Irene Caudillo

President & CEO of El Centro

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Kansas City, Kansas, but raised on the east side of Kansas City, Missouri.

What is your family heritage?
My grandparents were from Mexico. My mother’s parents were from Tangancicuaro, Mexico and my father’s parents were from Leon Guanajuato, Mexico. I am second generation born in the United States. I identify as Mexican American or Latina.

What is your occupation?
President & CEO of El Centro, a for purpose organization whose mission is to “Strengthen communities and improve the lives of Latinos and others through educational, social and economic opportunities."

How have you supported or contributed to the local Hispanic/Latinx community?
My passion is to make sure our community is valued and has a sense of belonging. I have fought and continue to fight for representation, elevating my voice and uplifting and supporting other voices to be invited and inclusive at tables where decisions are being made for us. I support and contribute by sharing our stories, supporting our community’s needs, while valuing the diversity within our community.

How do you connect with your Hispanic/Latinx culture?
I maintain the important relationship with my family, keeping up family traditions, celebrating with the food, sounds and language that make up our culture!

What is your favorite childhood memory?
Growing up, we spent Sundays in Argentine (a neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas) visiting our grandparents. We played with all our cousins, ate, and celebrated. My children were raised in this same manner valuing the tradition of cousins, grandparents, food and celebration every Sunday!

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage month is an opportunity to create awareness, while highlighting the beauty, history, art, food, music and contributions of our community.

In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing the Hispanic/Latinx community?
My immediate answer has always been health, education or economics, but COVID 19 and Black Lives Matter has spotlighted the true racial hierarchy causing injustices for people of color. The Latino community is impacted and has a serious sense of belonging issues with feelings of exclusion. Much of what needs to change is the identification of who or what it is to be American. We are a proud community that has respectfully built this community, lacking representation and inclusion causing this issue.

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