For almost 35 years, HLG has been a major force representing the Hispanic community in the St. Louis region and in helping shape policies that affect Hispanics in the region.
The Early Years
In December 1983 a few people got together with the idea of keeping informed of Hispanic events and issues of a social and political nature happening in St. Louis and its surrounding area. One of their purposes was to serve the Hispanic community as an umbrella organization for the various Hispanic groups in the St. Louis region. The founders of HLG had as one of their goals to unite the diverse Hispanic community and present its voice to the larger society. Anthony B. Ramirez was the initiator of this effort along with a few others.
The assemblage named this new organization The Hispanic Leaders Group of Greater St. Louis (HLG).
They first met in the basement of St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church and then in various locations. In 1983, the Hispanic population was relatively small but as time passed more people attended the meetings and there more activities. In 1983, the Hispanic population in the St. Louis region was about 23,000 (as of 2011 it was about 76,000 according to the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey 2011).
For the first ten years, the group was a “loose conglomeration” of people, according to Mr. Ramirez.
On August 12, 1993, the organization was incorporated in the State of Missouri as The Hispanic Leaders Group of Greater St. Louis. It conducts its business under the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status in accordance to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
The résumé of HLG is impressive. A few of the main issues can be divided into Federal, State and City.
On a federal level, the Hispanic Leaders Group corresponded with Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton in regard to supporting a Hispanic jurist for a position on the U.S. Supreme Court and members of HLG were interviewed on television regarding the same issue.
On a state level, HLG is a major contributor to the annual Hispanic Day at Jefferson City, and many of its members contact periodically state elected officials on issues of interest to the Hispanic community.
On a city level, the HLG worked with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis in obtaining an Executive Order which opened city business on set-asides to include the Hispanic community which originally had been open only to the African-American community.
For the regular membership meetings, HLG invites individuals to give a short discourse on their field of expertise or interest. The Hispanic Leaders Group was the first Hispanic organization to successfully have the governor of Missouri attend its town hall meeting. It was named such when Governor Bob Holden attended the event, which was held in that format.
In 2001, HLG started presenting its yearly Civic Awareness event. (Events)
In 2002, HLG was instrumental in starting Hispanic Day at Jefferson City. HLG was the initiative member in organizing this event with the purpose being to have Hispanics throughout Missouri go to the state capital to visit the Governor and members of the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives. Its intent is to make their presence known to the politicians to let them realize that Hispanics are interested in issues that affect the state of Missouri and their lives. The first visit was on April 16, 2002 and has continued on to be a yearly event with more and more Hispanics attending the activities.
Members of the HLG attended the Cambio de Colores (Change of Colors) conference held at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 2002. In 2003, some of HLG members made presentations at the conference that was held in Kansas City and in 2004 the group helped organize and participated in the conference that was held at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
In 2003, HLG created Premio Esperanza (Hope Award). The award recognizes community leaders that excel because of their contributions to the Hispanic community. (Please go to Events)
In 2004, HLG started its Scholarship Program, which is aimed at helping Hispanic youth continue their studies after finishing high school, whether at a college or university or by attending an accredited vocational or trade school. (Events)
Occasionally, members of the HLG are asked to attend activities by other organizations. In 2004, members of the Hispanic Leaders Group were invited and attended the American Jewish Committee in Chicago. Another example is the participation of Mr. Anthony B. Ramirez as a presenter at the Latino Civil Rights Summit in Kansas City sponsored by the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations (COHO).
In 2006, the board of directors of HLG approved a comprehensive statement on immigration.
In 2007, under the initiative of Anthony B. Ramirez, Hispanic Capitol Day, Inc. was created with the main purpose of coordinating the annual Hispanic Day at Jefferson City. Members of HLG along with other Hispanics from across the state continue to support the event and seat on the HCD board of directors.
The 25th anniversary of HLG was celebrated in 2008 during which the Premio Esperanza ceremony took place. Also in 2008, HLG joined the Hispanic Scholarship Alliance as a charter member.
In 2010, the board of directors of HLG renamed its most prestigious recognition in the memory of its founder and thus the recognition is now called, Anthony B. Ramirez Premio Esperanza.
The year 2011saw HLG be a leading partner in the successful 10th annual Hispanic Day at Jefferson City. The event was a brainchild of HLG founder Anthony B. Ramirez and Tony was honor posthumously at the Capitol rotunda during the visit to Jefferson City in 2011. Also in 2011, HLG focused its attention to the 2010 Census and its implications (particularly of the growing number of Hispanics) holding a well-attended meeting with leaders from all over the St. Louis region, including elected officials.
In 2013, the organization celebrated its thirtieth anniversary.
In 2016, HLG assume total responsibility for the annual Hispanic Day at Jefferson City from Hispanic Capitol Day, Inc. who ceded such event to HLG. Under the leadership of HLG the annual event is now called Hispanic Capitol Day.
The organization has stayed current with the times and supports the many issues that affect the ever-growing Hispanic population in St. Louis and its surrounding area.