NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Governor Bill Lee met with Tennessee Hispanic and Latino leaders Monday for a roundtable discussion regarding business, life and the American Dream. Latinos for Tennessee says the time with the governor allowed for a “substantive conversation” during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The conservative nonprofit group had previously awarded Gov. Lee its “Premio Libertad Award” in August for his commitment to fighting human trafficking in Tennessee. Monday’s roundtable discussion included Latino leaders in finance, the nonprofit sector and business.

“The Latino community has a true champion for freedom and opportunity in Gov. Lee,” Raul Lopez, executive director of Latinos for Tennessee. “From defending the sanctity of life, expanding school choice and enacting policies that will help grow the economy and create jobs, Gov. Lee is helping the Latino community in Tennessee prosper and live out their version of the American Dream.”

Data from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau indicates that Tennessee’s total Hispanic and Latino population is around 6.9%. In some East Tennessee counties, U.S. Census data shows there are caches of Hispanic and Latino populations contributing to their local economies:

  • Knox – 6% Hispanic/Latino
  • Hamblen – 14.7% Hispanic/Latino
  • Loudon – 9.8% Hispanic/Latino
  • Sevier – 8.8% Hispanic/Latino
  • Hamilton – 7.4% Hispanic/Latino
  • Rhea – 6% Hispanic/Latino
  • Jefferson – 4.4% Hispanic/Latino
  • Blount  – 4.2% Hispanic/Latino
  • Monroe – 4.2% Hispanic/Latino
  • McMinn – 4.1% Hispanic/Latino

Census data also indicates Hispanics and Latinos make up some of the larger shares of workers within the state’s top industries like agriculture, construction and services – which is also reflected nationally.

Governor Lee tweeted about meeting with the Latinos for Tennessee group Monday, saying that the discussion came “as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and recognize all that these Tennesseans do to make our state flourish.”

Governor Lee’s office hasn’t yet issued a proclamation formally recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month in Tennessee. Currently, the last time a Tennessee governor issued a proclamation recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month was under former Gov. Bill Haslam. Lee’s Monday meeting with Latinos for Tennessee garnered praise from the group.

“Today’s discussion was incredibly inspiring. Latino entrepreneurs, working professionals and advocates for justice and life were able to have a substantive conversation with Gov. Lee and his staff,” Latinos for Tennessee director Lopez said. “On behalf of everyone at Latinos for Tennessee, we thank Gov. Lee for taking our meeting and being a true champion for liberty.”

Don’t miss our upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month Special on WATE 6 On Your Side happening Sunday, Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m.