The city of Syracuse is known for a few things, but none of them involve the Latino Community. Since I have been a resident of this city, I have seen many issues that revolve around health care, education, migration, and employment (to name a few). What saddens me more than anything is the feeling of general apathy.
Don’t get me wrong, there are several places that provide services for the Latino community, like La Liga (The Spanish Action League) and Westside Learning Center. The problem is, that is it is not enough. The school system sucks. The drop out rate is just not worth mentioning. But there is no buy in from the school district to really step up their game and do so developmental work. That is just one issue.
There is a lack of community development. The one thing that is very apparent is how Syracuse is split into 4 quadrants, all denoted by directional markers. So, the majority of the Latinos are located on the Westside. Most of the development is happening on the North and Eastsides of Syracuse. The University is kind of centrally located within the city and they have a tremendous amount of development. So the Southside, you can guess, is where most of the African Americans are.
The problem is that if you wanted to find a job, going to the South or Westside is not a place to look. There is no Home Depot or Price Chopper (Pathmark of Syracuse for all the NYC peeps) to apply for jobs. In order to do that you have to catch a bus. The Centro Bus system is probably the worst transit system I have ever seen. So catching a bus is no going to happen since the ride is long and the buses are not reliable.
Healthcare is an issue because people do have insurance because there are no jobs. The ones that do have jobs might working off the books or their job does not offer health benefits. Not to mention that language is an issue. There are very few interpreters for people that may come into the hospitals.
Language becomes a huge issue. It is hard to get immigrants to get services they need when no one has the resources to get them help. Now, the Westside Learning Center does have ESL classes but, there are only so many resources to go around. If you cannot speak the language then employment, education, and health care become inaccessible. We need a system that will connect the dots.
The last issue is that out of all this, there is a small percentage of Latinos that actually do make it through this terrible system (can anyone say institutional and systemic racism?). The problem is that they do not stay in the community. They leave, never to return and can you blame them? This issues here in Syracuse are dire.
Fortunately, I was at a meeting today that was called by the Governor’s office, in which all of this was discussed. I have a chance to be a part of real change. I just hope it works.
P.S. That is a pic above is of me from a town hall meeting about a year ago. I was surprised to find it. Click on the pic to read article.