,” Crespo said. “We’re here. The Hispanic community is strong. We’re 20-plus percent of the population of the state. We are growing in communities that we haven’t been known to be before throughout the state – Rochester, Buffalo, Utica, New York City, Long island.

“We’re a very passionate community, we’re an intelligent community, we’re a hard-working community,” he continued. “And we deserve a little bit better than what we’ve had and how we’ve been treated in the past.”

For years, New York politicians have headed to the Somos conference in Puerto Rico to discuss the needs of Latino communities with local officials, scholars, union officials and other leaders. 

But this year, with more than 400 registered conference attendees, the turnout is “far above what is accustomed,” Crespo said. 

The assemblyman also rejected the notion that Somos is “a junket,” arguing that the conference has always been substantive, but falls victim to conversational habits that make it “easier to talk about who was seen on the beach.”

As part of the event’s new steering team, Crespo said the number of workshops has been streamlined to be more focused.

Crespo’s delegation has spent months highlighting the Puerto Rican debt crisis and its threat to its health care system. As a result, he said at least 200 conference attendees will join Puerto Ricans in a protest today to call on the federal government to assist the U.S. territory. Another day of action is planned in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2, he said.

Crespo said having New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joining officials from Orlando, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania to advocate on Puerto Rico’s behalf is a key part of the strategy.

 “A lot of times, particularly Puerto Rican issues are dismissed as if, ‘Well, when you resolve your status question we can talk,’ or, ‘Well, you know, the 3.5 million American citizens who live in Puerto Rico don’t have the right to vote for the president,’” he said. “So the 5 million Puerto Ricans who live on the mainland, the diaspora, and all of our friends and supporters has to be the political voice of the Puerto Rican community.”