Updated: Jan 31, 2022
This past year was difficult for all, but in times of strife frontline workers maintain, persevere, and fight. These efforts are never easy, but the light of community gives many the energy and power to keep moving. To effectively support agricultural workers across Colorado, team members need to not only provide the requested material items, but also give sustenance against fear and cultural nourishment. This report highlights the ways the Project Protect Promotora Network (the Network) supported both sets of needs and built community through celebration and events as 2021 drew to a close.
From changes in the regions’ staffing throughout the Fall, the Network stabilized at 65 team members who held 15,721 conversations in November and December, and 8,583 during this time with agricultural workers. As most seasonal and migrant agricultural workers had already left Colorado, the dedicated leaders in the Network focused on agricultural families that live in-state year round. Promotores routinely dealt with dwindling work hours, cold weather, and remote rural living while assisting these community members. The issues facing agricultural workers who permanently live in Colorado are often different in scope and focus - and with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences every member of each region was working hard throughout both months.
COVID-19 cases, propelled by the Omicron variant, have recentered pandemic support throughout Colorado. Team members across all regions have been responding to this dire situation by providing vaccine and booster access and testing to those they serve. Pandemic related conversations represented 44% of the Network’s contact with communities, but vaccination appointments and testing kits were not the only support given. Throughout November and December, there was concrete help offered to those sickened by the virus and without proper support for isolation. Specifically, regional teams assisted 421 individuals known to be experiencing COVID-19 or quarantined due to a family member who was sick - delivering food boxes, personal items, and other support. In many situations, entire households of multiple families were quarantined, both without income or ability to acquire basic needs. Promotores reported constant gratitude for their actions, but community members were especially grateful for holiday events that included these quarantined or sickened individuals and families.
Through the thousands of quotes collected throughout the months, it is clear that those affected by COVID-19 are isolated from more than resources. It is a culturally draining experience that prevents the celebration usually reserved for these months. Promotores, through their organization around four community holidays, helped to provide this celebration - and needed rest from the experience of the pandemic.
Dia de Muertos (1st of November 2021)
Across Colorado, regions celebrated Dia de Muertos with their families, their regional teams, and with workers and the community. In Denver, Project Protect Food System Workers held a vigil for agricultural workers who had lost their lives in the fields. Regional teams from North 1, 2 and 3 drove into Denver for the ceremony, which included a dance performance by Soraya Leon, speeches from Ere Juarez and Dolores del Campo, and a mariachi band!
The Promotora Team on the Western Slope partnered with The Learning Council, The Tri-County Health Network, Elsewhere Studios, Western Colorado Migrant Rural Coalition (WCMRC), and the Town of Paonia to organize a Dia de los Muertos Celebration. This team noted how secluded and rural the location of the event was, contributing to some difficulty in transportation, available local event resources, and internet access. Angeles Mendez, the Regional Director, says that the event’s success should be attributed to “The amazing dedication the People of Paonia put in order to make this event happen.” (November 1, 2021 ) She said people came with open minds and joy, and the Pan De Muerto was appreciated by everyone and were very attentive to the Stories behind Dia de los Muertos. Angeles’s mother blessed the Ofrenda (offerings placed on the altars) and taught all who attended how to make Chocolate Abuelita with Vanilla extract. After the event, the team observed that the community here would benefit from further engagement in diverse cultural traditions.
In Southeast Colorado, the team also organized a celebration in collaboration with Southeastern Colorado AHEC, Center for Health Progress and El Pueblo History Museum. Koralia De Lara, Esperanza Saucedo, Ana Chacon, and Linda Timmis describe the event,
"The event was very beautiful, we were able to share and remember our culture with a beautiful altar. We had traditional food (menudo, pupusas, fritters, biscuits, champurrado and pan de muerto). In addition there were also activities for children, music, folk and Aztec dances. Not to mention, we also had the Department of Health administering vaccines." - 11 November 2021 
The event was so well attended that they ran out of Pfizer vaccines before the event was over, and were still distributing Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines until the end of the event. Prior to the event, these promotoras had visited food manufacturers and packagers in the area to advertise for the event and found that many workers were excited for both the cultural celebration and the opportunity to get their booster shots.
Many think of Thanksgiving as a time of abundance and hefty meals with families. The Network believes this should be the same right and expectation for the families and workers we serve. All six regional teams connected with partners to source thanksgiving turkeys! Agricultural families across the state received not only thanksgiving turkeys, but many other ingredients to keep their tables full for the holiday!
The team in North 1 delivered food and turkeys directly to workers at their workplace or in their homes. While dozens of boxes of food went home with workers, resources still came up short in some places, demonstrating the volume of food needed by families. Claudia Chavez explains the important of food boxes for workers around Thanksgiving,
“The food box is of great help to them because everything is very expensive. The employees leave soon so it helps them save a little more money. They told me that they would not give them Thanksgiving. They say that before they [the employer] would give them a 20-dollar card and now they do not give them anything. These are the workers of [BUSINESS NAME] who are cutting the onion leave at 5 pm.” - November 18, 2021 
In the West, there was a very special story from Angeles Mendez, about the amazing time she and her family had with the Mountain Fresh H2A Workers over Thanksgiving.
My mother works with all of them sorting out onions. But this event was a little more special for me then others. We often use Thanksgiving to be grateful for the Food we have, the house we live in or our family members. This thanksgiving I gave thanks for the hands that collect our food. We often are thankful for the farmer but not the workers. It was amazing to enjoy this holiday with them and eat with them as most of them never celebrate such holiday. A Holiday that should evolve around them. End of Harvest as the dictionary describes yet they continue to work for most of the winter until end of December, some come back in January. My family, my mother, my brother, my husband and my daughters they all saw where these gentleman live, their conditions and the humble personalities they have. It brought my daughter a new perspective in her small person, it also brought my husband a little more respect for the work I as his wife do for our workers. It brought my mother pride to see that even thou her daughter is not longer in the field working alongside with her. I continue to advocate for them in general. I am Thankful, for my role, my roots, my family and Promotora Network. - November 2021 [Dir344]
In SLV, the team hit the ground hard with distributing Turkey Baskets! Over the month they were able to distribute over 276 turkeys all over the San Luis Valley. Watch this 1:30 minute video for the visual story of the work:
Once Thanksgiving has passed, it is time for teams to make Christmas plans. Thankfully many team members in the Network were able to have a holiday party with their region and spend time with their family here and abroad. North 1 had a Christmas team party with a white elephant gift exchange. Ere Juarez says “we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little more and enjoy games (the food was delicious).” [Dir360]
There was a lot of preparation across the state and families prepared to visit their families over the holidays and promotores assisted with their travel tickets and holiday food and toys. This occurred in both celebration and sorrow. North 3 held an event in collaboration with CBOCES to provide families with toys, books, food, self-care and health kits, and information about Promotores. In the same week they helped one family make arrangements with the Mexican Consulate to repatriate a deceased family member to Mexico. And, the week prior they helped with a long-time couple make their marriage official, Dolores del Campo explains the accomplishment,
“Helping a married couple apply for a license after 20 years of living here.” - December 2021 [Dir355]
Unsurprisingly there were a few dedicated individuals who even conducted outreach to their neighbors on Christmas Day. The team in Alamosa in the San Luis Valley visited a man who lives alone and was in quarantine over Christmas and couldn't leave or cook for himself. Amanda Alanis, a promotora, and her family made him food and delivered him gifts on Christmas day.
Dia de los Reyes (6th of January 2022)
This holiday is the traditional gift-giving holiday for many Christians across the globe, including many in Central and South America. In this tradition, children receive gifts on January 6, instead of on Christmas. In the Network, most toy deliveries were complimented for food as well.
In North 2, the team received over 300 toys to distribute to agricultural workers’ kids over the holidays and had partnered with local organizations for toy and winter jacket donations, including to 26 dairy workers who they met for the first time in December. In the Southeast, Koralia DeLara, a promotora, said
"The children were super excited to receive them. While we painted a smile on each boy and girl's face, the parents gave us words of blessing and thankfulness." - January 2022 [Dir377]
As the new variant, omicron, raced through our communities, toy deliveries coincided with deliveries of medicine and care-kits. While the team in North 3 struggled with both the extreme cold weather and growing COVID-19 cases, they marveled at the children's reactions to Christmas toys describing the happiness, joy, emotion, and gratitude of the children. Even through many challenges, Dolores del Campo saw that “all flowes in harmony”. (January 5, 2022 )
The many individuals who make this network run expressed the joy, gratitude, and excitement for continuing this work in 2022. The addition of Isabel Mendoza, the Promotora Network Manager, in November brought fresh energy and connection across the six regional teams. The Network's strength was tested this year with surging variants, vaccine access, and hiring new team members, yet these leaders collectively proved that they will continue to bring support and celebration to agricultural communities in Colorado.
This report was prepared by Kassandra Neiss and Mark Ludke with contributions from Ere Juarez, Soraya Leon, Dolores del Campo, Koralia De Lara, Esperanza Saucedo, Ana Chacon, Linda Timmis, Betty Velasquez, Zoila Gomez, Claudia Chavez, Amanda Alanis, and Angeles Mendez.
January 18, 2021
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Data Activist and Systems Manager | Frontline Farming