Gracias and reflections on building on a legacy of impact
As the year comes to a close, I am filled with gratitude, pride, and inspiration.
I’m grateful for all who make up the UnidosUS familia – staff, Board, and Affiliates – and how we are using our talents and drive to make the lives of our community better. Even as this year presented unique challenges, our organizational strength and your commitment made a positive difference for our community.
As our country continues to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work we all did together ensured Latino families’ health and finances improved in concrete and meaningful ways. The Esperanza Hope for All campaign contributed to an increase in the percentage of Latino parents who vaccinated their children ages 12-18, from 62% in August 2021 to 77% in August 2022—protecting the health of our kids. And our collective efforts led to steps to secure a historic permanent change to the Child Tax Credit for families in Puerto Rico, making the credit available to 97% of Puerto Rican families this year and reducing child poverty.
I’m proud of how we are shifting national conversations about Latinos. Working with Mi Familia Vota and other partners, we conducted state and national polls that generated new perspectives and stories about the decisive power of Latino voters. After decades of effort and advocacy, we saw important steps taken by the Smithsonian to share the Hispanic experience in a showcase of 26 UnidosUS Affiliates and their stories at the Molina Family Latino Gallery’s Mapping the U.S. Latino exhibition. Our Racial Equity Initiative made significant progress with partners in academia and journalism to ensure the inclusion of Hispanic contributions in the fight for racial justice and collaborated with Congressman Joaquin Castro to elevate the continued, severe underrepresentation of Latinos in the media. And I was particularly proud of how we came together to honor UnidosUS President Emeritus Raul Yzaguirre, who this year received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his lifelong journey to make the promise of the American Dream a reality for everyone.
I was also incredibly inspired to witness the dedication that fuels our work as we came back in person for our signature events, summits, and Affiliate convenings, attended by more than 2,800 people. From San Antonio to Nashville and from San Juan to Phoenix, together we seized these moments to rally our community and lift up our Affiliates as experts and leaders who make a difference for Latino families every day.
I also want to remember two leaders who passed this year, whom I had the privilege to know and learn from, and who also filled me with gratitude, pride, and inspiration. As I shared in a previous message to Affiliate leaders, Amos Atencio—a former UnidosUS Board member, and a co-founder and former head of Affiliate Siete del Norte in Embudo, New Mexico—introduced me to the powerful and critical work Affiliates do every day. I encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to this bilingual interview titled “Four Generations ¡Adelante!” to learn about Amos and his commitment to social justice.
Our colleague Eric Salazar was also driven by a fervent belief in the power of Affiliates to transform the lives of Hispanic families. Eric was a consummate community builder whose work at both UnidosUS and the Raza Development Fund helped create, among other things, the Affiliate Support Program to strengthen our communities and build economic power. His example is one I will always carry.
Heading into 2023, I am hopeful that we will continue to build on the legacy that Raul, Amos, and Eric created and that our community will thrive and succeed thanks to the work that each of you does every day.
On behalf of the UnidosUS staff, mil gracias. I wish you all a joyful, healthy, and safe holiday season.
Sonia M. Pérez
Acting CEO + Chief Operating Officer