Latin American project coordinator, Institute for Healthcare Improvement
Founder, Latinx Action Group
Huntington Top 100, 2015
BeVisible’s list of 15 organizers to watch in 2017
Civic Latino engagement Award at Northeastern University
Invited by Barack Obama’s Administration as one of the most influential young leaders in the United States in 2016.
by: April M. Crehan
After moving to Plymouth from Bogotá, Colombia, at age eight, Santiago Nariño was looking forward to college at Northeastern University as a time to explore his Latinidad.
“Growing up in the white town of Plymouth really helped me to appreciate and love the sacrifice that my parents made,” said the 24-year-old. “Being in Boston and comparing it to Plymouth and growing up in two contrasting environments– politically, ethnically, and racially – it was a complete turnaround that really pushed me.”
Despite the increase in diversity, Nariño was disappointed in what he saw as a lack of engagement of Latino students and the dearth of community and diversity in the College Democrats of Massachusetts. As he rose to become president of the CDM; Nariño said his work “shook up the whole organization”
“I let them know that with the way things were going, they never were actually going to achieve equal representation with Blacks and Latinos and other minorities.”
Armed with experience from several months in Brazilian government working on the “Improve Your English” program and international relations, Nariño started his own organization: the Latinx Action Group.
The organization brings institutional knowledge to Latinos across the state. Since its birth in 2015, the Latinx Action Group has offered over 20 workshops and events across the state on lobbying, health equity, gentrification, anti-blackness in the Latino community, voter registration, and more.
Nariño said he has focused on coalition building through all of these, as he has partnered with local organizations. For his own future, Nariño is hoping to break into elected politics. He ran unsuccessfully for a spot on the Democratic State Committee this winter, learning along the way that, despite some progressive politics, the culture of exclusivity remains a barrier for newcomers like him.
“It was challenging,” he said of the race, noting that, despite some progressive pockets, much of the state committee still maintains an old boys’ club flavor.
Currently, Nariño works for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement as Latin American project coordinator. He also works as a project manager with Amplify Latinx, another initiative to increase Latino representation in leadership positions.
“I hope with Amplify Latinx we can build enough momentum to actually build a coalition of power,” Nariño said.