From the Rio Grande Guardian, Mike Seifert (Network Weaver for the Equal Voice coalition in the Valley) writes the following:
BROWNSVILLE, Jan. 4 – Some 2,000 years ago the Roman government required a census of its peoples.
A young couple journeyed to the husband’s hometown of Bethlehem, so as to fill out the required forms. It was a difficult time; the best that the husband’s family would offer them for hospitality was a space in a stable. A baby was born, and Bethlehem was blessed, as was human history. St. Luke’s Gospel notes that angels sang and shepherds rejoiced.
The scripture makes no mention of this, but we can imagine that the Roman census officials were pleased as well, for Joseph’s family would have been recorded not as two, but three. A small fact, that one child, but, as we know, entirely significant.
The echo of Luke’s Christmas story follows us into a new decade, one in which the U.S. government counts its residents. A most important counting that will determine a multitude of strikingly important decisions, from the number of representatives in the House of Representatives to the amount of money that will be sent to fund schools, parks, and highways.
The federal government has recognized the Rio Grande Valley as a hard-to-count region, thereby acknowledging that in the past the census count was wrong, that there were far more of us here than were counted. The undercounting explains, at least in part, why the Valley has been underrepresented, under-resourced and underestimated.
Fortunately, every ten years there is another census, and thus another opportunity to get things right.
The Equal Voice for America’s Families network in the Rio Grande Valley joins with the Rio Grande Guardian in the effort to make the 2010 Census a success. While we won’t have to travel to Bethlehem to participate, we do intend to get the word out into every corner of the Valley—we all need to stand up and be counted.
The Valley’s Equal Voice for America’s Families network represents over 10,000 families served by ten organizations that cover the length of the region. The Brownsville Community Health Clinic, Proyecto Juan Diego (Brownsville), the START Center (San Benito), Proyecto Libertad (Harlingen), Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (Weslaco), ARISE (Alamo), La Unión del Pueblo Entero (San Juan), Proyecto Azteca (San Juan), Southwest Workers’ Union (Edinburg) and SCAN (Rio Grande City) are collaborating on several projects that intend to transform Valley communities.
Sponsored by the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Equal Voice network is a part of a national effort to improve the lives of America’s families. A number of the leaders within the family have explained why they are backing a complete and accurate census count in 2010.
“We know that Latinos are a growing force in our economy and the social fabric of our nation,” said Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE). “But unless we count every person in our region, our political impact will not reach the levels it should. We won’t count if we are not counted. That is why we tell everyone, Hagase contar!”
Javier Parra, of LUPE in Alton, agreed. “Let us all stand up and be counted! Our families and our community deserve it!” he said.
Sr. Phylis Peters of Proyecto Juan Diego, serves Cameron Park, the largest of the poor neighborhoods in the Valley. She and her staff are committed to promoting and accurate count. She sees the count as important as Get out the Vote campaigns. “This opportunity of responding to the census count is as important as voting is. It is a way to let Austin and Washington know just how many of us are here,” Peters said.
Ron Rogers of the START Center in San Benito said: “Historically we have been under counted. Anyone that cares about their community should be involved to insure that the Valley is counted 100 percent. The implications of having strong and accurate Census count are far-reaching.”
Joe Medrano is a hard-working organizer at the START Center. “For something that takes very little time and effort, the benefits to making sure everyone from South Texas gets counted in the census should be loud, clear and fruitful for our hard-working, deserving families,” Medrano said.
One non-profit that will be working hard in the colonias of Cameron County to get a complete census count is the non-profit Proyecto Libertad. “We have a small grant to do colonia outreach and we are working with our clients as well to inform them to participate,” said Proyecto Libertad Executive Director Rogelio T. Nuñez.
San Juan-based Proyecto Azteca are working to get a complete census count also.
“Staff at Proyecto Azteca are working on the issue of ‘trust,’ hoping that our families will trust us and join us as we trust the Census. It is so important to be counted and get more resources here in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Proyecto Azteca Executive Director Ann Cass.