The past few years have been difficult for immigrant communities in the United States, especially during the four years of the Trump administration and so far since the emergence of COVID-19. Circumstances have disproportionately affected Hispanics because official relief efforts have not been enough.
With the worldwide outbreak of the pandemic caused by the coronavirus in early 2020, and the preventative measures taken to stop its spread, Hispanics and other minority groups became the “essential workers” who provide the workforce and services indispensable to the survival of humanity, which cannot be interrupted at this critical time.
Ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics, delivered supplies to small and large stores; provided care for the sick; kept public spaces and workplaces safe and clean; and brought mail, packages, and food to the homes of “connected” workers in harsh confinement.
Many of the so-called “essential workers” are policemen, nurses, firemen, distribution truck drivers, warehouse workers, cab drivers, and supermarket workers, who do not have the option of staying at home because their jobs are indispensable to the community.
These Hispanics have faced the worst of the pandemic to keep the country functioning, yet they are treated as second class.
Armando Elenes, secretary of the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) treasurer, maintains that “they did not have the option of staying home, they were up against the wall because many do not have papers and, therefore, do not receive unemployment money.”
The union leader affirmed that “they are truly the heroes who have kept food on the plates, on the tables of the United States, and they were not included in the two stimulus packages approved by Congress.”
Ramiro Cavazos, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, estimates that 70% of workers in restaurant kitchens are Hispanics. “If many essential workers had stopped, this country would have come to a standstill.”
Since the Continental Congress in Philadelphia approved the Declaration of Independence of the 13 Colonies of the American Union on July 4, 1776, immigrants have been a fundamental part of the country’s development. They provided the labor necessary to build the infrastructure of the new country, which laid the foundation for the liberal and democratic political system that gave birth to what is now the United States.
Therefore, today more than ever, it is important to encourage the community to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month through the traditions, cultures, contributions, and work of U.S. citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.
It is also an ideal time to highlight the Hispanic community’s contribution to the essential work during the pandemic so that the country can defeat the enemy and safely return to its daily activities.