When many people think of Latinos in California, argues Giovanni Rodriguez of SocialxDesign, they tend to think of working class immigrants or even the disenfranchised, he says. But there is another group that has been present for a while, but is only now starting to coalesce, and these are Silicon Valley Latinos.
“Wealth creation, tech innovation, risk taking – none of these things are associated with Latino identity,” says Rodriguez. “Yet not only are we here, but we are beginning to organize and we are starting an ecosystem,” explains Rodriguez, who wrote on the topic for Forbes and spoke to NBC Latino from the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit (SVLLS).
One of the goals of this meeting, which took place Saturday at Stanford University, was to galvanize and join different Latino technology groups with business, civic and political leaders to harness the resources and clout to make a difference.
“Whether it’s providing more seed money for new startups or organizations, or creating more mentorship opportunities and expanding diversity, you need a rich ecosystem that may not have been connected otherwise,” Rodriguez says.
In its fourth year, the Summit brought together technology entrepreneurs such as Hispanic Net and Silicon Valley Latino with civic and government leaders such as NALEO’s Arturo Vargas and Henry Cisneros and Latinos in corporate America such as Walmart Board Member and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Aida Alvarez, who won the SVLLS Lifetime Achievement Award.
The topics for discussion included everything from the importance of educating Latino youth and getting more of them in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to Latinos in business and technology, and even comprehensive immigration reform.
On immigration, Latinos in Silicon Valley have a dual perspective — many back reform for the increase in high-tech visas and the ability to bring in more skilled workers, but many Hispanics are also immigrants themselves.
Rodriguez says the growing presence and joining of forces of Latinos in Silicon Valley is not only a source of pride, but a shared opportunity.
“We see technology as the one of the engines of the new economy,” says Rodriguez. ”That, plus the fact that we will be one-third of the U.S. population soon, and it’s clear Latinos have a special responsibility to take care of their own,” he says. Rodriguez says Silicon Valley is a true melting pot — and Hispanics are an integral part.