About 75 people attended the first Boston Latino Conference, held on Oct. 13 in East Boston, the heart of the Latino community in the city. At 21,419, the Latino population makes up 52.8 percent of the total population in East Boston, up from 39 percent in 2000, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. 

In Massachusetts as a whole, Latinos make up 9.6 percent of the population and constitute 6 percent of all the state’s eligible voters. But Latino voter turnout has been low in the state, following a national trend. A record 24 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the country, up by more than 4 million, or 22 percent, since 2008, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. However, in the last presidential election, the Latino turnout rate was 50 percent, lagging behind the rates for African Americans (65 percent) and whites (66 percent). 

Nearly half (47 percent) of Hispanics in Massachusetts are eligible to vote, ranking Massachusetts 12th nationwide in the share of the Hispanic population that is eligible to vote. By contrast, 78 percent of the state’s white population is eligible to vote, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

At the conference, drawing a parallel with East Boston, Phoenix, Ariz., councilman Daniel Valenzuela described how he got elected to represent West Phoenix, a city where Latinos simply didn’t vote. 

Other speakers at the event included: Rafael Collazo, campaign political director for the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the country; Maria Idali Torres, director at the Gaston Institute (UMass Boston), Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of ¿Oíste?, the state’s premier Latino political organization and representatives of multiservice organizations that work with the Latino community in Boston and beyond.