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Elephant & Castle should be official Latin American district, say campaigners

London SE1 website team

Campaigners for official recognition of Latin Americans as a distinct ethnic minority have called the community's contribution to Elephant & Castle to be acknowledged as part of the area's regeneration.

A deputation from the Latin Americans Recognition Campaign addressed Southwark's council assembly meeting earlier this month.

Deputation spokeswoman Gladys Medina told councillors that Southwark is the borough with the largest Latin American population in the UK, and the number of Latin Americans in the UK has increased four-fold in the past decade.

"The Latin American community has revived and injected life and economic growth into the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and its surroundings," said Ms Medina.

"Notre Dame School, St George's Cathedral Primary School and Harris Academy have a significant percentage of Latin American students."

She continued: "In the last five years 1,208 Latin American people obtained British citizenship in Southwark. However we are still considered 'others' in most ethnic monitoring and application forms."

Setting out the aims of the campaign, Ms Medina said: "We want recognition of the Latin American community as an ethnic minority in the UK.

"As a first measure, the inclusion of the category 'Latin American' as a category on the ethnic monitoring forms of all service providers.

"This will ensure the inclusion of our community in relevant policies, strategies, service planning and delivery.

She also called for "official recognition of the Elephant & Castle area as a Latin American district, and the allocation of financial resources for its development, keeping the Latin American commercial area such as shops, restaurants etc".

"We are not asking for an area of our own: we only want recognition of the Latin American contribution and its concentration in this area."

Cllr Abdul Mohamed, cabinet member for citizenship, equalities and communities, replied to the deputation. "We do realise that there is enormous work to be done here," he said.

"I can't imagine that this borough could function or exist without the Latin American community; you are part and parcel of this borough and we need to work together."

Liberal Democrat councillor Graham Neale highlighted the plight of the Latin American church that meets in the Elephant & Castle Leisure Centre on Sundays which will find itself without a local venue when the centre closes for redevelopment next year.

Cllr Fiona Colley, the borough's Labour cabinet member for regeneration, said she is very keen that the Latin American community is fully involved in the transformation of Elephant & Castle, and invited more representatives to join the regeneration forum convened by developers Lend Lease.

Newington ward councillor Cathy Bowman (Lib Dem) praised the contribution of Latin American business and residents: "It makes the Elephant & Castle so much more vibrant than it would otherwise be," she said.

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