Woman, Hispanic, Immigrant, Small Entrepreneur and community leader from The Bronx, in short, the Dominican Josefina Colón has a lot to tell about how COVID-19 continues to unravel the stability of thousands of families, one year after the first executive decree of economic closure to contain what was at the time a virtually unknown virus.
When the Women’s Month, the Quisqueyana can account for how the emotional and economic devastation it continues to collapse with more force the feminine side of the city.
“Here business is still very bad. There is no life. All hairdressers and stylists they spend most of their time sitting. A year ago customers were lining up. They had to wait ”, exclaims Josefina.
South of Salsa County enter here Jerome Avenue and 160 to 170 streets no less than 25 beauty salons look deserted at the beginning of this March, after months of economic closure and strict regulations, in neighborhoods where the public health emergency it took many lives and jobs.
Only in the Bronx the 54% of the population is female, according to projections from the 2010 Census.
What happens there is no different from other neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan, mostly Latino, where this beauty industry is led by women, who for now, have no reason for optimism.
“Mainly women, who for years have been fighting for our small businesses like these salons, we are having a very bad time. Here almost everyone is at breaking point, half surviving, not even to pay the rent ”, la quisqueyana decision.
In recent months, unemployment rates for women in the Big Apple have been climbing without pauses.
Indeed, it is about the worst of all crises and recessions lived in the city, but as an investigation of the ‘Center for New York City Affairs‘, the pandemic hit harder mothers who found themselves in a complicated circumstance: they were forced to stay home during the pandemic, to take care of the children before him closure of schools and nurseries.
“Let us also remember that unfortunately there is an immense amount of our Latin women alone, single mothers, who practically depend on the schools in many ways and when they closed they found themselves with no way out,” said Josefina, who is also an activist from Communities for a Change NY.
Both the Services Small Business (SBS) The City, like other organizations, have offered support to promote these establishments with credits, in addition to orders to postpone the collection of commercial rent, but in the opinion of these merchants, these solutions they are not viable for the majority.
“Here in this part of the Bronx, Hispanic hairdressers work together. We don’t see ourselves as competition. There’s a lot. And we try in the midst of this crisis to support each other. And, the truth is that most They do the procedure to apply these aids to those credits, they end up saying that they don’t apply ”.
The replicas of tbug caused by quarantine and the commercial closings collapsed not only the beauty industry, but the entire hospitality sector, which in more than 60% was in Latino hands.
No time to get down
The leader Ecuadorian community Miriam Hernandez, organization leader Communities for a Change, is part of a network mostly of immigrant women from the poorest neighborhoods of the Big Apple, describes that already moving forward the first quarter of 2021, a balance of pain and many debts continues to accumulate.
“Most of the Latina women are struggling. We don’t have time to get depressed. This crisis showed us how thousands of mothers who they are also heads of the family, They did not stop fighting for a minute for the welfare of their loved ones, ”explained the 30-year-old immigrant in New York.
The shadow of evictions
In the skyline of the city there is another drama, which could become in the next few months an avalanche that will sweep away strongly to many working class families: the possibility of evictions faced with continuous months of unemployment.
“The organizations that since last year have been working for the exemption of income, we have achieved nothing. All they have done is extend the payment time. Debt continues to accumulate. One fears that at some point they will give the owners the power to throw thousands of women off the street. And that would be a real tragedy ”, argues Miriam.
A study of the organization Public Health Solutions (PHS), carried out when the economic closings began last year, specified that the 92% of Latino families in low-income neighborhoods, they lived days of anguish when calculating that in the coming months, they will not have enough money to buy food, pay the rent and cover the ‘bills’ of public services.
The fears took more shape, due to a more distressing fact: more than half, 52% of Hispanic respondents in New York City, reported having been fired since the outbreak began.
And months later, job reinsertion and opportunities have not taken off, in an economy that is in ashes, especially for women in the hospitality and service industry.
“The issue of the accumulation of income, if we do not handle it, it will possibly be a point in the future that could destroy many of our poorest women. Because imagine that they end up on the street. We hope that we will find solutions ”, the activist reasoned.
“Let’s review the leadership of women”
Dianne Morales, of Puerto Rican origin and who has been the executive director of ‘Phipps Neighborhoods’, a social services organization in the Bronx that fights against poverty and who is in the race for Mayor of New York City, highlights that we live a “Critical moment” for the New York woman.
“The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities that already existed: disparities in housing, the economy and health were already present, but they only continue to deepen.”
Morales stresses that the “city of the future” can no longer be allowed to be built behind the backs of women of color, immigrants, disabled people, and working poor.
“They have been the invisible drivers that keep the city going, but they continue to be left behind ”.
The community activist who has been on several fronts of battle for minorities, emphasizes that in this commemoration of ‘International Women’s Month’, in the midst of the pandemic, it is important to review how the management of countries governed by women has been: his conclusion is that the population has been better protected and there are records of fewer deaths.
Three ‘warriors’ in the middle of the pandemic
To Colombian Marta Hernández, New York City Department of Health (DOHMH) COVID-19 Emergency Response Operational Leader and Health Services Manager was tasked with monitoring how the virus was hitting communities in Crown-Elmurst in Queens, precisely the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the pandemic.
“Female power rose amid pain. We observed thousands of women from the poorest neighborhoods, who came out in the midst of their personal tragedies, not caring about putting their migrant identity at risk, to help others, to pack aid boxes, to distribute food, ”Hernández highlighted.
The DOHMH official insists that this year is the time to highlight the capacity of resilience of Latino women.
“There are thousands of women out there who for fear of identifying themselves, we will never know their faces. Usually professionals dressed in brand names are exalted. But right now there are thousands of heroines, in the midst of this pandemic, who were the ones who really supported their communities, ”Hernández said.
The Colombian immigrant, who arrived in New York in 1990, concludes that her work was finally limited to discovering the potentialities that each neighborhood had, to identify how to resolve your pandemic emergencies.
“Unemployment, access to food and mental health support, those were the needs that we generally identified. And they were the same organizations that received our support to reach the people. This will go down in history to prove how much can be achieved by connecting with grassroots grassroots”, He reasoned.
The Venezuelan Niurka Menéndez, coalition leader ‘Venezuelan and Inmigrant Aid” (VIA) When COVID-19 turned into a tragedy last spring, he began receiving desperate calls, in a 90% women in your country.
The message was the same: we are left without a job and we are being evicted from the house.
“We feel very closely the pain of a community like Venezuela, which is particularly vulnerable, because it is mostly people who come from a humanitarian crisis. They are victims of a forced migration fleeing a criminal regime. Now they were on the verge of staying on the street, ”said Menéndez.
Through VIA and the achievement of alliances, with other organizations such as HIAS, in addition to the support of probon lawyers, certain relief was possible for dozens of mothers who were on the brink of evictions.
“It was a challenging moment to know how far we can go as a community, but also very helpless because we did not always have the possibility to help everyone. We were only an articulator, to guide mostly women, who were almost left in the air, “he insisted.
Menéndez highlights that as a woman the most important thing is to have observed that this public health crisis “raised a carpet that had tons of dust underneath.”
“We hope that it will serve us as an experience in the future, the slowness of the bureaucracy of organizations in general to attend to vital needs, puts many people at risk. We have a long way to go, because the unemployment issue is still very complicated ”, concluded the activist.
Everything indicated that between April and May 2020 for security reasons in the face of the pandemic the “La Colmena” community center, on Staten Island, led by the Mexican American Yesenia Mata it had to close, leaving thousands of domestic workers and day laborers without “shelter”.
“The same response from the communities, especially from female power, led us to move forward and continue offering an alternative to immigrant families who were devastated and at risk of losing everything, including their lives,” says Mata.
After a year in which the City counts deaths and the number of infected by COVID-19, the activist does not rest in pointing out that it is time for the elected leadership to take seriously how essential workers “left the soul” and they have not yet been included in any plan.
“I know perfectly the difficulties that immigrant families experience, because of the language, because of the hard road to legalization. Although I was born here, my parents came from Mexico and they always instilled in me the importance of helping others ”.
The difficulties that arose from the pandemic led Mata to also create the program “My vote, your vote” to promote young people voting in the 2020 Presidential Elections.
“The public health crisis moved many fibers. Many young DACA recipients and other families with TPS, in addition to having put life to work as “essential,” were at risk of losing their immigration benefits. And that put many mothers threatened with future deportation. It was cruel! but that fight continues ”, concluded the activist.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.