A ‘golden’ year ushers in new leadership for Nebraska’s Latino commission

By: - November 15, 2022 4:00 am

(Courtesy of Nebraska Commission on Latino-Americans)

As it marks 50 years of advocating for Nebraska’s Latino population, a state commission has announced another milestone.

Following a nearly yearlong search, the Commission on Latino-Americans named Maria Arriaga as the new executive director of the agency that is to serve as a link between state government and area Hispanics.

Maria Arriaga, executive director (Courtesy of Nebraska Commission on Latino-Americans)

Arriaga, a native of Michoacan, Mexico, began her career as a radio announcer. She moved to the United States, continuing her broadcasting profession at Radio Lobo, Telemundo and iHeart station El Patron, according to a commission statement that noted she has more than a decade of media experience.

She has a philosophy degree from the Universidad Michoacan de San Nicolas de Hidalgo.

Arriaga has worked in nonprofits also and counts as her passions culture, animals and women’s rights. 

“I’m very proud to be part of this great organization and looking forward to continuing to build on this incredible legacy which has already contributed to our Latino community in the state,” Arriaga said.

She succeeds Lazaro Arturo Spindola, who retired at the end of 2021 after 11 years in the position. A native of Cuba, he was raised in Venezuela, where he earned a medical degree.

The commission also announced new executive board leadership: Maria Whitmore, as chair of the board; Cristina Castro-Matukewicz as vice chair; and Jaime Suarez as secretary.

From left, Maria Whitmore, Cristina Castro-Matukewicz, Jamie Suarez (Courtesy of Nebraska Commission on Latino-Americans)

Established during the 1972 legislative session, the commission started as the Mexican American Commission and saw a name change in 2010 to reflect the growing diversity of Nebraska Latinos from other countries.

Ten commissioners from across the state are named by the governor. The commission is based in the State Capitol and holds public meetings in various cities statewide throughout the year. 

Its leaders and executive director are called to testify on behalf of issues facing Latinos, and it also promotes events to encourage education and youth.

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.