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Jane Castor keeps her promise to Tampa Hispanic community. What’s next?

Tampa’s mayor has fulfilled a campaign promise by translating the city’s website into Spanish. But she’s pondering more outreach to the city’s second largest ethnic group.
Jane Castor, with partner Ana Cruz, takes the oath of office as Mayor of Tampa in May. Castor has won early praise for her outreach efforts in the Hispanic community, but is considering expanding her efforts by hiring a Hispanic Liaison officer for her administration.
Jane Castor, with partner Ana Cruz, takes the oath of office as Mayor of Tampa in May. Castor has won early praise for her outreach efforts in the Hispanic community, but is considering expanding her efforts by hiring a Hispanic Liaison officer for her administration. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Feb. 5, 2020
Updated Feb. 8, 2020
Related: Click here to read this story in Spanish

TAMPA — During her mayoral campaign last year, Jane Castor frequently pledged to make it easier for Spanish-speaking residents to learn about city services by translating the city’s website.

That translation was completed without much fanfare months ago.

“So on that website, having the different resources that they can reach out to, you know, how you turn your electric on, how do you find out where the bus routes are, you know, just all of that information that would make somebody feel a part of the community when they arrived,” Castor said during a recent interview in her office.

The mayor also makes the rounds regularly with Spanish-language media, including the local Univision and Telemundo channels. And she consults with her Hispanic Advisory Council.

Castor’s longtime partner, Ana Cruz, is Hispanic and has deep ties to the community, which also comes in handy, she said.

But the mayor has more plans. And she acknowledges more needs to be done to reach out to a group that comprises at least 27 percent of the city’s population, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Although her administration has targeted the Hispanic community in its small business and Super Bowl vendor initiatives, no one currently on the mayor’s office staff is fluent in Spanish.

That probably needs to change, Castor said.

“At the police department, we had the Hispanic liaison officer. That was very, very important. And that is something that we can look at implementing here in the city as well, especially with a census coming up. It’s critical that we make sure that everybody is counted in our community,” Castor said.

City Council chairman Luis Viera, a Cuban-American who is fluent in Spanish, said that would be a good idea.

“Knowing Mayor Castor, I know that she is a very inclusive person and this is something that is very important for our pluralistic city. And I know she will address that challenge in a manner consistent with her values,” Viera said.

Other Hispanic leaders cheered Castor’s early efforts, especially keeping her pledge to make city services more accessible to Spanish speakers.

Patsy Sanchez, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the University of South Florida, said Mayor Castor delivers on her commitment to serve all constituents in her district and meets the demands of the growing Hispanic community.

“The newly Spanish translated City of Tampa website will deliver its content to those who need it in Spanish while sending a powerful and welcoming message of inclusivity," Sanchez said. "Considering that Hispanics are currently the largest ethnic minority in the US, that about 27% of the Hillsborough County population is Hispanic and that nearly 40% of our Hillsborough County School District is also Latino, the Mayor is ensuring our City engages and supports our Latino community.”

Norma Camero-Reno, president of Casa Venezuela Tampa Bay, said the Spanish version is an excellent tool for those people who do not speak English or have deficiencies with the language.

“Something that really impresses me is the fact that you can do most of the paperwork in this page, especially for businesses that need licenses and permits, scheduling an inspection, planning, certifications and do not have to wait for such a long time and go through so much bureaucracy to get things done,” Camero-Reno said.

Damaris Soto, former president of Coalition of Hispanic Artists of Tampa Bay, had a similar appraisal of the Spanish version.

“The goal of every immigrant is to learn the language where we live, but in the meantime you can find out about the services offered,” she said.

Cesar Hernandez, president of Tampa Bay Latin Chamber of Commerce, gives Castor early high marks for her efforts at inclusion for the Hispanic community.

“We have a very diverse city and a mayor that is making the strides in her administration to make everyone feel welcomed. I think it’s awesome we have a mayor that supports our Spanish-speaking citizens," Hernandez said.

correction: A quote from City Council chairman Luis Viera was incorrectly attributed to Mayor Jane Castor in an earlier version of this story.