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NY1 News celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 with this week-long series of reports.

Hispanic Heritage Week 2013: Politicians Hope To Give Growing Hispanic Population In Bronx A Voice

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Politicians and party officials in the Bronx are focusing on the borough because they think the Latino vote has proven that it can and will change the landscape of New York City politics. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report as part of Hispanic Heritage Week.

Ritchie Torres is the Democratic nominee for City Council District 15 and one of a few young Latinos expected to win a council seat in November, a trend reflective of the growing number of Hispanics in New York.

However, as the population surges, Torres says that Latinos he's met still feel disconnected.

"Many Latinos feel alienated from the political process," Torres said. "They feel that their voices have gone unheard."

Should he be elected, Torres wants to re-engage that community in politics, starting with supporting legislation that would give non-citizen immigrants the right to vote in city elections.

"Immigrants have a stake in the delivery of municipal services and deserve a right to have a say in who becomes their elected official," Torres said.

That message resonates with current City Council member Annabel Palma, who believes that the Hispanic community has the power in numbers to change the landscape of city politics.

In her district, Hispanics represent up to about 65 percent of the population, but the borough also has the lowest rate of voter turnout, and in the Hispanic community, there are barriers that prevent many from voting.

"The language barriers, the not understanding what their rights are," Palma said.

While in office, Palma has helped get funding for organizations that provide English classes, education and job training, as well as skills to help immigrants.

She is looking forward to the energy from young Latinos in the City Council who are like-minded.

City Council members, though, aren't the only ones with their eyes on the Latino community in the Bronx. The borough's Republican party is going through a period of transition and is also hoping to tap into the Hispanic vote by focusing on issues that are important to that community.

"We are concerned with people who are immigrants," said Republican District Leader James Wilson. "I have members who are immigrants, who want their card. I tell them how to get it."

They are all signs that the Latino population in the Bronx is poised to become a formidable force in New York City politics.

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