New wave of Chicago leaders.

Author:Aguirre, Yolitzma

Chicago is known for many things, architecture, deep-dish pizza, iconic sports personalities, their politics and pride. Chicago is very different than other Latino cities we have visited, where in most other places city-pride might play a supporting role to the conversation, in Chicago, it is the main attraction, front and center. We chose to play along with the local folklore and host our dinner at a speakeasy, the feel was mysterious, classic, with some old world charm.

It was a perfect evening in July, as we welcomed the leaders. Everyone had a chance to mix and mingle before the dinner began, they all represented different backgrounds, from civic, financial, political, corporate; most of them seemed to have work together at least once before, which gave the night a great feel of unity.

Dinner began, and as each leader shared their story of success there was a clear thread of conversation that revolved around mentorship, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you stood on they all had a mentor, or two, to thank in helping them get to the next level. Now as part of those rising in positions of power, most of the leaders agreed there is more they must do in order to create effective change for Chicago, as one leader stated "we have to go a step BEYOND mentorship, what are we doing to get more Latino leaders opportunities to move into big positions of power?" The leaders expressed that there is a fundamental disconnect between those who are currently sitting in power and the voice of many.

The conversation continued and took a heated turn when the topic of gentrification came up. Some that may not have deep ties to those areas in questions, might see gentrification as a natural part of evolving cities; the solution, to make sure Latinos sit on the boards of those decision making entities. For others, that did grow up in neighborhoods, like Pilsen, which are now being taken over by condos and mass commercialism, making it impossible for residents to stay afloat with the rent increase and having to move out of the place they have called home their entire life; for this group, the solution is more complex because this is not simply a matter of moving, but these neighborhoods are piece of their lifeline, an extension of their heart, where identities are rooted, those ties cannot be severed, how can you put a price on that? It was evident that there needed to be an entire night dedicated solely to this topic.

As the evening wrapped, we shifted focus to politics, everyone was very polished and respectful; there was an unspoken code in the room, and whether or not you agreed with current people in office remained unclear. However, what was clear, was that amongst this group, there were truly some passionate leaders, we have no doubt that in the decade that follows you will hear these names more frequently, amongst them are future Senators, members of Congress, possibly the first Latino/a Mayor? We have great hopes for this group of trailblazers that will lead Chicago.

Maria Vargas

Senior Credit Analyst | AT & T

Maria Vargas began her career with AT&T in 2001, recently becoming a Senior Credit Analyst. While at AT&T, Maria has continued her college education, obtaining an Associate's in Business Administration and is currently completing her Bachelor's. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Maria migrated to the United State at the age of six. Growing up with minimal contact with her mother due to long factory hours she rapidly realized the importance of hard work and dedication. Raised on the Northside of Chicago, she is proud to support her Hispanic roots by contributing to Annual Back-Pack and Toy Drives. Since 2014, Maria began serving on the HACEMOS board as VP of Operations, and subsequently took on the role of President for the Chicago Chapter. A Bronze President's Service Volunteer Award recipient; she is dedicated to giving back to the community, awarding $30,000 in scholarships to 12 Chicago area Hispanic High School students, leading and organizing HACEMOS High Tech Day which promotes STEM related fields for students in high risk and low...

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