MILWAUKEE — According to the latest 2020 Census data report, the Hispanic Latino population rose by 7.6% in the last decade, making up 447,290 Wisconsinites.
While the numbers continue to blossom, the journey wasn't all that easy to adapt to culturally. Francesca Wegner, the Executive Director of the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, experienced this first-hand growing up.
"Oftentimes, I was being asked if my mom was here illegally, or why did we speak another language," said Wegner.
She later moved to Milwaukee to attend school at Marquette University, where she discovered cultural community by participating in the student group of HPGM.
"The HPGM student chapter was there for me," said Wegner.
The organization works at bridging the gap for Hispanic students and professionals through education and networking, helping foster careers.
"It is so important for us to really ensure and support Latino students and professionals to reach their fullest success, because we know that's how our communities are going to thrive," said Wegner.
Samantha Maldonado also grew up with a similar experience as a Latina working with the same goal. Maldonado spent several years leading Prospanica, which works at fostering professional development for Hispanics in Milwaukee. She believes with the rise in population, timing is key for their culture and legacy.
"The time is now, or has been, to really find ways to come together as a group. We must honor the legacy of our history, but also craft our future," said Maldonado.
The rise is not only happening here in Wisconsin, but also beyond. According to the U.S. Census report, the Latin Hispanic community is the largest minority in the country, making up 18.7% of the country's population.