The Latino community of Eugene is at a pretty significant number and it continues growing each year. I interviewed many different Latinos within the Jefferson Westside community, as well as the Latino community of Eugene itself. I spoke with these individuals and was able to hear their opinions and struggles. I also talked to various organizations including Centro Latino Americano who specializes in advocating for the Latino Eugene community as well as the Latin America Solidarity Committee who tries to raise aware for human rights for Latin countries.
Centro Latino Americano
Their values include respect, integrity, accountability, as they advocate for equity and integration of all Latinos in our society. They end this statement with we are your neighbors. Centro Latino Americano does just that for all of their neighbors within the Eugene community.
Centro Latino Americano is located off of West 5th Avenue. The organization was formed in 1972 by a group of activist Chicano students from Lane Community College and the University of Oregon. Their goal was to meet and cater to the needs of Mexicano immigrant families in Lane County. A couple years after they formed, Centro Latino Americano transformed into a bilingual and multicultural non-profit organization. Since then, they have become one of Eugene’s main resources for the Latino population in Lane County.
Roxanne Franco, who is the Coordinator of Programs and Volunteers for Centro, has been working for them since January 2010. Franco is a third-generation Mexican-American who is originally from Southern California. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College in California with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chicano/a Studies and Spanish. Franco originally moved to Eugene, Oregon in September 2009 to attend the University of Oregon. In her short time being here, she was offered a job at Centro and decided to take it. Franco has loved being a part of Centro and has loved being able to apply what she has learned in school to her job and helping people. “When I saw the position opening, I thought, here’s a chance to be involved with these people and I realized instead of looking at the theories, I could actually work one on one with them,” Franco says.
Like Franco stated, Centro works one on one with members of the Latino Community through various programs they offer. These programs include different case workers that will intervene in different crisis situations such as domestic violence and abuse situations. They also distribute food boxes, give them information about housing, coordinate activities, help them find employment, prepare for jobs, help them deal with problems within the workforce such as harassment or not getting equal pay. These case workers also help them with basic things such as reading mail or filling out forms such as health insurance. “We help them become empowered and self-sufficient,” says Franco.
Centro receives many clients that need help within these various program on a daily basis. The biggest thing case workers and volunteers are faced with is that every case is different and sometimes it’s hard to accept the fact that there may be times where they aren’t able to help the client out. For some situations, Franco said, it’s being less emotional and accepting it.
With the Latino community growing each year, Centro hopes to not only continue to help the Latino community using their different programs, but they also hope to educate everyone else in the Eugene community about what they’re trying to do. “It’s really important for citizens that aren’t as familiar with the struggle that the Latino communities go through. It starts with being more open and more willing to help. It will start with understanding,” Franco says.