Things That Matter

As Wildfires Continue To Spread Across California Many Latino Workers Are Caught In The Midst Of Danger

It seems that it has become increasingly common for dangerous wildfires to spread throughout both northern and southern California this time of year. In the last few years, the state has seen massive blazes that have taken lives and have even destroyed communities. This year is no different as California is currently facing multiple fires across the state.

Most notably, the Kincade fire in wine country north of San Francisco, that has burned through more than 73,000 acres, and the Getty Fire that has consumed over 600 acres on a hillside in West Los Angeles. This has caused massive evacuations in communities across the state and has left many wondering about their homes, loved ones and the safety of others. Over the weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency as multiple high-intensity fires, including the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County and the Tick Fire in the Santa Clarita area, destroyed many homes and displaced tens of thousands of Californians. 

What may be forgotten throughout all this is the effect that these natural disasters have on communities of color that both live and work in the affected areas.

Credit: @VotoLatino / Twitter

In Southern California, the Getty Fire has affected neighborhoods near West LA like Brentwood and Pacific Palisades. The city has put out calls for immediate evacuations but for some house workers, they never got that memo from their bosses when they showed up to work on Monday. Many can’t afford to miss work due to financial constraints and fears that if they didn’t show they could be fired.  

“I met Carmen Solano when I spotted her taxi pulling up into a driveway. I’d just seen homes on fire a street over and immediately wondered why she was arriving instead of leaving. Turns out she was a housekeeper and had no idea the area was under mandatory evacuation,” Britney Mejia, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times wrote in a tweet. 

Other workers like Solano, who doesn’t drive or speak English, showed up to work on Monday and were immediately met with police officers telling them to leave the area immediately due to the nearby fires. Marcela Aquino was on her way to her house cleaning job but was unaware of the nearby Getty fire when she left home that morning. By the time she got to her boss’s house he had called her to say he had already evacuated. 

Even after workers were told to go back and return home, the first thing at the top of their minds was the potentially lost wages that could be missed for not working. 

Credit: @brittny_mejia / Twitter

For many, missing a day of work is the difference between bringing food on the table or missing out on paying that month’s rent. Aquino attempted multiple calls to reach her boss but there was no answer. 

“I don’t want to miss work,” Aquino told Mejia. “They already gave me a week off. They didn’t tell us. They need to tell us not to come.”

Gardeners were still tending to yards while evacuations were underway but were met with LAPD officers that were telling them to leave the area. The gardeners were weary leaving their jobs even with a nearby wildfire. 

“No sir, you can’t finish your yard. You’ve got to go,” the officer said, according to the LA Times. “I saw their determination to finish the job.”

In northern California, the Kincade Fire is currently burning through Sonoma County impacting] many migrant communities. According to a Sonoma County Farmworker Health Survey published four years ago this month, it found that 95 percent of the county’s farmworkers reported being Latino or Hispanic.

Credit: @NorCalGrant / Twitter

Things haven’t been much better in northern California where many agricultural workers, predominately Latino, have had to leave their job sites due to dangerous conditions. Making matters worse is how fast these fires have spread in a matter of days leaving some worried about losing their homes as well as their jobs. 

In an attempt to help these families, the San Francisco-based Latino Community Foundation has kicked off it’s NorCal Wildfire Relief Fund to help some North Bay farmworkers that have been caught in this disaster. In 2017, the same relief raised $1.5 million when people couldn’t work because of wildfires affecting the North Bay. 

“The Kincade Fire has hit during harvest season in Wine Country — a critical time for our farmworker communities. The fire is displacing these hard working families and destroying homes and jobs. Several of our community partners are working overnight to shelter these families who have nowhere else to turn. We want to do everything in our power to support them and remind them that they are not alone,” Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of Latino Community Foundation, said in a press release. “More than 70% of our vineyard workers are Latinos and immigrants, and they are the most vulnerable in these times of crisis.

California inmates, which are 70 percent are Black and brown, are also doing their part on the frontlines taking down fires. 

Credit: @VotoLatino / Twitter

California inmates located in Northern California are also assisting with rescue efforts. Almost 20 percent of the roughly 17,000 individuals assigned to fires in peak season were California inmates in 2018.

“Reminder that thousands of inmates in California are putting out wildfires for $2 dollars a day (plus an additional $1/hr when they’re fighting active fires). Almost 70% of the CA inmate population is Black and Brown,” tweeted Voto Latino.

We are all praying and hoping all these lives are safe and sound. To make a contribution to the Norcal Wildfire Relief Fund, click here. 

READ: This Latina Used Her Business Savvy to Launch An App That Helps Undocumented Students Find Financial Aid And It’s Amazing

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Beverly Hills, one of the most well-known destinations in the country and world has long been a thriving and prime area for real-estate. Long before it was colonized by the Spanish, and was largely populated by rich white elites, the Indigenous people of California known as the Tongva, thrived there.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1830s, when the area was colonized, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the granddaughter of Spanish colonists Luis and Maria Quintero and the great-granddaughter of an African slave was granted the original 4,500-acre of Beverly Hills, then known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas.

Yes, as it turns out the foremother of Beverly Hills was a Black Latina!

During her ownership, Maria Rita oversaw cattle ranching and farming.

According to LA Magazine, Rita “was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.”

Sadly, after working the land for so much time, three Indigenous Californian outlaws attacked the ranch in 1852. The attack led to a shootout amongst “a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives” and eventually in 1854 Maria Rita decided to sell the area to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for $4,000.

Perhaps there’s a chance for justice for Maria Rita in the end.

Recently, Los Angeles County officials revealed that they were contemplating returning a beachfront property that was seized from a Black family nearly a century ago.

According to the Guardian, Manhattan Beach used “eminent domain” in 1924 to force Willa and Charles Bruce, the city’s first Black landowners, of the land where they lived. “The Bruces also ran a resort for Black families during a time when beaches in the strand were segregated,” explained the Guardian in a recent report. “Part of the land was developed into a city park. It is now owned by Los Angeles county and houses lifeguard headquarters and a training center.”

Manhattan Beach county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced that she was looking into ways to restore justice for Bruce family. Options include delivering the land back to the family, paying for losses, or potentially leasing the property from them

“I wanted the county of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong,” Hahn explained in a recent interview with KABC-TV.

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Gov. Newsom And California Lawmakers Unveil Stimulus Checks, Relief For Undocumented Residents

Things That Matter

Gov. Newsom And California Lawmakers Unveil Stimulus Checks, Relief For Undocumented Residents

Americans are still waiting for the $1,400 check from the federal government to make good on the $2,000 promise In the meantime, some Californians will get extra help from the state government. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $9.6 billion stimulus package for state residents and undocumented people.

Low-income Californians will be eligible for a $600 stimulus check from the state government.

Gov. Newsom and California lawmakers have agreed on a $9.6 billion relief package for the Golden State. The relief package is offering much needed relief to businesses, individuals, and students. The relief will come to Californians in different ways.

According to a statement, the package is making good on the promise to help low-income Californians, increase small business aid, and waive license renewal fees for businesses impacted by the pandemic. In addition, the package “provides tax relief for businesses, commits additional resources for critical child care services and funds emergency financial aid for community college students.”

The relief package is aimed at helping those who are hardest hit by the pandemic.

“As we continue to fight the pandemic and recover, I’m grateful for the Legislature’s partnership to provide urgent relief and support for California families and small businesses where it’s needed most,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement. “From child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals, financial aid for community college students and more, these actions are critical for millions of Californians who embody the resilience of the California spirit.”

The package will quadruple the assistance to restaurants and small businesses in California. Small businesses and restaurants will be eligible for $25,000 in grants from a $2 billion fund.

Undocumented Californians will also receive a boost from the state government.

Low-income Californians will receive a one-time payment of $600 while undocumented people will be given a $600 boost. The money will be sent to tax-paying undocumented people in California.

According to the California Budget & Policy Center, undocumented people in California pay $3 billion a year in local and state taxes. Despite paying taxes, the undocumented community has not been ineligible for relief payments from the federal government. These payments will give needed relief to a community overlooked throughout the pandemic.

“We’re nearly a year into this pandemic, and millions of Californians continue to feel the impact on their wallets and bottom lines. Businesses are struggling. People are having a hard time making ends meet. This agreement builds on Governor Newsom’s proposal and in many ways, enhances it so that we can provide the kind of immediate emergency relief that families and small businesses desperately need right now,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins said in a statement. “People are hungry and hurting, and businesses our communities have loved for decades are at risk of closing their doors. We are at a critical moment, and I’m proud we were able to come together to get Californians some needed relief.”

Learn more about the relief package by clicking here.

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