Please note the use of the spelling Latin@s to include, both Latinos and Latinas
When thinking about Latin@s in the United States, Connecticut is not a state that immediately comes to mind. Although California, Texas, and Florida are the states with the largest Latin@ populations, Connecticut’s Latin@ community is growing rapidly and is the largest minority population in the state — they now account for 13.4 percent of the state’s residents!
The immigrant community is growing, with the majority of Latin@s in CT of Puerto Rican descent. The city of New Haven has been at the forefront of impacting the lives of Latin@s, including being the first city in the country to issue municipal IDs as part of an effort to protect and welcome immigrants into the community. Just this past legislative session, we also were one of the first states to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. Across Connecticut, Latin@s are making their voices heard, and Planned Parenthood is committed to supporting their efforts, no matter what.
Last year, I began working at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) focusing on community outreach and engagement with the Latin@ community of Fair Haven, a large Latin@ neighborhood. I realized that the women I was meeting in the community were no different than the women coming into our health centers or the women I grew up with. I was born in the Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, traveling back and forth every other year. I grew up surrounded by women who wanted to take control of their lives and make their own reproductive choices but didn’t have the resources to do so. I watched my sister have a son at the age of 16 and struggle to parent him due to the obstacles that so many young Latina mothers face in America: poverty, racism, lack of educational opportunity, lack of quality health care, language barriers, and more.
Since May 2013, PPSNE has been working with two women from the community to develop a program called the Pa’lante Latin@s Promotores Program. The promotoras have been trained on basic sex education and advocacy, and are given the tools they need in order to stand up in their community and advocate for access to quality health care for all. Our promotoras are present in their community and raise awareness about reproductive health issues, including the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. They have canvassed in the neighborhoods and attended numerous health fairs in an effort to educate their community, often collaborating with local public schools to educate the parents.
Since the summer, our promotoras have been attending health fairs and community events spreading the word about Obamacare, a subject that most Latin@s report being confused by or knowing nothing about. Through their work, the promotoras have seen the impact they are having on the community and the look of relief on people’s faces when they find out that, for the first time, they may have access to affordable health coverage. Our promotora, Edita, believes “this work is important to me because I get to orient people to the services of Planned Parenthood, especially those who are uninformed because my community doesn’t have all the details on what’s happening in our society. It’s important to attend events where there is lots of information to be shared.”
The work Planned Parenthood does every day is making an impact on the community of Fair Haven, and Latin@s throughout Connecticut. We are committed to educating our patients and community members about the new health care law as we work to achieve health equity for everyone in CT.