The house that Rudy Gonzales built, Servicio de la Raza, hosted a three-day drive through COVID vaccination site January 29-31. It almost felt like a party, with elbow bumping Governor Polis, speeches from city and state organizers, “The Five Latinas,” cheers of congratulations after every shot in the arm, camera crews, TV stations, dancing nurses, and an army of volunteers on hand to make the day a rousing success. 600 Moderna shots made their way into the arms of grateful recipients.
The event was conceived and coordinated by powerhouse city and state officials. Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez welcomed the crowd and spoke passionately of their mission. “I want to recognize Senator Julie Gonzales; Councilwomen Amanda Sandoval, District 1; and Jamie Torres, District 3; Angela Cobian, School Board Director; and Berenice Rendón Talavera, Consul General of Mexicó. I couldn’t do this without this group of women because we saw our community hurting. Our community needs to be healed from this virus. We have suffered too many losses. We are losing an entire generation.”
They partnered with Servicio de la Raza and The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to increase the vaccination rates for the Hispanic and Latino communities in Northwest Denver. Torres noted, “Once we saw data roll out where the vaccines were being delivered and knowing that we have a lot of elder Latinos and immigrants who don’t always have access, we jumped in to make sure that we were taking care of our communities.”
According to the CDC there are staggering facts that support this mission. While Denver’s Latino demographic represents 25% of the city’s population, in the first 7 months of the pandemic 50% of adult COVID-19 cases were amongst Latinos. 20% have died due to the disease. In spite of these chilling numbers, only 4% of its Latino population have received the vaccine.
Gonzales-Guitierrez punctuated the dismal statistics and commitment toward healing, “We will continue working together to bring more sites like this to our community and hopefully in the whole state of Colorado. We know equity has been an issue since the beginning, and we know it will continue to be an issue as we go through all of these phases. I am asking for the governor’s commitment to make sure we continue these efforts the entire time through.”
Polis is all in, “I am very excited to be here in the community today to help make sure we can make the vaccine accessible across the entire state in an equitable way, meeting people where they are. We are welcoming those 70 and over today, and while it doesn’t end the pandemic, once we protect our most vulnerable we can reduce the number of deaths by ¾ and make sure our loved loves, our aunts and uncles, parents, and grandparents are with us for many more years to come.”
There were so many touching moments throughout the day that spoke to the power of community. Elders asked the nurses to hold their hands as the needle went in. A gentleman whose wife died from cancer five years ago had his shot delivered through the tattoo that commemorates his love for her on his arm. Another elder sat in her car all day in hopes that someone might not show. Her patience was rewarded. Former Senator, Lucia Guzman, gave a beaming thumbs up as she got punctured. Another left saying, “I feel giddy.” It was indeed a giddy day, filled with love of community and hope for the future.
Rudy Gonzales summed it up when he told Denver7 reporter, Pattrik Perez, “It is personal, you know, and we need to do this for ourselves and our families, our communities and our world.”