Roaring Fork Valley Latino community advocates seek out fair representation, respect for all residents
Lack of Spanish resources causes real harm within Roaring Fork Valley.
Beatriz Soto, Defiende Nuestra Tierra Director at non-profit Wilderness Workshop, said she is frequently asked to clarify if videos or clips are legitimate news sources by members of the community.
“I think we have to acknowledge that for whatever reason, fake information and fake news is getting quicker to our communities than real information…I think once people start losing that faith in their governmental agencies I think it just makes them victims,” Soto said.
Officials within the Roaring Fork Valley seemingly struggle to find volunteers or space within a budget to translate important information to Spanish, Soto said. The lack of a reliable, translated information source makes it easier for Spanish-speakers or other individuals who don’t speak English to fall prey to well-produced conspiracy theories or clean cut presentations of fake news.
Jasmin Ramirez, Program Coordinator at local non-profit Voces Unidas, agreed with the need for additional Spanish language resources, for COVID-19 and otherwise, within the valley and also made it clear that the Latinx community is by no means a monolith.
“As a Latino not all of us can speak for every issue. I don’t know what is happening in the healthcare system so I do think that the Latinos who are leading in that space needed to have a space for themselves to say this is what we need from the healthcare system so that our Latinos can be treated as equal citizens of this valley,” Ramirez said.
An example Ramirez brought up about information not getting through to Spanish-speakers was when evacuation notices were released for the Grizzly Creek Fire. She said frequently local government offices will look to volunteers to help with translations, but at the end of the day this just isn’t getting the job done.
“I definitely think that more organizations and some city governments, I wouldn’t say all, have made a greater effort,” Ramirez said, “But not every county has made the effort, not every sheriff’s department has made the effort. Although we have gained some ground there’s still a long way to go.”
Soto said the free community testing clinics for COVID-19 that are typically open a few days a week in the mornings aren’t easy for Latino residents to utilize for a myriad of reasons.
“What we need to realize is that (a lot of people in the) Latino community are living day by day. And they can’t afford to miss a day at work, and there’s all these other systems that play into consideration …being able to take time off of work, having good relationships with your bosses…economic justices, workers rights, compensation, that’s a whole other beast,” Soto said.
Ramirez said that part of the reason accommodations for Spanish-language speakers still aren’t where they should be is because more often than not local members of government are not connecting with the Latino community by means of an open conversation, if at all.
“I think that a lot of our community has not asked us what we need or what we want even, what would help us. They’ve always decided for us so I think we have finally come to this place where…we as Latinos who graduated from the high school here, we also are educated. Many of us are able to be executive directors or go and get an education or go to college. There is a reason why many of us don’t come back to build our lives here,” Ramirez said.
As more Latino members of the community are elected as leaders, the better the Roaring Fork Valley will do at representing and tending to the needs of everyone who lives here, Soto said. Nonprofit Voces Unidas is an example of Latino community members coming together to get the attention of the state government in order to provide accordingly in ways local government has not been able to.
“I’m looking forward for vaccinations to come out and I’m looking forward for those to be distributed equally and to really acknowledge the essential workers in the Latino community and everything we provide to the economics and the vitality of the Roaring Fork, Colorado and Eagle Valley as well. We are the backbone of this economy and I really hope moving forward we’re seen as that, we’re valued as that and we’re respected,” Soto said.
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The Roaring Fork Schools have announced two new district staff changes this summer as the 2021-22 school year approaches.