The air was both festive and serious at Sunday’s annual Latino Festival at Jackson Park.
“Our main message is that we are part of the community,” said Martha Verduzco of the Hood River Latino Network, which organized the event. It was attended by about 200 people, who enjoyed food, music, fresh air and access to information.
“We want to be part of the Columbia Gorge community. We want to participate and share our culture, but the people who are less educated, we want to inform them of the services that are offered in our community,” Verduzco said.
The event was co-sponsored by Oregon Human Development Corporation (OHDC), a statewide non-profit that promotes the economic advancement and self-sufficiency of farmworkers and under-served communities.
OHDC and the Latino Network declared it “Day of the Agriculture Worker” in addition to “Latino Fest” and celebrating los trabajadores, including a drawing for a barbecue.
“This an appreciation for their work. That’s the purpose, to appreciate the contributions of farm workers,” said Joseie Cortes, worker supervisor with OHDC.
“It’s a blend of great things for the community and we want to bring the whole community together,” Verduzco said.
Manny Garcia said, “I’m here to hear some good Mexican music, and also to support all these groups that are helping out all people, not just Hispanic people.”
Members of the Gorge-wide group Gorge ICE Resistance were on hand, discussing litigation against the contract between NORCOR in The Dalles, where immigrants from around the Northwest and from the border are detained, the only jail in Oregon still doing so.
Demonstrations by Gorge ICE Resistance have gone on for 730 consecutive days, and a public protest happens the third Sunday of each month at NORCOR protesting the presence of ICE in the community.
(See Gorge ICE Resistance Facebook page for information on programs and demonstrations.)
Speakers included Kirsten Dennis of Columbia Gorge Women’s Action Network, a local group encouraging people to participate in democracy, primary via voter registration.
“Your vote is your voice,” Dennis said. “Bad politicians are elected by people who don’t vote. If you are eligible and not yet registered, please come see us.”
The festival was also a chance to learn about:
- The 2020 federal census. Dennis said CGWAN is also promoting participation in the census, and she stressed that “the census will not — will not — have a citizenship question.”
- Matthew 25, a faith-based group with a Hood River chapter that provides outreach and assistance both informational and financial to people embroiled in immigration and documentation difficulties. Matthew 25 is also working to educate members of all faith communities about immigration law and the impacts on local immigrant families.
- The new Hood River County identification card program, administered by The Next Door Inc.
- Columbia Area Transit, which provides fixed route and dial-a-ride services throughout Hood River County, including the upper valley, and the rest of the Gorge.