Every year, from September 15- October 15, we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, honoring the histories, cultures, and people with ancestry from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. As of 2018, Hispanic American workers made up 17.5% of the U.S. labor force and that number is only expected to continue to rise.1 Despite such tremendous contributions to our economy, the Hispanic community still endures social inequities and must continuously fight to protect their rights in the United States.
As America’s socially responsible bank, we’d like to take this opportunity to spotlight those on the frontlines of positive social change, and who have contributed greatly to the advancement of social justice for Hispanic and Latin American communities. Dollars deposited at Amalgamated are directly lent out to impact organizations that take corporate social responsibility seriously. The clients we serve are values-aligned organizations that we’re proud to do business with and support their efforts to make the world a better place.
Today, we’d like to highlight the work of our client Mixteca, a community-based non-profit organization in Sunset Park, established in 2000 by a group of concerned community members to address critical needs in health, education, social and legal issues facing the burgeoning Mexican and Latin American immigrant community in Brooklyn.
“Historically, our civic engagement and community organizing work has centered on health care and health care access, beginning with an HIV/AIDS prevention campaign,” said Lorena Kourousias, Executive Director of Mixteca. “In response to the community's growing needs, we have added education, mental health, and immigration programming.”
Currently an immigrant and women-led organization, Mixteca's mission is to empower the Mexican and Latin American immigrants of the New York area by providing them access to services that enhance their quality of life and will allow them to reach sustainable social and economic development. They offer various programs and services that respond to immigrant families' specific needs and build a supportive environment for the growing Mexican and Latin American immigrant community.
In 2016 in response to the increasingly hostile, anti-immigrant political climate Mixteca increased efforts to provide information, support, and build a grassroots advocacy group led by staff, volunteers, and Promotoras (community advocates).
“The majority of staff grew up in or reside in South Brooklyn, are active members of the Latinx immigrant community we serve, and have extensive contacts in the community,” said Lorena. “Our current leadership includes immigrant women who embody or share their plight with undocumented immigrants, have advocated for immigrant rights, and hold strong connections in the communities we serve.”
Although founded to serve the Mexican community, Mixteca serves immigrants who are economically disadvantaged from all over Latin America and the Caribbean. The families and individuals they serve are primarily undocumented or belonging to mixed-status families, low-income living below the poverty threshold, affected by multiple intersectional issues such as a lack of affordable housing, social isolation, chronic or acute health problems, and high medical costs. They also have limited English proficiency and often no medical insurance.
It was massively important for Mixteca to choose to bank with Amalgamated for its accessible and affordable services, as well as its values-aligned commitment to immigrant rights and social justice. It was also important to choose a bank that had a presence in the community.
“Our like-mindedness with Amalgamated’s vision and values was key to building our banking relationship and trusting them with our financial needs,” said Lorena. “Our strong relationships and the trust we’ve built among our community inspires us to seek the best possible partners that support our work.”
Mixteca fosters relationships with community members to become agents of change for immigrant justice, while serving as a model for immigrant empowerment initiatives across the country to advance rights and protections.
“At Mixteca, we believe cultural transformation happens when we empower individuals,” said Lorena. “We believe everyone has the right to thrive, regardless of political and social barriers. We believe immigrants possess an incredible potential that is only realized when we actively address risk factors in our community like poverty, limited educational resources, lack of legal advocacy, and unequal access to culturally appropriate socio-emotional support and mental health counseling.”
In 2020 due to the pandemic, Mixteca was forced to shift priorities and adjust to meet our constituents' immediate needs. To continue providing services and programming Mixteca was able to transfer all of its programs virtually. As New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Mixteca was one of the first organizations to respond to the neglected Latinx immigrant community.
In response to the financial challenges the immigrant community experienced due to the pandemic, Mixteca launched the COVID-19 Immigrant Relief/Recovery Initiative to provide immediate cash assistance, food distribution, a community refrigerator, COVID-19 onsite self-testing, vaccine education, vaccine appointment scheduling, mobile vaccine bus onsite, and burial financial assistance.
As a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank, Amalgamated helped Mixteca apply for a COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Grant that was available for eligible nonprofits that had been financially impacted as a result of the pandemic. Mixteca received a $10,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank under the grant program.
Mixteca offered financial aid to undocumented and mixed-status families left out of other federal and state relief programs. Over 4,000 community members requested financial relief from Mixteca.
“The list continues to grow as community members continue to face economic challenges to meet every day basic needs,” said Lorena. “The database provides a preliminary place where we can use and begin working to promote and provide application assistance to the undocumented immigrant community.”
Amalgamated Bank is incredibly proud to support organizations like Mixteca, working passionately to serve and protect the rights of an underserved community composed primarily of immigrant families struggling to access basic needs and services. If you are inspired by their work to support the Mexican and Latin American community, please head to their website for more information or to make a donation.