Considered one of the most important events to jump-start the new year, the Latino Journal hosted the 14th annual Latino Leaders' Reception for Constitutional Officers, Legislators and Appointees last Tuesday at the Grand Ballroom.
The affair, which recognizes the achievements of Latinos in several areas including public service, economic development and diversity, also welcomed several new state legislators.
"This is the perfect event for people who work in and around the Capitol to come and see the faces of those who are going to represent them. It is one of the few opportunities people will have to speak to their elected officials and have conversations with them about what they plan to do for their constituencies," said Adrián Pérez of the Latino Journal.
The Latino Legislative Caucus -- which boasts 17 Assemblymembers and 7 state Senators -- is the second largest in the country.
"Every year, this event outgrows the previous one. When we first held this reception we had about 300 guests arrive at the Senator Hotel. We didn't expect such a huge turnout because it was the very first time we had ever put on anything of this magnitude," said Pérez.
"Next year, we may have to switch venues again considering the growing numbers of attendees."
This year's event attracted 450.
Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, expressed the importance of addressing the needs of this growing demographic.
"It is so important that we come together and begin to integrate. We must do what we can to keep Latinos informed on issues that affect our community and be the best representatives for our constituencies," said Pérez, vice chair of the Latino Caucus.
"We have to keep advancing the American Dream in our homes, especially for our Latino youth who comprise half of our growing Latino population," he added.
Among the new Latino legislators are Assemblymembers Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, Susan Talamantes-Eggman, D-Stockton, Cristina García, D-Bell Gardens, Rocky J. Chávez, R-Oceanside, and Eric Linder, R-Corona.
"Having a Latino Republican attend this event was significant. The last time we had any Latino Republicans attend this reception was many years ago. I can't remember the last time," said Pérez.
The goal of the reception, said Pérez, is to recognize the new legislators and give them an opportunity to network amongst guests. It is also the reason why they look forward to organizing the reception every year.
"Nobody else was doing something like this in Sacramento fourteen years ago when we had one of the largest number of Latino legislators. No group or organization held any type of function recognizing them. That's when we had Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante," said Perez.
"He was the one that said, 'Why are we not doing this?'"
The Latino Journal recognized the California Public Utilities Commission and Southern California Edison as champions of diversity and Pacific Gas & Electric and Sempra Energy for their inclusion of Latino executives.
CAFE de California honored seven Latinas, including García, the Democrat from Bell Gardens who received the 'Spirit of Latina Award' for her political rise as a "voice for working families against the greed and corruption of the haves."
"All of these women have gone through many obstacles to achieve what they have today. They are role models, mothers, entrepreneurs and fine examples of what it takes to succeed," said Vianey Núñez, Latina advisor.