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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 18, 2006

Annual Latino Conference To Be Held In Des Moines Oct. 27-28

The eighth annual conference on Strengthening and Valuing Latino/a Communities in Iowa will be held Oct. 27 and 28 in Des Moines with the theme "Raíces/Roots: Honoring our Past to Build our Future." The conference is coordinated by a statewide volunteer planning committee and the University of Iowa School of Social Work.

The conference is an opportunity to explore the changing demographics and dynamics of Latino communities in Iowa, as well as the responsiveness of policy makers, business leaders and community-based organizations to the fastest growing population in Iowa. Organizers say this population is under-served and its talents are largely untapped. In the last eight years, the conference has grown to be a cherished gathering of Latinos and non-Latinos as a place to emphasize culture as a strength and provide networking opportunities for Latino leaders who live and work in Iowa.

The main conference on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Hotel Fort Des Moines, will feature a keynote address by Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winning author of "Enrique's Journey: The Story of A Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother." Other invited presenters include Maestro Ocelocotal, leader of one of the largest Calpullis (dance groups) of Mexico, who will open the conference with a traditional blessing and offer workshops; Ricardo Levins Morales, co-founder and member of the Northland Poster Collective, an organization dedicated to placing art and humor at the center of organizing and social justice work; Jorge Zeballos, a national consultant on historical and contemporary forces that shape Latino identity; and Teatro del Pueblo, a Latino theater group from St. Paul, Minn.

In addition, conference participants can chose from workshops (many in Spanish) on topics such as community building, poverty and asset building, immigration, leadership development, civil rights, and economic development. The Saturday conference includes an Immigration Resource Center staffed by attorneys.

A Pre-conference Training Institute and a Latino Youth Leadership Summit will comprise the Oct. 27 program. The pre-conference institute is geared primarily to students and professionals in education, social services, community development and advocacy and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the UI School of Social Work's Des Moines site, located in the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center. The Youth Summit, which will be held at the Des Moines Central Library, features workshops and cultural programs designed for junior and senior high school students. The Friday events will conclude with a community-based Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead celebration at the Latino Heritage Museum, 801 Scott Ave., Des Moines.

The event is co-sponsored by the School of Social Work in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Northwest Area Foundation, the Raíces: Rural Latino Capacity Building Initiative, Wells Fargo, the Iowa Latino Media Assocation, and many other local and state organizations. 

For additional information and registration, please see the Latino Conference Website: or contact, Kate Kemp, University of Iowa School of Social Work, 319-335-1254. 

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, 319-335-1254,