DALLAS – Over the past year and a half COVID-19 has ripped through the Dallas County region, causing more than 411,000 cases and approximately 5,561 deaths in the community. With so many lives lost, local Dallas-based organization, Somos Tejas sprung into action to provide the support their community needed.
Somos Tejas is a non-profit organization made up of public servants and local activists that work to address social, economic, and health inequities that affect the Latino community in Dallas, Texas. Through their Community Care Campaign and partnership with Made to Save, Somos Tejas is also working to not only educate but empower their community with civic engagement information and health resources available to them regardless of income or legal status.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Latinos are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 as white people.
To combat this, Somos Tejas partnered with the Dallas County Health Department and has redirected their focus to help fight the deadly spread of COVID-19 by hosting vaccine clinics and running an education campaign.
Earlier this month, Somos Tejas partnered with Dallas County Judge, Clay Lewis Jenkins; Judge, Sara Martinez; and Dallas County Treasurer, Pauline Medrano, to host a mural reveal to honor frontline and essential workers who continue to risk their lives and livelihoods each day of the pandemic.
The mural unveiling event also included a public vaccination clinic where eight Dallas residents received their first dose of the vaccine. The mural, created by Dallas-based artist Armando Aguirre, depicts healthcare workers vaccinating community members to help save lives.
“I think [the mural] portrays essential workers who are not only the economic engine of our community but also the heartbeat of our neighborhood,” said Executive Director of Somos Tejas, Ramiro Luna. “These essential workers are our family.”
While it brings an aesthetic appeal to the Dallas community, the mural is more than just a grand piece of artwork; it is a statement and a daily reminder to residents in the area.
“Every single time young kids and parents walk by, they will see a big mural that says ‘Be a hero, protect our heroes, get vaccinated,’” said Luna. “We’re changing the consciousness of our people to know their responsibility, but also their worth.”
Along with hosting vaccine clinics, the organization’s vaccine outreach work includes door-to-door canvassing, handing out COVID-19 kits that contain PPE material such as masks, and distributing Spanish-translated flyers that detail COVID-19 information and where community members can get vaccinated.
These translated flyers are essential to Somos Tejas’s vaccine work. Approximately 71 percent of Latino people speak a language other than English at home, and therefore vaccination materials and messages must be available in Spanish.
Somos Tejas’s relentless vaccine outreach work, in part, has contributed to helping the Dallas County area get a majority of its residents vaccinated. More specifically, an estimated 55 percent of Dallas County residents are fully vaccinated, while 63 percent have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While this is an encouraging sign, Somos Tejas’s work still isn’t finished.
“I’ve seen a lot of vaccine sites available, but people are not aware of what’s going on, what marketing was done. But that’s where Somos Tejas comes in,” said Luna. “We try to come in to promote the vaccines…there’s been a lack of information where people can access [the vaccine].”