A group of non-profit organizations creates a newsletter to keep the Hispanic community in Florida well informed during Coronavirus and election year.
Semoran Boulevard in the heart of Orlando has been a silent witness of the dreams, work, and struggle of generations of Latinos in Florida.
So it’s no surprise that a group of non-profit organizations chose “La Voz de la Semoran” as the name of a newly founded newsletter and website that will serve the Spanish speaking community of Central Florida, especially Puerto Ricans. It launched on April 21st inspired by the need for Spanish-language resources for the community.
“The initial Latino community gathered in that area, which was near the airport. So to this day, it is known as the traditional Hispanic community of Orlando”, said Marcos Vilar, executive director of Alianza for Progress, one of the organizations that worked to make the newsletter a reality.
In the initial effort to launch the project, Alianza for Progress was joined by Iniciativa Acción Puertorriqueña, Hispanic Federation, Respeta mi Gente Coalition and Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret.
The coronavirus pandemic presented the founders an opportune moment to start the initiative because the zip code of the Semoran area, 32822, is one of the most affected by COVID -19 and the important information that is being given by authorities and news outlets is mostly in English.
“We wanted to develop a way to communicate with the community, especially now with the coronavirus, because the highest cases are within that community, Puerto Rican and Hispanic. So we want to support them, give them information in Spanish, offer them resources so that they can call and speak with people in Spanish and also the Puerto Rican and Hispanic agencies,” said Zoe Colón, program manager of Iniciativa Acción Puertorriqueña.
To begin, the organizations collected money among themselves to print 5,000 newsletters that were distributed in Orlando, Kissimmee, and Tampa. The information is updated regularly on their website.
“La Voz de la Semoran” also closely follows social issues, mental health, education, and the importance of taking part in the Census this year
According to the 2019 Census, Hispanics represent 26.1 % of Florida’s population, which currently is around 4,354,000 people.
The Boricuas have always been one of the biggest Hispanic communities in Florida, but beginning two years ago the number has increased, especially after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September of 2017 and recently due to several earthquakes that affected mainly the southern region. Some of the recently-arrived Floricuas don’t speak English well or prefer Spanish, especially the older generations.
“The most common thing heard in our community is ‘I defend myself’, but they are not comfortable with writing or doing business in English. I think most of them come with some kind of understanding, but when we are doing our outreach, we are doing it in Spanish, because there is more confidence, one feels more comfortable”, said Zoe adding “I came from New York five years ago, and I learned quickly that in Orlando I had to conduct myself in Spanish, in order to connect with leaders and newcomers, because it made a difference”.
In fact one of the main topics that people are looking in the newsletter is the information about free English classes that are offering the University of Central Florida.
“We also wanted to talk about work and job-retraining, because most of the people who are being extremely affected are those who lost their jobs, because the businesses where they worked closed, such as the largest of all, Disney. So there is information on where they can go to get job-retraining and to apply for unemployment. Especially because Florida’s unemployment system is one of the worst in the entire country, ”Marcos said.
Zoe and Marcos also anticipate the relevance “La Voz de la Samoran” will have this year with the upcoming elections. They will inform about the process of voting and the Latino leaders that will work for the community, mainly because Florida is a decisive state.
“We saw how the Trump administration and the Federal Government failed to Puerto Rico and the deaths that were from that fail. Trump made fun of our people in many ways and continues to do so and ignoring their needs. No matter which party you are from, I think that woke up the Diaspora. It finally understood that if you vote here you can make a very key decision about how the government is going to treat the Island in times of crisis,” said Zoe.
The team plans to print the newsletter twice more before the year is out, with one edition in the summer and another in the fall.