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By Jessica Montoya Coggins

WASHINGTON, DC -- Before a packed crowd at The Hamilton in Washington D.C., the Latino Victory Foundation kicked off its inaugural “Latino Talks” on Monday evening. The event celebrated not only the one-year anniversary of the organization, but also the achievements and contributions of the nation's Hispanics, and the importance of furthering Latino engagement and clout in the areas of politics, business and the arts.

Founded by businessman and national leader Henry Muñoz III and actress, philanthropist and political activist Eva Longoria, the non-partisan organization is committed to building the political power of the nation's Latinos. Cristóbal Alex, formerly of the Ford Foundation, is the Latino Victory Foundation’s current president.

“The movement is about building political leadership and political change in this country, so that our values are reflected across every level of government and the policies that drive our country forward,” said Alex.

The event included two panels, both moderated by Yarel Ramos of NBC Universo. The first panel was a discussion about Latino leaders; Muñoz was joined by climate scientist Nicole Hernandez Hammer, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Estuardo Rodriguez Jr., from the Friends of the American Latino Museum.

Caption: On foreground, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, and actress and activist Eva Longoria in the background among the audience at the “Latino Talks” event of the Latino Victory Foundation on May 4 in Washington, D.C.IAN DAWSON / Latino Victory Foundation

Hernandez Hammer spoke about her own experiences as a climate scientist and her unique background, as she was frequently the only Latina in many of her science classes. She is committed to spreading the message that Latinos care deeply about the environment and climate change, and sees the importance of groups such as the foundation. “There’s not anything quite like what they are putting together here,” she said.

An excerpt from the documentary "Our Time" ran before the second panel. The upcoming documentary, produced by Longoria, is expected to air before the November 2016 election. It follows an 18-year-old Latina as she thinks about casting her first vote. For Longoria, the story is representative of the roughly 800,000 Hispanics that turn 18 each year, and become eligible voters. The documentary’s goal is to humanize the demographic potential for Hispanics by putting one face to all the future voters. “We’re trying to present the statistics in a narrative way,” said Longoria.

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In a conversation with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro about the future of the country's Hispanics, Longoria spoke about their mutual dedication to one issue: “Education is the most important thing to economic mobility,” she said. Longoria spoke about writing her thesis for her Masters about Latinas in STEM, a topic that she found was infrequently discussed in research. When asked about what was the most important challenge facing Latinos, Castro mentioned the dearth of pre-K programs for low-income children, an initiative Castro championed while Mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

Following “Latino Talks,” Castro spoke very enthusiastically about the Latino Victory Foundation. “My hope is that people are energized to be a part of this organization and to take action in their own communities.”

Taking action seemed to be the theme of the evening, with organizers and panelists imploring the crowd to use their voices and experiences to develop and engage a new generation of Latino leaders. Muñoz recognized that there were many attendees that were just learning about the Latino Victory Foundation. “I hope that tonight it inspires people to recognize how important they are to the story of our country, and they will encourage us to continue having these conversations.”

Secretary Castro is very optimistic about these conversations, which the Latino Victory Foundation is committed to continuing. “My hope is that this is the beginning of significant national dialogue of the contributions that the Latino community has made to the progress of the United States.”