Before they met with Marion Barry yesterday many of Washington Latino leaders had been highly critical of the new mayor's administration, some charging that he had deceived them during his campaign.
After the hour-long meeting, however, their mood had changed completely. "It was so good," said Eva Guevara Erb, executive director of the Council of Hispanic Community and Agencies. "It was just so exciting."
Barry had agreed on the spot to some of their demands. With something of a political flourish, he signed a measure guaranteeing that the executive director of the Office of Latino Affairs work at the GS-15 level, and said he would seriously consider making him a member of his cabinet.
"This is a real breakthrough," Lucy M. Cohen, of the Commission on Latino Community Development, called such an appointment. It has been only 10 years, she noted, since the City Council held its first hearings acknowledging that a Hispanic community existed in Washington.
Barry said he would consider several other proposals by various Latino organizations, ranging from the Latin Quarter Development Proposal for improving the housing situation in Mount Pleasant and Adams-Morgan, to writing a letter to the Federal Communications Commission stating his support for a Spanish language radio station in the area.
To follow up on the progress made at the meeting Barry appointed a five-member task force from among the more than 20 representatives of the community who attended yesterday.
Not all reservations were dispelled however. Former City Council candidate Hector Rodriguez noted that of 40,000 city employes, only 255 are Hispanic, and said there is still a long way to go.
Marcelo Fernandez, a member of the new task force, pointed to the pen that Barry had used to sign the GS-15 measure and said he would see if everything would work out. "I hope we don't have to use that pen to start writing nasty letters again," he asserted.