In an effort to keep Eastern Oregon’s immigrant communities informed about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local Latino leaders and a grassroots organization recently launched a live Spanish radio series called Accion Rural Hispana.
“People still aren’t aware of the social distancing guidelines in place or the true dangers of this disease,” said Jose Garcia, the host of the series.
Garcia is hosting the series, which first aired March 29, in collaboration with Oregon Rural Action’s Ana Elisa Wilson. The series will run at 11 a.m. Sundays during the show, La Voz Del Pueblo, and will be broadcast on four Latino-owned stations between Boardman and Walla Walla, Washington, including Radio La Ley 101.1 FM.
Each week will feature an expert or community member to discuss public health, education, social services or other valuable information about the pandemic, such as social distancing guidelines, the elevated risks of those with underlying health conditions and how people can get the assistance they need.
The show’s first guest, for example, was Dr. Ileana Maria Ponce-Gonzalez, who is the executive director of Community Health Worker Coalition for Migrants & Refugees. During her visit on the program, Ponce-Gonzalez addressed COVID-19 prevention methods and what to do when experiencing symptoms.
The series was birthed when Garcia, who is the chair of the Hermiston Hispanic Advisory Committee and the director of New Horizons drug and alcohol program, noticed the area’s Spanish-speaking communities weren’t aware of the state’s orders and restrictions.
“My Anglo class was empty, but the Hispanics all showed up as the governor was announcing the state’s stay in place rules ... when I went to pick up food at a restaurant, there were families coming in from working in the fields,” Garcia said. “They didn’t know they couldn’t sit down to eat there.”
In addition to providing information in Spanish, the radio series is aimed at providing greater access to information specifically for people working in the fields during the day.
“People working in the field get their information from the radio when they are working,” Garcia said.
The show can also be accessed on mobile devices by calling 641-741-1016.
Wilson, who is a community organizer in Umatilla and Morrow counties for Oregon Rural Action, emphasized the show isn’t just an opportunity for the area’s immigrant communities to connect with information and resources.
Thanks to a call-in number, which is 509-579-0101, listeners can also directly engage with and ask questions of leaders and experts.
According to a press release announcing the series, it’s one part of a larger indigenous-language communications strategy being led by leaders like Garcia and Oregon Rural Action with the intent to raise public awareness among Latino communities in Umatilla and Morrow counties.
The strategy aims to disseminate information in Spanish through radio, television and social media with information from federal, state and local public health departments.
“The people are screaming for information,” Wilson said. “They want to be informed.”