The number of Latinos that reside in Sonoma County is hard to pinpoint. It’s not easy to count us, especially when thousands are undocumented and have a deeply-rooted migratory culture.
But La Luz Center wants to change that. In November, they will begin an action plan to include the community in the 2020 Census, and they have something up their sleeve to get people energized: the “Censotería”.
Inspired by the popular Mexican board game, La Lotería, Angie Sánchez, community engagement manager at La Luz Center in Sonoma, created the “Censotería” to demonstrate the significance of being counted in the next United States Census, which will be available in April 2020.
“The “Censotería” is one of our tools to get people to understand the census through games, because a lot of our families prefer something entertaining. I think many would prefer to play a game than watch a Powerpoint presentation. I know I would prefer it,” Sánchez explained, laughing.
Soon they will ramp up “Censotería”-related activities, like a barbecue in November and more cultural events through 2020. The project is being supported by the Latino Community Foundation of San Francisco, who liked the idea so much that they began printing several of the games in October to distribute to organizations throughout California.
But why is it so important to conduct the U.S census every ten years? Juan Hernández, executive director of La Luz explained: “The census is the cornerstone of American democracy. Given the unprecedented challenges of the current White House administration, the Latino community must unite to protect their constitutional right to be counted and represented.”
Sánchez added, “It doesn’t matter if you are undocumented, the most important thing is that you are counted. And for those who can vote, this is a step in learning about the upcoming presidential elections and to go out and vote.”
The “Censotería” is just one of the strategies in La Luz’s greater plan, called “Sonoma Counts,” to estimate the Latino population in the Sonoma Valley.
The plan has a wider net, said Sánchez. With the help of staff and volunteers, they will reach out to the homeless, the elderly and children. “In the last count, there were around 100,000 children in California that were not counted, and for each person that is not counted, the state loses around $20,000 each year per person. That is money that the federal administration stops giving to the state. If you do the calculations, quite a lot is lost,” she said.
She pointed out that approximately 5 million Latinos live in areas that are difficult to access by the census, such as The Springs, in Sonoma or Roseland in Santa Rosa. “This is because they live on ranches, in garages, in rooms or homes where multiple families reside, we want to reach everyone.”
Sánchez understands that the challenge will be great.
“There is a fear of being counted among the community,” she said. “Throughout the Trump administration, we have told them not to open their doors, and now we have to tell them to open them to be counted, and that this has no relation to immigration, and that the census prohibits sharing this information with other agencies.”
The 2020 Census will be the first one in history in which information will be gathered online, by telephone or traditional mail. Throughout April, La Luz will have bilingual volunteers knocking on doors with mobile tablets connected to the internet, to account for as many people as possible.
“It’s only 10 questions that take no more than 10 minutes to answer. Being a U.S citizen is not required, just how many people live in the home, ages and ethnicities,” emphasized Sánchez.
Copyright 2019 La Prensa Sonoma