An open letter to Governor-elect Shapiro | opinion

By George Fernandez

Porra Porra! cheers cheers! Governor-Elect Shapiro, you have shown a strong commitment to Pennsylvania through your hard-fought campaign, and now is the time for all voters to unite in support of the shared vision of creating a strong and healthy Commonwealth. I may be just a voice among Pennsylvania’s Latino population, but I speak from experience and understanding of the unique issues facing our community.

During your campaign, you did a commendable job of engaging the Latino community. They got to where we are and took the time to understand our culture, contributions, and challenges – all of which have a major impact on all facets of Pennsylvania. And you made promises that inspired hope.

Hope is something we hold dearly because it has been, and always will be, the strength and success of the Latino community. I am writing you this open letter Hope for taking the time to read these words and ponder their important message, but also so that all of Pennsylvania can do the same. Addressing these entrenched problems will take more than one man or one government, but it’s certainly a start. And I know that with the support of entire communities, we can work together to bring the changes you promise to life.

As a child from the Dominican Republic, I saw my mother burdened with all imaginable obstacles. She was a single mother, a domestic violence survivor, supporting three children, but not eligible for welfare or welfare because we weren’t US citizens yet. I remember one hot summer day going door to door in our Harrisburg apartment complex selling my little sister’s Disney books that my mom bought from a commercial. I came home with checks from work for over $1,200 and remember the immense pride and satisfaction I felt at being able to help my mother pay our overdue rent.

Our family worked hard to become US citizens and get out of poverty, but it seemed that every two steps forward we would encounter a barrier that would throw us one step back. Through the many trials we’ve been through, my mother instilled in me that the hardest part isn’t “getting there”—it’s delivering what you promised, and doing it with humility and grace.

Governor-Elect Shapiro, you should be proud to have earned the privilege of becoming Pennsylvania’s next governor. You now have the stage to fulfill your many promises with humility and grace.

From the 2010 census to the 2020 edition, Pennsylvania’s multiracial population increased by 226%. In particular, the Latino population has grown by 45.8%. In the 2040s, a multicultural majority will represent PA. And among that growing population, Latinos are opening businesses faster than other communities of color. We are the swing voters and the essential workforce that will fill the talent shortage pipeline for professional jobs in education, healthcare and finance.

Meeting the greatest needs of the Latino community will be key to unlocking economic development in Pennsylvania. These fall under eight pillars that support the needs and values ​​of the Latino community and truly every Pennsylvanian.

  • Safe and affordable housing – A person cannot succeed in any other area of ​​life without the security of a suitable home. This crisis must be addressed through adequate funding and support for affordable housing programs.
  • Bilingual Educational Support – Access to bilingual education for all ages and abilities will bridge the language gap that contributes to the greatest barriers in the Latino community.
  • Social Commitment – Government needs to build trust by first listening and then engaging.
  • Affordable healthcare – This is a massive problem that continues to be passed on.
  • Equal access to programs for immigrant communities – Regardless of how much this community contributes to the Commonwealth, they continue to feel like outsiders.
  • Policies addressing the social determinants of health – These obstacles continue to marginalize the Latino community and can be effectively addressed with improved policies and funding.
  • Preventive health education – There is still so much work to be done in preventive health education for diabetes, tobacco, asthma, cancer, HIV and AIDS programs, all of which disproportionately affect the Latino community.
  • Support for holistic forms of medication – Cannabis and other forms of holistic medicine should be legal and made available to those whose quality of life depends on it! Access to alternative health solutions should not be unnecessarily restricted.

I encourage you to look at the evidence-based success that other states have had in issuing ID cards and driver’s licenses to undocumented families, allowing them to legally drive, open a bank account, and get a living-wage job that is not under the table, but allows them to pay taxes and feel like real citizens.

On behalf of the more than one million Latinos in Pennsylvania, Bienvenidos Gobernador Shapiro, que Dios me lo bendiga (God bless)! And remember, the hardest thing is not coming here, but delivering what you promised and doing it with humility and grace.

George Fernandez is President and CEO of Color & Culture, a marketing agency.