The Latino Professionals Association of the greater Madison area is showcasing their “Yo Soy” initiative this September to highlight the diversity of Latino and Hispanic culture in the face of false stereotypes.

The “Yo Soy” media campaign has showcased the diversity of latino culture since its launch in 2013 and will serve as a kick-off to Hispanic Heritage Month.

LPA President Tania Ibarra said the group’s vision is to cultivate an empowered Latino community that continues to pursue success. There are many different layers to being Latino including place of origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or generation, skills and interests, Ibarra said. “Yo Soy” looks to highlight these unique differences.

“When the larger community seeks to define the Latino community they kind of want define, such as ‘Latinos do that and this,'” Ibarra said. “When in reality the Latino community is so diverse that you can’t put it into one definition.”

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The “Yo Soy” campaign encourages each person to write their own “Yo Soy” statement describing who they are followed with a profile picture. The goal is to showcase their individuality, Ibarra said.

A “Yo Soy” example would be: “Yo soy an adventurous, multicultural, bilingual, dynamic leader, Ecuadorian immigrant, first generation college graduate, mami, hija, hermana, amiga, espouse, certified public accountant,” Ibarra said.

News representations continuously tie the Latino community to the issues of illegal immigration and drug cartels, attaching a negative stigma to latinos, Ibarra said. People understand the Latino community through the lens of politicians and those in power instead of through their own lenses, Ibarra said.

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Salvador Carranza, University of Wisconsin System senior academic planner of student affairs, said that many people stereotype the Latino community as one whole instead of acknowledging the diversity within the Latino community.

“Despite all of the rhetoric you hear out there, especially in the political environment, all Latinos regardless of background and status are making enormous contributions to this country, and that they feel like true members regardless of where they came from,” Carranza said.

At UW, Carranza said of about the 44,000 students only about 1,600 are from the Latino community — making up about 4.6 percent of the student body, Carranza said.

Since the Latino community makes up such a small portion of UW, Carranza said it’s important for there to be specific support systems, resources and programs to meet the needs of the Latino community. Carranza emphasized that the more opportunities the Latino community has for growth, the better it will be for the entire UW community.

“It sometimes it seems like we are in an invisible community, like an afterthought,” Carranza said. “It is a matter of justice and human rights.”

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In addition to the “Yo Soy” initiative, LPA partners with local organizations and other professional entities — including UW — to share their vibrant community, celebrate diversity, and build their professional capacity, Leslie Orrantia, LPA spokesperson, said in an email to The Badger Herald.

The LPA and UW have a long history of working together. Many Latino campus leaders were involved  in the founding of LPA, Orrantia said. UW and LPA have collaborated for a number of events from a mixer with Latino law students to resume-building workshops, Orrantia said.

LPA also has various leadership programs and career coaching programs that they conduct throughout the year, with the end goal of empowering each other, Ibarra said. Many Latinos are first-generation graduates, Ibarra said, so these opportunities help give them a better understanding of the workforce.

Without the help of LPA and other programs, efforts to diversify the workforce won’t be successful, Carranza said.

“The Latinx community is very hardworking, reliable, and not afraid to do the most difficult task,” Carranza said. “With the help of the LPA and other programs, they can contribute even more to the community.”

All who participate in “Yo Soy” will come back together to recognize their efforts at LPA’s “Building Our Legacy” event Oct. 15.