The nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization is hosting its annual conference in downtown San Antonio this weekend, the first time in three years the organization has held an in-person event.

UnidosUS re-opened its conference registration Thursday, as an earlier limit of 1,500 attendees was reached.

In addition to paid registration packages, the conference includes free workshops and plenary sessions open to the public, said Yvette Núñez, vice president of communications and marketing for UnidosUS.

Registration for the free workshops and plenaries is required.

Previously known as the National Council of La Raza until its name change in 2017, UnidosUS works to “champion and elevate the Latino community,” partnering with community organizations across the U.S. to help Latino immigrants become citizens, increase voter participation, home ownership and other economic opportunities for the country’s second-largest ethnic group.

This year’s theme, “Siempre Adelante: Our quest for equity,” is focused on moving the community forward and ongoing conversations around equitable treatment for Latinos and communities of color, said Núñez.

“We really are gathering the nation’s top Latino experts and advocates in the areas of health, education, generational wealth,” she said. “The resources and information that they get at the conference is intended for them to take it back home to their community and be able to act against it.”

Núñez said there will be something for everyone who attends, from community leaders, organization leaders, people in the corporate sector and young Latino professionals.

“All content provided over the course of three days is intended to inspire and empower,” she said. “We always are focused that our community continues to move forward.

Attendees from a past UnidosUS conference pose for a photo outside an interactive exhibit.
Attendees from a past UnidosUS conference pose for a photo in front of an interactive exhibit. Credit: Courtesy / UnidosUS

Núñez encouraged local residents to register for the free workshops and plenaries to hear speakers discuss mental health, housing, healthcare, racial equity, education, diversity and inclusion and voting rights.

The workshops run from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m., while the plenaries begin at 3 p.m. each day.

Saturday’s workshops include:

  • Education Recovery for English Language Learners
  • Leading with Esperanza: Countering the Deadly Spread of COVID-19 Misinformation
  • Reflecting America: Getting to 20 Percent in the Boardroom and Corner Office 
  • The Future of Homeownership is Hispanic
  • Creating Content for Your Personal and Organizational Brand

The plenary is Racial Equity: Weaving the Latino Narrative into the American Story.

Sunday’s workshops include:

  • Latinos and Student Debt: A Barrier to Building Wealth
  • Caregiver Nation: A Discussion on Family Wellness
  • Digital Equity in the Workplace
  • Policy Discussion: The Structural Barriers Impeding Latino Wealth
  • Beyond Clichés: What Small Talk Can Do for You

The plenary is Policy Update: From the States to the Federal Landscape: Opportunities for Progress for Latinos in 2022.

Monday’s workshops include:

  • Latino Trends in Higher Education & the Equitable Path to Recovery
  • Wellness at Work: Fresh Thinking on Benefits and Incentives as a Workforce Recruitment and Retention Tool
  • Centered: Best Practices in Community Engagement
  • Securing the Bag: Financial Literacy in a Community that Doesn’t Talk About Money
  • San Antonio: Honoring our roots and building a more equitable future

The plenary is Latinx IncluXion: DEI Includes Latinos: How is DEI Showing Up for Latinos in the Workplace and Putting the Spotlight on Latino Mental Health.

The MerXado, where attendees can shop and support local Hispanic-owned small businesses, is also free and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

There will also be nightly receptions and more for those who purchase a registration package.

Keynote speakers include Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS, Congressman Joaquin Castro and activist and author Julissa Arce

Sunday’s Latina Luncheon panel will include Julie Chávez-Rodríguez, granddaughter of civil rights leader César Chávez, a senior advisor and assistant to President Joe Biden and director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Yvett Merino, producer of the Disney hit movie Encanto; and Erika Prosper, senior director of customer insights for H-E-B.

The panel will follow a performance by Adassa, who played the role of Dolores in Encanto.

First lady Jill Biden will be a featured speaker at Monday’s Latinx IncluXion luncheon.

U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo will discuss the American Rescue Plan Act, and how to ensure those financial resources make their way to communities in need.

Other keynote speakers include:

  • Ron Nirenberg, mayor of San Antonio
  • Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, U.S. surgeon general
  • Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas
  • January Contreras, assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Roberto Rodríguez, assistant secretary of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education
  • Esperanza Teasdale, vice president and general manager of PepsiCo
  • Juan Rajlin, vice president and treasurer of Alphabet/Google

The event will take place at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk. A gala celebrating Latino leaders will be held on Monday night.

The conference’s return comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Bexar County. Attendees will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination within 24 hours before the event, said Núñez. Masks will be available across the venue and will be encouraged, she said. Tests will also be available.

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...