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CCL looks back on Hispanic Heritage Month
By Katie Zakrzewski
Every year, from September 15 to October 15, Americans celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. For 30 days, our country recognizes and celebrates the cultural achievements and successes of people in the Latino community and of Latino descent.
For this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, CCL analyzes the impact of climate change on the Latino community, and well as what CCL’s Latino members and Latinos around the world are doing to preserve the Earth.
Latino culture and the environment
CCL’s Latino Action Team kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month on September 15 with a guest speaker, Mark Hugo Lopez. Mark is the Director of Race and Ethnicity Research at Pew Research Center. And while Mark acknowledges that Hispanic heritage has many different points of origin, all subcultures seemed to point to value placed on the environment.
“Latinos see climate change happening — that it’s the result of the activities of humanity, but also that they are being impacted locally,” Mark said. “Latinos are more likely to say that something is happening locally in their environment. You find that the Latino community is more likely to be aware of environmental changes and to encounter them on a daily basis.”
Mark explains that due to heightened cultural awareness around the environment, Latinos are pivotal in grassroots movements.
“Many Latinos tell us that they talk to others about becoming active to change both the way that they live, but also to get involved and to have some sort of climate action done in their local communities.”
Karina Ramirez, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at CCL, weighs in, saying that Mark’s comments echo her experiences when she first got involved in CCL.
“Seven out of 10 Latinos have never been contacted by an environmental organization, but they still know what’s happening,” Karina said. She talks about how childhood stories and folk tales in the Latino culture emphasize the importance of caring for the environment.
“We have always advocated for the climate, we just didn’t call it climate change,” she says.
Problems faced by the Latino community
Karina explains that climate change is a personal topic for many people in the Latino community. Over the last few decades, intense air pollution and water contamination caused by climate change have left Latino communities devastated.
“Hurricanes impacting our population, as well as flooding, have led to many Central Americans looking for opportunities to migrate north,” Karina shares.
As flooding and other natural disasters ruin agricultural and economic opportunities for Latin countries, many Latinos begin the migration process in search of greater opportunities.
“We see an intersection of problems in the Latino community, caused by climate change: a loss of economic stability, which leads to a loss of educational opportunities, which leads to migration, which leads to racial awareness.”
Climate efforts by Latinos
“Many groups like LULAC and Chispa understand the importance of Latinos getting involved and reaching out to Congress. CCL also recognizes that the voices of Latinos are needed in the climate movement too,” Karina says.
But Karina makes a point that CCL is unique in that it recognizes the importance of bringing all Latinos to the table, and emphasizes the importance of being involved in local communities.
“Latinos in the U.S. are a microcosm of the rest of the U.S., and the population is continuing to grow based on the U.S. Census,” Karina says. “It’s crucial that we continue to get more Latinos involved in climate advocacy because they’re the only people that truly know about their communities.”
Karina explains the importance of making sure that documented and undocumented Latinos express their concerns.
“I always remind Latinos that your member of Congress represents you because you live in their district. It’s important to make your voice heard.”
Mark offered another solution for Latino involvement — using social media as a vehicle for information and change, especially in younger populations across racial divides.
According to information from Pew Research, Gen Z and Millenials are more likely than any other group to be concerned about climate advocacy on and off line. Karina said that this is especially valuable for uniting a diverse Latino community.
“The Latinx community has their own challenges and discussions — there is a lot of political diversity depending on immigration, citizenship status, birthplace, family status, and so on.”
Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, the Latino community has taken time to bond. Karina discusses some of the activities held by the Latino Action Team.
“We’ve had several events throughout the month on Friday nights, such as playing the loteria game, or Mexican bingo. We had a karaoke night, as well as a film screening of ‘The Need to Grow.’ All of these events and opportunities through CCL helped us grow closer together.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, CCL invites everyone to the table to strengthen the voice of climate advocacy in our local communities and on the federal stage. You can keep up with CCL’s Spanish resources by visiting our Spanish language version of CCL’s website, our Spanish language Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.