By Ruth Rosas, Program Manager at America Walks
What is Latino Advocacy Week?
Latino Advocacy Week is a national initiative for Latine leaders, activists, and organizations to come together and advocate for policies that address issues that Latine communities face across the United States. During this week, organizations across the country host events to promote civic engagement, political participation and encourage Latine communities to get more involved in the political process and advocate for their rights. Through the events, Latino Advocacy Week provides a platform to discuss and develop strategies with a larger Latine constituency.
This initiative also helps engage policymakers and elected officials in discussions on the needs and concerns of Latine communities. This week provides the ability to collectively raise awareness on the issues that impact Latine people and promotes policies on how to best address these challenges.
Why does it matter?
Latine communities are the largest ethnic minority representing 18.9% of the population in the United States. Latine populations also face a wide range of social, economic, and political issues that affect their daily lives. In order to address these challenges in an equitable manner, a comprehensive approach that addresses systemic inequalities and values the dignity of these communities is necessary.
Latine communities are also a very diverse population because Latine encompasses people who come from and have familial ties to Latin American countries. Latine culture is also a complex mixture of different cultures and ethnicities that come from all over the world. Communities speak different languages, including variations of Spanish, Portuguese, and Indigenous languages.
It is also important to note that the term Latino originated in the U.S. and is more commonly used in the U.S. than any other part of the world. People who live in Latin American countries prefer to identify with their families’ country of origin instead of the broader term Latino. Some argue that the term homogenizes diverse groups of people into one category. Latine populations also face large racial and ethnic issues that include anti-Black and anti-Indigenous sentiments and violence, perpetuated by racism, colorism, and white nationalism. There are many complexities within Latine communities; therefore, it is important to hear from the most marginalized and underserved within the Latine community.
How does this relate to walkability?
Inclusion of Latine communities in the planning, designing, and implementation of safe, reliable, and accessible walking infrastructure is essential. Outreach to Latine communities has been limited and the number of Latine transportation planners is still quite low. One large barrier continues to be the lack of resources in Spanish and other languages. Although English proficiency continues to grow among the U.S. Latine population, 68% of Latine people still speak Spanish at home according to Pew Research Center. Another large issue is the nonstandard work schedules. According to the Urban Institute, 33.9% of Latine people have nonstandard work schedules. This creates obstacles to the amount of time that Latine communities are available to be politically engaged and attend meetings or have time to advocate for their needs. To make matters worse, Latine populations face issues such as housing insecurity due to gentrification, living near major sources of toxic air pollution, and having a harder time accessing food, while also highly valuing access to public transportation.
In order to eliminate these equity gaps across all communities, we must prioritize multimodal streets that provide multiple mobility options and stop building car-centric infrastructure that worsens social inequities. The transportation needs of communities are complex, but this week provides an important reminder that diverse perspectives from Latine communities are necessary in advocacy spaces and at decision-making tables. To facilitate some of these conversations, there are inclusive outreach strategies that organizations, planners, and advocates can utilize. For example, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning developed a Spanish Translation Style Guide in the Spring of 2020. This guide standardizes the translation of public-facing and outreach materials and ensures high-quality translation in planning documents. This type of outreach also normalizes cultural differences and allows communities to feel recognized by larger institutions. We invite others in this space who may know of other inclusive engagement strategies or have ideas for how to create more inclusive spaces to reach out to us – we want to hear from you! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.