As the first Latino ever to serve on the Alexandria City Council, Canek Aguirre hopes to improve healthcare access and reach out to the Latino community as he heads towards another election - in which he'll seek his second term - this November.
Aguirre, who is originally from Los Angeles and the son of Mexican immigrants from the state of Puebla, stands out as a progressive leader focused on improving the lives of all Alexandrians.
Recognized as a "40 under 40" honoree by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Aguirre believes he can "bring a unique perspective."
"I work in the school system and we're to doing a lot of community outreach in Northern Virginia and within the city of Alexandria," he said. "I've been seeing a lot of issues for a while now, and it was kind of, well, do you want to complain about it or do you want to do something about it? There are issues that I brought up 10 years ago that now people can't ignore."
Canek says he is working to increase access to healthcare and improve health outcomes for Medicaid populations throughout Northern Virginia. He also spent three years serving students and families in Alexandria City Public Schools.
"The advancements that we've made in Medicaid, it's not just the fact that we've expanded Medicaid, but there are now benefits that have been expanded for all pregnant women, regardless of immigration status," the 36-year-old said. "The state legislature is currently looking at what it would look like to expand that type of benefit for all children, regardless of immigration status."
"Our population is healthy. Our state is healthy, our economy is healthy. It just has so many different ripple effects. And I know this personally from seven years of working directly in Medicaid and seeing this firsthand," Aguirre added.
The Councilman has worked hard to represent Latinos and has become a leader for the Hispanic community, not just in Alexandria but across Northern Virginia.
"I think the Census has shown a lot about where the direction of our demographics is going. Virginia was on the short list for the reapportionment for getting another congressional seat and that's not by accident. Our population has been going very strong."
"People don't talk enough about how the Latino population in some of the red states has actually kept some of those red states from losing seats. There's places in the country that would've disappeared, if not so the influx of immigrants, especially Latino immigrants," he said.
According 2020 Census data, 1 out of every 10 Virginians identify as Latino.
"In Virginia, we're at about 10% of the population now, we've been growing steadily. In my locality in Alexandria, we had the highest amount of growth at 30%, and now we're at about 18% of the total population of the city of Alexandria."
As Chair of the City of Alexandria's 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, Canek successfully led efforts to achieve a 100% count of all households - the only locality in the region to do so - securing Alexandria's share of federal funding for the next decade.
For Latinos in Virginia, Aguirre said that the most important issues are "jobs, transportation, education, and access to healthcare. These are all things that, personally, are almost human rights. Whether it's affordable housing or access to good education, having a safe home to live in, all these things are basic things that we want to make sure that we're providing to all our residents, regardless of immigration status."
Some of his accomplishments for the Hispanic community include "a stipend for bilingual staff members because it's not only recognizing the importance of being able to communicate with our residents in another language, but also the benefits that it brings that our staff brings by having those capabilities."
"I think the other thing too, is that a lot of the issues that the Latino community will fight and push for are not just beneficial for the Latino community, but also for the immigrant community as a whole," he added. "And it's frustrating at times because that burden falls upon us, but it's beneficial for some other people as well."
He is optimistic that other Latino candidates, such as Delegates Adolfo Lopez and Elizabeth Guzman, will be reelected. "They are very important voices in our state legislature because representation matters, and we need it at every single level."
In terms of the governorship campaign, Aguirre is confident, "that Terry McAuliffe will be coming out on top, along with the rest of our ticket all the way down to my race as well as the local level."
"He hired a director of Latino Affairs for the state, which I think sends a clear message to the Latino community in the state that we are important, that our voices will be heard and that he wants to make sure that we are involved in the decision-making process," he said.
ÔÇśIt's extremely important to me to be able to make sure that we are reaching out to our constituencies and our residents. Especially here in Virginia, when we have elections every single year, we don't want to just come to communities when we want something from them. We want to be in constant communication with them, so every time we show up, it's not just I want you to come and vote for me."
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