Vashon’s Alianza Unite Latinx Youth Together
By Stella Chilcote, reporter
The constantly growing organization Alianza has been doing a lot for the Latinx community on Vashon by helping young Latinx to become more confident in politics, as well as encouraging voter registration. The group started in 2017 when two Vashon students, Maria Guerrero-Rivas and Brandan Guerrero-Rivas, got in touch with Alejandra Tres, the organizer for the Seattle Alianza group.
From there, Alianza began working on Vashon. The first time the group came to the Strawberry Festival. Early on, few people were aware of the group, but they have since increased their presence in the community. Vashon’s Latino Community Fund focuses on bringing younger members, specifically 10 to 24 year-olds, to the program.
“The original organizer … was Alejandra Tres and she’s the one who helped a lot with organizing youth and adults, and helped bring the grant to form Alianza on Vashon,” current group organizer Cynthia Ramos said. “I would say everything has been because of her. She has been the catalyst for everything.”
Currently, 12 Vashon students are involved in the group, and they are trying to gather more young adults aged 18-24.
“The Alianza program is student-led, so everything that we do is from the ideas that they have and the projects that the students want to focus on,” Ramos said.
The Vashon organization focuses specifically on helping young Latinx community members register to vote. They inspire youth to participate more in politics through phone banking, door canvassing, and power mapping. They’ve recently received funds to build a community center where they can have meetings and have more space for youth to join.
“There aren’t many Latinos, both in the school district and on the island, so we want to stand out more and make sure they’re aware that we’re here,” junior Branden Guerrero-Rivas said.
Vashon Alianza also does an Alianza Summit which allows them to travel across the state and meet other groups and unite together.
“The rest of the projects has been because the community has been interested and [we’re] showing that we’re here and we have something to say,” Ramos said. “We want to make positive changes and bring light to issues that need to be seen.”
Alianza is working towards increasing Latinx engagement and representation in the community. Many Latinos cannot or do not know how to vote, so Alianza is working to educate community members on how to vote and make informed decisions when doing so.
“There’s always the question of ‘who should I vote for?’ and ‘who’s gonna fight for me ?’ and ‘who’s gonna do the right thing?’” Ramos said.
The program has created and attended many different workshops including an elementary school lesson to parents about their rights and an ICE program to educate people on what to do if they’re stopped by ICE and how to act responsibly. They do programming for elementary school and middle school students and young adults about mental health, arts, housing, and economic development.
Alianza also has community events for important traditions in Latinx culture such as Día de Muertos, Kids Day, and Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes. Celebrating the unique Latinx culture in America can be difficult, but Alianza works to make sure their traditions remain.
“It’s all about culture and coming together,” Guerrero-Rivas said.
Although the group is new, they like to recruit people to events and try to create a space for the Latinx community. They want to focus on bringing people together, finding everyone’s strengths, and then using those strengths to create events and workshops.
“I think the main part is just that we’re this big family, and we just want to bring more people into it and support each other and the community,” Guerro-Rivas said.
One of Vashon Alianza’s biggest hopes is to provide a safe place for Latinos. LCF provides communication for Latinos and brings them together to unite as one and grow.
“I think it’s in our name, Comunidad Latina de Vashon, community in itself; the words are really important,” Ramos said. “I think at the end of the day our goal is for our community to become leaders here on Vashon, where they’re able to advocate for themselves and advocate for others.”