Politicians, college professors and students examined the power of the Latino vote Thursday at the fourth-annual Hispanic Leadership Summit, hosted by the University of Texas.
While the America of today looks nothing like the America of ten years ago—or even four years ago during the last presidential election—one thing remains unchanged: Hispanics continue to be the fastest growing minority.
"History tells us anytime a society has changed dramatically, there have been wars or whole groups have been killed off. That's not going to occur in Texas,” Republican Representative Aaron Pena said. “We are going to learn from history. That is part of what this event is about, is learning so that we don't make the same mistakes that were made historically."
The Hispanic Leadership Summit offers a chance to study the growing demographic and plan for future growth.
"We are going to have challenges that face this state,” Rep. Pena said. “We see some of that in redistricting, in voter idea debates, in various other issues. We, as a state, are going to have to come to grips with this change."
Changes in demographics tend to grab more headlines during a presidential election year.
And with the Hispanic population continuing to grow in this country, both parties are working to capitalize on that voting base, but the trick is overcoming voter apathy.
"I think the younger population just doesn’t realize how much they matter," UT freshman Stephen Dominguez said. "Being able to vote as a Latino, growing up with a single mom, is exciting."
Experts say not all young Hispanics are like Dominguez. Many of them do not vote.
It’s something Democratic U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez and other politicians are working to change.
"It is not the easiest thing in the world to do,” he said. “A lot of people feel that they don't have something at stake.
And with the clock ticking toward an election, leaders hope events like this will help minorities realize they have a voice.