Latinos make up one of Massachusetts' largest ethnic groups, and the last few years has seen significant growth in the widely diverse Latino communities with roots in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. While Latino workers are considered by many to be the backbone of the local economy, they are disproportionately low wage workers.
"There still are very real challenges around poverty rates that are really disturbing," said Dr. Lorna Rivera, director of the Mauricio Gastón Institute. But she said there are signs of improvement: "For second generation Latinos, we are seeing more positive outcomes. So, we do have some hope there for the next generation."
For many residents, Latino nonprofits have helped fill in the gaps providing vital services to local Latino communities. And yet, many Latino nonprofits in Massachusetts also struggle to make ends meet — one 2020 report says less than 2% of philanthropic dollars are being directly invested in Latino-based organizations, and nearly 100 new nonprofit organizations would need to be created to fill the current gaps in services to the Latino population.
"Our volunteers can only volunteer for so long," Lina Cañon, director of finance operations and development for Chica Project, told Under the Radar. "And so if you're not paying the women that are in the organization equitable wages and being competitive with the market and allowing them to live in Boston, which we all know is expensive, then how are you actually going to sustain that program?"
Some experts see solutions in policy, and one thing Tomás Gonzalez, director of community and advocacy for Amplify Latinx, wants passed is a bill that would, "allow for the creation of a micro business development center, which would hope to grant $50,000 grants to folks if they hire individuals from the community, returning citizens, those coming off transition assistance, those that are local to to the establishment, so that you can give that business owner the room that they need. Because typically our small business owners ... typically aren't the places that banks give money to."
During this Hispanic Heritage Month, Under the Radar looks at the roadblocks to philanthropic funding and the efforts to increase access.
Dr. Lorna Rivera, director of the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development & Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston
Lina Cañon, director of finance operations and development for Chica Project
Tomás Gonzalez, director of community and advocacy for Amplify Latinx