Maria Ramos Underwood, Chair, LPP Advisory Council; Stephen Green and Cinthia Manuel, Event Emcees


Conexiones Summit Explores Wealth Building in Latino/x Communities

How can Latino/x communities move beyond resilience and into a phase of community development where people can thrive?

That was the opening question of a two-day summit in Lincoln City, organized by the Latino Partnership Program of Oregon Community Foundation. The focus of the conference was wealth building in Latino/x communities. Outside, kites flew on the sunny beach at Chinook Winds Casino Resort while inside participants shared knowledge, resources and advocacy to help create a generational change in the economics of Latino/x families.

Keynote Speaker Yosimar Reyes inspired the audience with a performance of his poetry and a powerful telling of his immigration story.

Conexiones was an opportunity for Latino/x organizers, community members and leaders, business owners, educators, and grant makers from around Oregon to talk about how to grow long-term financial assets for their communities. Drawing on their cultural capital and values, they are working to remove barriers to homeownership, entrepreneurship and workforce development, education, and capital. The gathering was organized around the theme of Adelante! (forward): Comunidad, Prosperidad, Poder (community, prosperity, power).

The Latino Partnership Program (LPP) was established in 2002 as a statewide initiative of Oregon Community Foundation that addresses the challenges facing the Latino/x community. Conexiones is LPP’s statewide summit held every two years.

It is one of the few venues for Latino/x communities from throughout Oregon to gather to network, build partnerships and learn more about working toward shared goals, said Cinthia Manuel, CEO of Autentica Consulting LLC. She said the summit was an opportunity to focus on three key themes for building wealth: advocacy, education and engagement.

New research from ECONorthwest – commissioned by Oregon Community Foundation – shows that compared to all Oregonians, Latino/x households have lower net worth and are less likely to own a home. Yet, their workforce participation is also significantly higher compared to all Oregonians. In addition, research highlighted by the Coalition of Communities of Color shows that Latinos have high rates of entrepreneurship and tend to have more savings and less debt than the average.

chart about latine net worth

Research from ECONorthwest

Home ownership chart from ECONorthwest

Research from ECONorthwest

OCF President and CEO Lisa Mensah sat down for a discussion with Noel Andrés Poyo, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Economic Development at the U.S. Treasury, about federal efforts to increase entrepreneurship, access to capital and small business support for Latino/x communities across the country. The discussion called “Getting All Oars in the Water” focused on efforts by the Biden administration to pump investments into homeownership, lending and community development programs.

“Our power is greater when we have the money to act on our perspective,” said Poyo.

Noel Andrés Poyo, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Economic Development at the U.S. Treasury

Noel Andrés Poyo, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Economic Development at the U.S. Treasury

He said of those mechanisms to invest in economic development and housing have only been in place in more recent decades. The post-COVID relief funding for renters and homeowners was one of the first large-scale examples of money going to the Latino/x community in proportion to their population.

“It’s important for us to be who we are and speak our truth,” said Poyo. “And when we have resources to support our people without strings – to buy the neighborhood property that’s a safe place or to give loans – that’s when we win. You can’t take that away. That’s economic empowerment and asset building.”

Both the panel of local experts and Poyo encouraged bringing community members to strategize, pool resources and build strength.

Other panel discussions focused on increasing rates of homeownership and real estate investment, bridging the digital divide and encouraging more access to capital. The next Conexiones is slated for 2026.