The Guardian: Will Cornwall's success inspire Latin Americans in their fight for recognition?

Tango dancers … Latin American culture deserves more recognition, say campaigners. Photograph: Getty Images

Tango dancers … Latin American culture deserves more recognition, say campaigners. Photograph: Getty Images

Latin Americans in the UK are not currently included in government statistics of ethnic minorities. But campaigners are hoping to change that.

Cornish people may have achieved minority status last week, but for Britain's estimated 180,000 Latin Americans the quest for recognition continues.

The most recent figures – a Queen Mary University report from 2011, titled No Longer Invisible – revealed one in five Latin Americans were not registered with a GP and almost two thirds had never been to the dentist, while one third lived in overcrowded housing and 11% were paid less than the national minimum wage. Better statistics are not available, because at present Latin Americans are not acknowledged in the government's ethnic monitoring numbers. This is why campaigners at the Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK are pushing for a "Latin American" box in the next census.

But the push for recognition is also about acknowledging Latin Americans' abundant contribution to our cultural life. That's a large part of the reason why Jose Luis co-founded the Latin-UK Awards with partner Amaranta Wright, which takes place in London on Wednesday. Categories rewarded include Best Footballer, Best Tango Performer, Best Cafe and Best Community Worker. "Salsa and tango have been in Britain for years, or look at Zumba in gyms, or the rise of Mexican and Peruvian restaurants and footballers such as Luis Suarez and Antonio Valencia – we wanted to do something that celebrates what we give to society," says Luis, who hails from Venezuela and has been in London for 17 years.

Progress has been slow, but gradually Britain's Latino population is becoming more visible. In 2012, the borough of Southwark introduced a "Latin American" ethnicity section on its ethnic monitoring forms, and earlier this month Lambeth followed suit.

"Latino means nothing when you're in Latin America," says Luis, "But as soon as you're outside it becomes important – something happens in your mind and you become part of the Latin nation as I like to call it. We become part of this invisible country that doesn't exist but brings us all together."