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Billboards encourage Latino vote

Tuesday, May 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:21 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Centro Latino is pumping up its efforts to inform immigrants about the importance of voting, health and education.

Eduardo Crespi, director of the center, is coordinating a billboard campaign focused on sending Spanish-language messages to Latinos.

The first of three billboards encouraging Latinos with U.S. citizenship to vote has already gone up along westbound Interstate 70 near the Kingdom City exit in Callaway County. The location was chosen both for visibility for Latinos traveling to and from St. Louis and for legislators traveling to and from the Capitol in Jefferson City.

“¿Es Usted Ciudadano? Vote, El Voto Latino Cuenta,” the billboard reads. Translated, it means “Are you a citizen? Vote, The Latino Vote Counts.”

Boone Country Caring Communities Partnership will contribute $900 to the billboard. Jerod Ellis, fiscal manager for the partnership, said the sign serves a dual purpose, not only informing Latinos about the importance of voting but also being a visible reminder to legislators of the growing Latino population.

“Basically, it’s getting the Latino population to have a voice and encourage them,” Ellis said.

“It’s a way to get the message out to the people about civic responsibility,” Crespi said.

Two more billboards are scheduled to go up over the summer, one focusing on family planning and HIV/AIDS awareness, the other stressing the importance of learning English.

The billboards are a visible reminder of the objective of the Centro Latino, a not-for-profit organization that offers various services to Latinos, such as HIV/AIDS testing and English classes. Crespi is also trying to organize a voter-registration drive targeting Latinos.

“We encourage our people to register to vote,” he said. “We have already registered one. For us that’s a big deal.”

Crespi said the themes of the billboards were chosen by importance of the issues. HIV/AIDS rates are increasing most rapidly among minorities, spurring the need for an educational campaign. And learning English and voting in elections, he said, are two ways Latinos can boost their voice in America.

“I’m a strong advocate of helping our Latino people learn English,” Crespi said. “If they want to advance, they must learn English.”

Crespi said his goal is empowerment for Latinos.


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