A battery of dedicated judges and attorneys paid overdue tribute to the role of Hispanic professionals in Minnesota law last year with the Latino Legal Experience, a traveling exhibition focused on the accomplishments and bright future of the Latino community.
The project built off the success of previous exhibitions that showcased the legal experience of the African American, Native American and Asian American communities in Minnesota and of women lawyers in Minnesota. Along with numerous public- and private-sector attorneys, help in organizing the project came from Judges Ann D. Montgomery, Jeffrey M. Bryan and Peter M. Reyes.
The 20 banners composing the exhibition have been displayed at the St. Paul Federal Courthouse and will be moving to the other federal courthouses in Minnesota, along with state courthouses, colleges, museums, churches, community centers, schools and other venues.
“Part of the goal is to educate the public about the legal struggles of the Hispanic community,” said Lola Velazquez-Aguilu, an assistant U.S. attorney who helped organize the project. “Our goal was also to highlight that there’s a lot that Hispanic lawyers have accomplished in Minnesota.”
To kick off the project organizers hosted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and arranged for the transportation to the event of more than 100 Latino students along with their teachers and parents.
Ten students who submitted essays, poems or artwork were awarded scholarships.
The project also included a 25-minute video that told the stories of 18 prominent Latino lawyers and judges in Minnesota.
“One of the great things to come out of the project was some amazing relationships we developed with educators throughout the state,” said Velazquez-Aguilu, noting that 20 students of Northfield teacher Ruben Alvarez alone submitted essays for consideration. “Those relationships have provided a venue for the Hispanic bar and the federal bar association to build on what we’ve done through mentorship and other opportunities.”