Culture, Conversation and Camaraderie: The Charms of Somos
Each year, we come together after the general election to participate in the “Somos El Futuro” conference. We come together not merely as Latinos, but as elected officials and community and business leaders from all walks of life to discuss the future of our city, our state and our nation.
I have grown up with Somos El Futuro, having attended this gathering since I was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 1997, right through to my time as Bronx Borough President and continuing to this year.
This conference is more than a getaway. It is a chance for us to convene not just for the purpose of recognizing our shared Latino heritage, but to discuss our vision for the future of this city and this state.
I have always enjoyed sharing the company of Latinos from all over New York State at Somos El Futuro. One may not typically think of places like Syracuse, Dunkirk, Hempstead or Elmont as growing Latino communities, but they are. Through my years in attendance, Somos El Futuro has given us a chance to meet, swap stories and build relationships we otherwise might be unable to, and that bonding remains one of my favorite parts of this conference.
Somos El Futuro also gives myself and other elected officials a chance to show off the progress and successes of our districts and communities. This is especially important to me as the leader of the New York State county with the largest percentage of Latino population. We have a great story to tell.
We have seen considerable development in The Bronx since I first took office in 2009. We have helped to develop $600 million in housing, and have helped to create more than 14,000 new jobs. Such numbers were unheard of in our borough, even just a decade ago. That is the promise of the “New Bronx.”
Indeed, we have seen considerable white-collar development come to The Bronx, as well, and we welcome it. The Hutchinson Metro Center, our borough’s premiere office space, continues to expand. The healthcare industry, which employs so many doctors and healthcare executives, nurses and technicians, remains our borough’s highest employer. Hospitals and healthcare facilities in our borough are expanding, not closing.
We have been incredibly aggressive in our efforts to find people work. In August my office, in partnership with the State Department of Labor and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC), announced a new jobs initiative, New York Works, which connects Bronx job seekers directly with available local jobs through partnerships with local organizations like BOEDC.
Already, this initiative has paired dozens of Bronxites with available jobs, and has shown itself to be a real success in just a matter of weeks. Initiatives such as this should be examined for expansion to other counties, and Somos el Futuro is a great place to start that conversation.
As we discuss our agenda and our shared heritage, we will also celebrate our culture. When I was in the state Legislature, I hosted some of the best concerts Somos El Futuro has ever seen. This included a “Hip Hop Meets Salsa” concert, which used different style of music to bridge the gap between generations.
This conference has been an important event since it was founded, and remains so today. From substantive conversation to salsa concerts, Somos El Futuro is one of the preeminent gatherings of thought leaders in the nation, and I am proud to lend my voice to the conversation.
Rubén Díaz Jr. is the borough president of the Bronx.