Breaking the Ice: Immigrants’ son finds ‘dream job’ on Latino council

Name: Henry Jiménez

Title: Executive director, Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs

Education: Degree in women’s studies and political science, University of Nevada-Las Vegas; master’s degree in advocacy and political leadership, University of Minnesota-Duluth

Henry Jiménez introduces himself as “the proud product of two undocumented immigrants,” born in California to a mother from El Salvador and father from Mexico. Their experience helps inform his approach to his role, since December, as executive director of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs, which Jiménez called “a dream job.” His parents’ hard work motivates him to push through long days at the Capitol. Jiménez previously was executive director of the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization, a Minneapolis nonprofit.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A. I’m a very open guy. I love people. I start every conversation with love. If we just assume that we love the person that we haven’t met yet, what a way to start a conversation. I’m always going up to people I don’t know and introducing myself. I encourage folks to feel free to come up to me and say hi.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?
A. I just became a father at the beginning of the session. The last book I read was “The Birth Partner.” I wanted to prepare to be able to support my wife before, during and after that time. The book that is by my bedside now is called “Diez Deditos” (“Ten Little Fingers”). It’s a children’s book, one of many. I want to make sure that my daughter, Lucia, learns Spanish, so I only read and talk to her in Spanish. My wife can do the other things in English.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?
A. I’m a pretty honest and straightforward person even with my emotions. I like straightforward conversations. I like honest conversations. I’d rather hear somebody tell me yes or no. It’s a waste of time for both parties if it’s not a real conversation.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?
A. Learning to be a father and spending as much time as I can with my daughter. I’m recently married too, so learning to be a great husband, a great partner as well.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what do you take them to see or do?
A. This is my home but I have a special place in my heart both for Long Beach, California, and Las Vegas. A common thing in both is the swap meet. I would take folks to the outdoor swap meet in Las Vegas on a Friday or Saturday night. You can buy spicy hot Mexican peanuts or a mattress or shoes or whatever you can think of. They have Mexican banda music and I love that. It’s family-oriented.

Q. What’s one way to end partisan polarization?
A. It’s such a privilege to live in a country where we can think about anything we want and say anything we want. But at the same time I do believe that people have more in common than they don’t. More recently politically we have come to a place where we no longer think about each other as people, we think about each other as parties. We need to go back to thinking about each other as people. I always believe there is common ground. Two very opposite ideas can come to a great idea in the middle.

Q. What’s your favorite hidden place at the Capitol?
A. It’s not a hidden place but here in the State Office Building is where I met my wife. To me a special place will always be right outside that state senator’s office five years ago. I will always cherish that place.