Caring for Local Communities During National Hispanic Heritage Month
THE WOODLANDS, TX - Essential workers across the U.S. have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas Latinos are 40 % of the population but constitute 56% of COVID-19 deaths - an alarming 9000 souls lost. Montgomery County’s young Latino community is over 25% of the population and is filled with first, second, and third generation Americans. Many Latino professional and unskilled workers are essential healthcare employees, service sector employees, factory workers, caregivers, educators, and construction workers. The risk of transmission is highest in these roles of frequent public contact, and healthcare disparities have made many more vulnerable to illness.
Since March the Texas Familias Council has responded to crisis across the county and has promoted stronger public health education and mask use. Working with Abundant Harvest Kitchen, Montgomery County Food Bank, Creative Outreach Ministries, Community Assistance Center, CISD, Children’s Books on Wheels, Lone Star Family Health Center, Meals on Wheels, Borden Milk, and the Deerwood and New Caney communities, the Council has collaborated to connect support to families. For seven months volunteers from Kingwood, Humble and New Caney have served with Abundant Harvest Kitchen. Through the MCFB, 200 families have received food support weekly during quarantine, shut-down, ongoing illness, and economic hardships. I call these loving volunteers our “volunteer pueblito/ volunteer village”. It’s a special group of diverse people with a common purpose. Recently a resident sent us a message that read in Spanish, “Thank you for volunteering, may God bless you for always treating us with respect and kindness”.
This National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 comes at a difficult time for our Latino communities. We see another level of need and loss beyond natural disasters. Children have lost parents to the pandemic, and many have lost work for weeks and months. We are honoring our heritage and culture by helping neighbors. Culture is the heartsong of a community and serving in crisis proudly recognizes this deep connection between us.
National Hispanic Heritage Month was signed into law by President Reagan in 1988 to honor the contributions of Latinos to the U.S. Texas has a rich history rooted in the journey of the Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans and U.S. settlers. A complicated but common vision of hope led to the founding of Texas and continues building it today.
A Republic of Texas founding father, Jose Antonio Navarro, represented the old Mexican families of Texas, and guided the complex transition of a new Texas nation. He helped draft the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence along with his uncle, Jose Francisco Ruiz, and Lorenzo de Zavala. Juan Seguin was first elected to represent the bustling community of San Antonio in 1834, while women like Jovita Idar led movements in South Texas to support women’s and civil rights in the early 1900’s. In 1969 Conroe native U.S. Army Sgt. Johnny Muñoz lost his life in the Vietnam War at the age of 22. He was a beloved football star, and president of his senior class at Conroe High School. His death devasted Conroe, and he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
As we seek ways to work together, the past reminds us that we are writing a chapter in a continuing story about our cultures and faith in community. This year we won’t host large celebrations, but we celebrate the precious men and women that have worked hard to nurture hope with their loving sacrifices both long ago and today. If we respect our rich cultures, and focus on harnessing the best from our young, we learn to fortify the unity and hope of America through lessons found in our diversity.
Maria Baños Jordan is the Founder and President of the Texas Familias Council, established in 2011 to strengthen families and inspire inclusive communities. www.Texasfamiliascouncil.org