Latino Civic Alliance
How LCA’s Promotores Steered Latine Communities Through COVID-19, One Door at a Time
Welcome to our Impact Fund Spotlight series. Today, our spotlight is on the Latino Civic Alliance (LCA), a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to uplifting Latino communities in the West of Washington state. Over the past 16 years, LCA has built a legacy of fostering change and community growth, founded on the belief that cooperation breeds positive transformation. Advocating for leadership that enriches our communities, they have worked diligently to cultivate robust local leaders and meaningful partnerships across the state.
In this spotlight, we feature an interview with Nina Martinez, LCA’s Board Chair and Executive Director, and Marie Bravo, LCA’s Resource Development and Administrative Director. Join us as we explore their commitment to the Latino community amidst widespread misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the quiet of early morning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as most people were still sleeping, countless hardworking hands across our country got to work. In Washington State, some of these hands belong to Spanish-speaking Latino and immigrant agricultural workers, the unseen labor behind the food on our grocery stores and dining tables. But for these essential workers, the job that feeds others leaves them struggling to access basic healthcare. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, Latino and immigrant agricultural workers and their families were thrown into a whirlpool of job and immigration insecurity, unstable income, and the complications of remote learning. Despite the existing difficulties, the situation became even more complex for Latino farm workers and their children as the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a new wave of confusion and uncertainty.
News of the pandemic penetrated even the most remote fields stirring up a storm of concerns among the farm workers. The Latino communities that LCA serves — including individuals from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — grappled with a range of questions: How does the virus spread? Should I get the vaccine, or the booster shot? Are my symptoms signaling flu or COVID-19? Do I need to continue preventive measures post-vaccination? Adding to these anxieties, inconsistent messaging from social media outlets in their native countries such as the false claim that the vaccine contains a tracking microchip, fostered distrust and hesitancy.
In the heart of Grant County’s agricultural communities, the Latino Civic Alliance (LCA) responded by actively employing a group of young promotores to stand on the frontline of promoting practices like COVID-19 on-site testing and vaccinations and bridge the gap between Spanish-speaking Latino agricultural workers and healthcare access. Promotores de Salud, with a rich history rooted in various cultures worldwide, are trusted figures in Latino communities, skillfully navigating language barriers and providing and referring vital health services to communities traditionally facing access challenges; their importance magnified by their ability to connect personally and culturally with the people they serve.
The trusted LCA promotores, armed with a fluent understanding of Spanish and a deep cultural connection, went on a mission under the unrelenting sun, tirelessly knocking on doors and coordinating closely with farm employers for vaccinations clinics. Their efforts reached 850 people, including migratory families and students, providing COVID-19 vaccinations, dispelling myths and tackling the rampant misinformation surrounding COVID-19. LCA’s promotores made a bold effort to allow workers to prioritize their health without fear of losing their livelihoods. Nina Martinez, LCA’s Board Chair and Executive Director, offers insight into their adaptive strategy:
“What was going on at the grassroots level was one piece. In Grant County, the health officials were doing what they could. But we realized the challenge was more about a mobile approach. Having fixed vaccination sites was difficult for people in rural areas, where often an entire family shares one car. So, we went the extra mile. If we saw someone in need, we helped them get referred to services the best we could.”
Promotores conducting door-to-door outreach distributing COVID-19 tests.
Three individuals represent the Latino Civic Alliance at an event.
However, their work didn’t end with knocking on doors. They also dealt with complexities of mental health problems, immigration status, job insecurity, and non-compliant agricultural employers. In the face of these obstacles, LCA’s leaders and promotores went above and beyond in their efforts to provide culturally sensitive support to these vulnerable communities. Marie adds, “Mainly because we’re Latinos, our staff are Latinos, we understood the sense of urgency. It was a passion and a mission for us. But there were challenges. People lost loved ones. Adults and children were suffering from depression, and access to behavioral health services in rural areas was difficult. So, we were not only dealing with physical health but also mental health issues.”
Nina and LCA’s Resource Development and Administrative Director, Marie Bravo, pressed on in their commitment to the community, by implementing the Achieve Program, a vital after-school initiative in areas such as Moses Lake, Quincy, Mount Vernon School District, Highline, and Federal Way. The Achieve Program supported the children of agricultural workers with culturally tailored curriculum and resources, focusing not only on academic success but also on critical health and wellness aspects, with an emphasis on adapting swiftly to the remote learning challenges imposed by the pandemic. They also positioned themselves in community spaces such as churches, health clinics, schools, and even grocery stores to reach as many people as possible. Partnering with these institutions allowed them to amplify their reach and provide necessary resources.
ACHIEVE program students showcasing their crafts
An instructor from the LCA’s Achieve Program guides a student as they dip a paintbrush into a palette filled with vibrant colors.
Reflecting on their experiences, Nina shared:
“There have been many stories, but one stands out. We visited a family where the father was against vaccination and was persuading his children to follow suit. Despite facing opposition, we didn’t give up. We worked with the mother who believed in vaccinations and wanted the best for her children but was afraid to contradict her husband. Over time, through persistent efforts and community events, she began to trust us. Eventually, she convinced her husband to get vaccinated, which led to their children getting vaccinated as well. This victory was due to our commitment to build trust within the community and our understanding of the cultural dynamics at play.”
People of different ages gathered outside a park.
The lessons that LCA has gained throughout working with Latino agricultural workers during the COVID-19 pandemic extend beyond the boundaries of the organization, helping LCA combat other health crises, such as the fentanyl issue prevalent within the communities they serve. The trained staff continue to use their tried-and-true outreach approach—a combination of door-to-door engagement and education. LCA has extended this strategy beyond COVID-19, educating the community on a wider array of health issues, including the growing concern of fentanyl abuse
This experience has taught Nina Martinez and Marie Bravo the power of collaboration, proactivity, and preparation. They’ve learned that agility and adaptability are key in navigating the uncertain waters of healthcare crises. It has not only broadened their perspective but has reinforced their commitment to sparking positive behavioral change within Latino communities.
To learn more about the impactful work of LCA, visit their website at https://latinocivicalliance.org/.