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By Petra Alexander

essential-workersThe news reports the daily statistics of COVID in our area, and the numbers are worrisome. The Hispanic Communities of both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are reported as some of the most affected, and one of the reasons is because our communities continue to work and are essential workers in various areas. We have many Latinos and Latinas in the health care system, like this team that works in the Loma Linda Hospital Emergency Room. 

Amy Escobedo, from St. Elizabeth’s Parish in Ontario, has been working in the emergency room throughout all of COVID. She has three children and she carries a lot of pressure by trying to avoid infection. The same goes for her cousin Natali Romero, who is testing people with COVID symptoms all day. Hilda Escobedo, Amy’s mother and Nataly’s aunt comments:

“… We say goodbye to them with prayers as they leave for work. We invoke God every day and we feel relief and gratitude when they return home. It makes me sentimental when they arrive with marks from their masks on their faces, and their tired eyes that light up when they can finally be with their children. This is a difficult test for all those who work in health care system.”  

José L. Pérez Escobedo, from Our Lady of the Rosary, understands what it’s like to work under duress during COVID. Jose leads a handful of workers in an industrial laundromat where large amounts of hospital clothing are washed.  “…When we see the bags with COVID labels we shudder. It has been a very hard year so far. Many people have stopped coming to work, some have their children at home whom are sick, and others are concerned about the risk of contagion. We have doubled shifts and we keep the mentality that we are doing all of this as an expression of service to those affected, that our work also supports the Body of Christ that suffers either from COVID or anything else.”

Farm workers have also been at the forefront. Ana Julia Hinojosa, from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mecca, rises at dawn like many of her companions, to avoid the midday temperatures, and heads to work covered with several layers of clothing. The crews of workers entrust themselves to God, and encourage one another.  “_We know that the risk of COVID is high in the Coachella Valley, however we have the goal of being optimistic and encouraging to ourselves. We try to focus on the details of our task. Those who work the grape, bell pepper, and eggplant…- we say to ourselves, “One day at a time”. 

Jazmin Santiago, a worker at the Galilee Center, has seen the fear of the farm workers when they begin to show symptoms and have to live in uncertainty while waiting for the test.  “_ Most workers have already gone to the central Valley, the crops that occupy the largest labor force have been completed. It’s hard to believe that during these difficult times, the boxes with fruits and vegetables have not stopped going out for our tables.”

We acknowledge and thank so many brothers and sisters who honor the Hispanic people with their service and dedication.