PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A member of Portland’s largest minority has built a powerful organization that could help propel her back to the halls of government.
Carmen Rubio has previously worked as an assistant to former Mayor Tom Potter, City Commissioner Nick Fish and former County Commissioner Serena Cruz.
Today, Rubio is the executive director of the Latino Network based in Northeast Portland. She’s been with the organization since 2009 when it was just a small operation.
The Latino Network aims to empower and educate Latinos in Multnomah County. It offers guidance and advice on everything from paying the rent to immigration.
The organization’s office on Northeast 18th Avenue has become a haven for many people in the area.
“It’s a really challenging time in the country for our community,” Rubio said. “And more than ever, they’re turning to places that they trust — and they trust our organization.”
Nearly one in 10 Portland residents is Latino or Hispanic — that’s about 55,000 people. And the figure will likely be higher in the next census as Oregon’s Latinx population continues to grow.
Many were born and raised in the state, including Rubio, who hails from Washington County and has lived most of her life in Hillsboro. Her grandparents were migrant workers who helped build Oregon’s agricultural economy.
But despite a growing population, Rubio has seen underrepresentation in local government.
“Once I was part of many different policy conversations, I saw a really big absence of our voice — our community voice,” she said.
Rubio believes the current political climate affects all Latinos — native Oregonians and immigrants alike.
“Incidents of hate and targeting have gone way up,” she told KOIN 6 News. “It’s become a drumbeat and a background for how we have to live every day.”
The Latino Network offers programs that fight fear and instill pride. One such program is the Ballet Folklórico. Rubio said the dancers are extremely important to the Latinx community.
“Their culture and heritage are reinforced every single time they perform.”
Rubio is running for Portland City Council to replace Amanda Fritz. If elected, Rubio will be Portland’s first Latinx city commissioner.
And in the meantime, she’ll continue her work with the Latino Network alongside the more than 100 people it employs.
“We’re here to close disparities,” Rubio said. “And as long as we’re making progress, we’ll be doing this work.”