10 Jul 2023
Conexion Latina: Empowering Immigrants in Newport
The United States is nation of immigrants. The Papitto Opportunity Connection acknowledges the rich diversity of our immigrant communities and the countless ways immigrants have contributed to American society, economy, and culture. Supported by the Papitto Opportunity Connection, several of our grantees work to empower immigrants and refugees who are searching for a better future and the promise of the American Dream.
The Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) shows that the total foreign-born or immigrant population (legal and undocumented) in the U.S. hit 47.9 million in September 2022. That’s a record high in American history. Immigrants from Latin American countries, other than Mexico, account for 60 percent of the increase in the foreign-born population since January 2021.
Helping Families in Coastal Communities
In Rhode Island, we’re learning communities in Newport and Middletown have seen a significant increase in their immigrant populations. Conexion Latina is one of the few non-profits helping refugee and immigrant families in these coastal communities. “Our community is still very, very, far behind in Newport. As far as Hispanic representation, there’s close to 9,000 of them, but they stay to themselves. They don’t show up at things, they don’t come out. They’re starting to,” said Executive Director Rebekah Rosen-Gomez.
Founded in 2019, the mission of Conexion Latina is to educate, inform, mobilize, and advocate for Latinos in Newport, as well as advise them on how to enroll in social services. Its leadership team partners with education and government agencies to work on how to best meet the needs of this growing segment of the population.
Rosen-Gomez says through interactions with Latino community members, and community groups at large, Conexion Latina has discovered Latina immigrants living in Newport need gender specific support services and community building opportunities.
“We have heard many times from women in our community, how they feel isolated, overburdened and under involved and they want to do something about it,” Rosen-Gomez said.
Inspired to create change, Conexion Latina launched the program Mujeres Poderosas (Powerful Women). With the help of a POC grant, the platform provides women the opportunity to meet, learn and network. The first of the monthly meetings kicked in May to celebrate Mother’s Day. The inaugural cohort were treated to massages and made dream board collages envisioning a better future for their families.
“In Latino culture, family and community is so important. It truly takes a village, right? When they come here, many of them lose all of that completely. You know, they’re 100% dependent on their husbands and then they have children. You know, so that can be devastating,” said Rosen-Gomez. “My hope is that they’re going to build this sense of community for themselves and then also be able to share it with others. And kind of bring people in as it goes. You know, who knows, maybe it’ll grow into something much bigger. But our hope is that it will grow and build this group of women who really are empowered and can use their power making Newport a better place and making their lives better.”