The Board of County Commissioners met Thursday to proclaim Sept. 15 - Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month, with this year’s emphasis on healthy families. The board heard from its community partners at the Latino Network, Northwest Health Foundation and the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, and enjoyed the music of Bajo Salario, a nonprofit group of musicians from across Central and South America who play from a repertoire of more than 40 different genres.
Alberto Moreno, executive director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, told the board that while the purchasing and small-business might of the Latino community in Oregon is powerful, every other social signifer points to systemic disparities. Latino children have a 25 percent higher mortality rate, “That means 25 percent more of our children are dying,” he told the board. Latino teens are graduating at half the rate of their white peers, Latino adults are imprisoned at higher rates, and paid less for the same work. These disparities lead to overall poor rates of health.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said she was honored to sponsor this year’s proclamation, and bring awareness to the economic and cultural contributions of a community who now represents more than one in 10 county residents.
“It’s really wonderful to be celebrating the Latino community today but to also remember we still have a long way to go and there are too many folks who are not offered the same opportunity,” she said. “That is really our mission and why we’re here today. We know we can’t do it alone. Its really going to take us working together to make some real changes.”
That’s why the county partners with groups such as Latino Network, which works with at-risk teens through the county-sponsored Community Health Initiative to provide a host of services to kids and their families. This summer the initiative hosted an eight-week program where kids went on hikes and to the pool, picked fresh produce and donated more than 300 pounds of it to the SnowCap food bank, Latino Network’s Alice Perry told the board. They also produced an advertising campaign to warn Spanish-speaking teens about the amount of sugar in the drinks they so often buy. The poster will be displayed in county health centers and schools.
“Thank you for the continued support of our project and for culturally specific projects,” Perry told the board.