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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 19, 2005

Annual Conference Focuses On Latino Communities In Iowa

The University of Iowa School of Social Work, along with the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs and a number of local and state organizations, is sponsoring the seventh annual "Strengthening and Valuing Latino/a Communities in Iowa" conference Saturday, Oct. 29, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hotel Fort Des Moines in Des Moines.

This year's conference theme is "People of Corn/Gente de Maiz," which is symbolic of the deep history of Latino indigenous roots in Iowa, and Iowa's abundance of and reliance on the gift of maize (corn) from pre-Colombian groups.

The event includes a pre-conference professional development institute and a Latino Youth Leadership Summit on Friday, Oct. 28. The institute consists of a series of intensive training sessions for professionals and community leaders working with Latino/a communities. It will be held at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center, 1200 Grand Ave., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The youth summit will focus on building leadership opportunities for Latino/a high school students. It will be held at the Wallace State Office Building, East 9th St. and Grand Ave., from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The conference concludes with a Day of the Dead Celebration on Sunday, Oct. 30, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Des Moines Art Center. Registration is required for the conference and pre-conference activities, but the Day of the Dead celebration is free and open to the public.

Organizers say the conference is an opportunity to explore the changing demographics and dynamics of the Latino/a community in Iowa and the responsiveness of policy makers, business leaders and community-based organizations, to the fastest growing population in Iowa. Workshops will be offered in English, Spanish and bilingual formats and will cover a range of topics and issues pertaining to the Iowa Latino/a community including current immigration legislation, Spanish-language media, right to interpretation and translation, celebrating diversity, understanding Latin Americans, and educational concerns such as the dropout rate.

During the Oct. 30 conference program, Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the nationally syndicated and politically charged Latino comic strip La Cucaracha, will deliver the opening keynote, "New American Gothic," as part of the Latino Leadership Awards Brunch, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon. The closing keynote, "Gente de Maiz/People of Corn," begins at 3:50 p.m., presented by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez, authors of the syndicated Column of the Americas, which offers a unique perspective of the Americas. In addition, the conference features an Immigration Resource Center and a "Latinos You Want To Know" networking reception.

The Day of the Dead celebration festivities will feature an assortment of mariachi music, storytelling, community altar (ofrenda), family art workshops, traditional foods and more at the Des Moines Art Center. This year's ofrenda honors Father Tom Pfeffer, the Des Moines priest credited with helping save Holy Family Catholic School and establishing the school's Inner-City Youth Foundation. He was selected by community advisors to honor his lifetime of dedication to others and his strong advocacy for the Latino community in Des Moines. The ofrenda will be exhibited in the lobby from Oct. 30 through Nov. 6.

For more information about the conference or pre-conference activities, contact Kate Kemp at the UI School of Social Work, 319-335-1254, or the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs at 515-281-4080. For more information about the Day of the Dead celebration, contact the Des Moines Art Center at 515-277-4405.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Kate Kemp, UI School of Social Work, 319-335-1254,; or Iowa Division of Latino Affairs, 515-281-4080