Editor’s Note: This marks the first in a series of “Field Notes” blog posts highlighting Planned Parenthood’s grassroots organizing and legislative advocacy on behalf of commonsense policies that protect and foster the sexual and reproductive health and rights of individuals, families and communities. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month we are highlighting our Raiz Program, which is committed to breaking down barriers in accessing health care in the Latinx community.
As a first-generation Latina growing up in north suburban Lincolnwood, I never had “the talk” with my parents. We never discussed what it meant to have a period or what sex was all about. My mom would mention it indirectly but, like many immigrant families, it’s not a topic that is expounded upon for a variety of reasons wrapped up in religion, embarrassment, and fear of taboo topics.
My parents immigrated from El Salvador in 1992 at the tail end of the Civil War, when my mother was three months pregnant with me. They settled in the Northshore area, which is different from the pattern of many other Latinx immigrants who establish themselves in traditionally Latinx neighborhoods in the Chicagoland area. We had a nice house with a yard in a community that was predominately white and Korean. But when the 2008 housing crisis hit, we lost our home and had to move five times throughout the second half of my high school and undergraduate years. When I arrived at college and took the time to reflect on that experience, I realized the inequities Latinx immigrants face and how that shaped my own life.
I came to PPIL’s Raíz Program—which works to build sustainable, community-organizing teams in mutual partnership with Latinx communities, by Latinxs and for Latinxs—because of my other advocacy work in Aurora, my adoptive home for the last five years. Knowing first-hand about the taboos the Latinx community holds on to when talking about reproductive health, I saw the crucial role advocacy has to ensure that all members of the community have equitable access to sexual and reproductive health care. It’s especially imperative for immigrants, who are already facing challenges accessing information and assistance.
One of my proudest moments is the partnership between the Raíz Program and another immigrant and refugee advocacy organization, the Aurora Rapid Response Team, to help immigrants, in particular, undocumented migrants, access COVID relief funds as a result of being ineligible for federal assistance. Because the city was not addressing the monetary needs of that demographic, the Raíz Program was able to offer a matching donation that helped eight families fill out the application for funds in just 30 minutes. Together we were able to help those families access the funds to cover rent, pay medical bills, and buy school supplies.
The Raiz Program also has opened up conversations in the community about being a Latina and an immigrant, discussing mental health issues in the Latinx community and how non-Latinx people can be an ally/ accomplice. Furthermore, it offers opportunities for volunteers to give as much or as little time as they can about the issues that they are most passionate about from phone banking to lobbying.
I am passionate about making sure the Latinx community is aware of their reproductive rights and that immigrants have access to safe, high-quality, affordable health care. I also want the Aurora Latinx community to have more open conversations about being transgender or LGBTQ+, which is crucial to having a truly inclusive community. The Raíz Program is a fantastic way to advocate to have my voice heard, especially as a woman of color and a first-generation Salvadoran.
Sandra González is a volunteer with PPIL's Raiz program. She is also the Executive Director for the Aurora Rapid Response Team.