Editor's Note: This essay was prepared as part of a project on health equity by Register reporter Sarah Klearman with support from the Impact Fund, a program of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. She and Danielle Fox, engagement editor at USC's Center for Health Journalism, worked with a number of local youth to write about how the recent fires and pandemic affected their families and communities.
When destruction hits, the most important thing to do is to stick together with your community. Especially when the individuals understand the cultural struggles of others. In 2020, when the seasonal wildfires were happening in Napa, La Cheve, a new and local Hispanic-owned restaurant, and brewery stepped up to help my Hispanic community, including essential field workers. They were passing out masks to offer them protection from the contaminated air. After hearing about it from a family member, through social media I knew I had to spread the word.
Seeing La Cheve show up for our Hispanic community is really meaningful to me because a few of my close relatives are field workers, including my grandpa and uncle. Although people I knew like my grandpa and uncle did not go to La Cheve for the resources, because they already had access to some protection from their jobs, It's still important to acknowledge their job and the conditions they work in. Most of the employees are in the older age range and are more prone to getting sick by the unhealthy air, not just because of age but because many have health conditions that the air quality can worsen, like asthma. We work to bring paychecks home, no matter the conditions, it’s what we've been taught as young kids.
Certain particles in wildfire smoke, like the smallest and most harmful particles called PM 2.5, increase mortality and morbidity, according to an interview the Register did with Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford's Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research. Over and over again I’ve seen how field workers, who work through the smoky days, are looked down upon or overlooked by our greater community. This frustrates me because it’s discriminatory and often results in the quality of care and resources they receive. They are essential workers and bring food to your table for your families, while working in dangerous conditions, like the wildfires, to support theirs.
When La Cheve passed out free masks for field workers, I saw the power of one Hispanic family caring for another. In moments of devastation like these, our community needs to support each other, especially in a culturally sensitive way. My hope for the future is that we continue down this path, because it’s very much needed no matter how good things get, it’s important to stick by each other's side.
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