Latinxs in Multnomah County enrich our culture. They help drive our economy. They add to our academic environment, drive social and political change, and ensure the health of our community.
That was the message at the annual Latinx Heritage Month Proclamation at Thursday’s board meeting. The event — celebrated in Multnomah County since 2004 — honors the value and contributions of the Latinx community to the County and throughout the nation.
Latinx Heritage Month is celebrated nationally beginning Sept. 15. September was chosen as the start of the event to recognize the independence days of several Latin American countries.
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson sponsored the proclamation. She celebrated the work of the County and its partners and reaffirmed the need to support the Latinx community, both locally and at a larger scale.
“I’ve really been pleased, both at the state and the County, to pass laws and work on policies that have impacted our Latinx communities throughout the state,” she said. “But we always have to stay vigilant to make sure we’re protecting our community.”
The proclamation included testimony from Oregon State Rep. Andrea Salinas; Juan Martinez, Director of Development and Communications for Latino Network; Diana Nunez, President of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber; Linda Castillo, Chair for the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs; and County Health Department employee Orlando Zurita-Rodriguez.
Together, the panelists shared a report on the current state of the Latinx community in Multnomah County and talked about solutions to better meet their needs. Their testimony highlighted the value of culturally-specific services, especially during a time when national politics are causing fear and anxiety for communities of color.
“What I’ve seen over the past year with the current federal administration is just people with so much more fear, stress and anxiety,” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said. “As a commissioner, I feel very fortunate to be able to support the community on a broader level.”
Latinxs are among the fastest growing populations in Multnomah County and are estimated to make up more than 11 percent of the community. “The contributions of our Latino community to this region are numerous--too numerous to mention,” Commissioner Loretta Smith said. “We always need to be reminded of the contributions, particularly of underserved communities.”
Nearly 10 percent of the County’s workforce identifies as Latinx, representing about 500 people. That also allows the County to better serve the community by bringing multilingual and multicultural capacity to its workforce.
“It’s so important that we shout from the rooftops that Multnomah County is a united community,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “We are warm, we are embracing, we are welcoming. And we will just keep fighting the good fight.”