Latinos in Utah County: Latino business owners 03

Karina Acosta tallies receipts at Joe Vera’s Mexican Restaurant on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Over the last several months, our whole news staff has been hard at work on our Latinos in Utah County series. Every week, we’ve researched, interviewed, written and rewritten to come out with in-depth stories on our Latino neighbors from a variety of angles each Sunday. We’ve learned valuable things from each and every installment.

Throughout this experience, our staff has gained a greater understanding of the positive, unique qualities Latinos bring to our community. We’ve also gotten a firsthand look at the distinct challenges many Latino families face locally, and how we as a community can better address those challenges.

As discussed in our article about where Latinos are located throughout the county and the housing challenges they face, we discovered that a significantly higher amount of Latinos live in poverty in comparison to other races in the area. And while a higher percentage of Latinos live in Provo than any other city in the county, many Latino families are struggling to afford housing with the rising costs of home ownership and rent in the area.

Our community is already doing great things to help all of those in financial need in this regard, including by supporting Community Action Services and Food Bank, the Circles program and Centro Hispano. These charitable can always use more volunteer work from the community, and locals can also help in a multitude of ways to contribute time and resources to those in need and be invested in their own journey of success.

After publishing our story on Latinos and law enforcement by Ashley Stilson, we’re grateful to our current men and women in blue who are making an effort to be more approachable to local Latinos. We consider it of great importance reduce the general stigma of fear around law enforcement by assuring that “we’re there for a reason and it’s not to clear up their immigration status. We’re not there for that at all … They (police) don’t care about anything else except helping,” as stated by Jorge Morales with the Spanish Fork Police Department. As we learned that Hispanic officers are few and far between in our area, we encourage police departments to further their efforts in recruiting minorities to their workforces.

We were happy to discover how much Latino culture positively influences business practices in our area with Carley Porter’s article, which elaborated on the good work ethic and honest business practices Latinos bring to the state. We encourage Utah County citizens to occasionally step outside of the chain establishments they regularly patronize and seek out locally-owned Latino restaurants and other businesses more often.

Centro Hispano, a nonprofit organization in Provo, was an especially valuable source to our newsroom throughout the entire project, and we were more than happy to have reporter Genelle Pugmire shine a spotlight on them in one of our articles. The organization does amazing things to break down language and culture barriers standing in the way of many local Latino residents, and to empower those citizens to have equal access to information and resources. Central Hispano is growing, and we encourage the community to support the organization in any way they can.

We were sad to learn that many local Latinos face language barriers and cultural stigmas when they need mental health treatment, as reported by Braley Dodson. Many Latinos face unique strains in their life that can contribute to worsening mental health, such immigration status for themselves and friends and relatives, financial problems, politics, concerns about legal rights and more. We encourage mental health clinics throughout Utah Valley to recruit a higher amount of Spanish-speaking staff to make their clinics more approachable by the Latino community to get the mental health help they need.

After publishing Jared Lloyd’s story on Latinos in high school athletics, we applaud Latino students around the county who make unique sacrifices to play the game they love. Many work very hard to afford the payments necessary to be a part of their team, and others sacrifice the small amount of free time they have on high school sports, as school and working to help support their family financially can take up the rest of their day most days. We hope our community supports our Latino prep sport athletes in every way they can throughout every season from golf to volleyball to football.

Our staff also delved into the serious issues surrounding Latinos when it comes to both voting and running for local political office. As Connor Richards and McKenna Park wrote, Utah Latinos vote at about half the rate of white Utah citizens, and there is next to no representation on city councils and other elected positions throughout Utah County. We’re saddened that many of our Latino neighbors don’t feel motivated to participate in the local political process, and we encourage more Latinos to both vote and even consider running for office so that the largest minority in the county can be better represented. Additionally, we encourage all Utah County voters to support more Latino representation at the local political level.

As for the country level of politics, while there are a fair amount of Latinos in our area who are satisfied with Donald Trump’s presidency, we were saddened to learn that many, both with citizenship and without, feel attacked by the current White House administration. Working on our last installment in the series published today about how current White House policies are affecting our local community of Latinos made our hearts ache for our Latino neighbors who feel panic and fear in the current political climate.

We were also saddened to see many comments on our stories regarding Latinos and politics to be full of hate and misunderstanding, and we encourage all Utah residents across the whole spectrum of political beliefs to have a more open, kind heart to their Latino neighbors, no matter their circumstances or citizenship status. We can argue all day long about abstract political ideas and policies on the subject of immigration, but at the end of the day, let’s remember that there are real individuals and families who are affected by those words and policies, and perhaps we will invite a kinder, more civil tone into our public discourse.

We’re so grateful to everyone in the community who helped us with this project, especially those who took the time to be interviewed and give their vital input, along with readers who supported the coverage. We look forward to continue giving a much-needed voice and platform to all Utah County minorities throughout our publication’s future.

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