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Elgin Latinos: Big in number but not in representation

The latest census numbers tell a surprising story of how the racial makeup of Chicago’s suburbs has changed over the past 20 years. In many places, Latinos now outnumber whites. West suburban Elgin is one of those places. But as the population in Elgin has taken off, Latino representation at all levels of local government has not kept up.

“Just look at this stuff, the ethnicities represented here,” said Gil Feliciano, standing in the lobby of Elgin’s Gail Borden Library. On a summer afternoon, the lobby is filled with children of all backgrounds: white, black, Hispanic, Asian. It’s common to see them dragging their parents across the main floor to the children’s room in the back.

Feliciano was born and raised here in Elgin. His parents came from Puerto Rico. Feliciano was also Elgin’s Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for ten years. He was the glue that connected Elgin’s Latinos with city functions.

“A gentleman one time came to see me,” recounted Feliciano. “When I approached him at the counter, he throws down two photographs, both of his porch. One where his porch is a disaster, and one where his porch looks gorgeous.” The renovation had been the man’s own handiwork, Feliciano said. “I go, ‘Well, that’s wonderful work.’ And he goes, ‘Well, not according to you guys.’” READ MORE

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