No Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations as focus turns to helping Latinos impacted by COVID-19

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As San Francisco's Mission District honors the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, the community is also finding ways to help those hit hardest amid the pandemic.

"We usually celebrate with a festival, it's normally a happy time," said Jon Jacobo.

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The musical tradition is one of many celebrated to recognize and honor contributions Hispanic Americans have made to American society.

"But, this year is different," he said.

Jacobo is the Health Committee Chair for the Latino Taskforce.

"Instead of celebrating, what we're doing is trying to ensure that we can keep 24th Street and the broader community...intact, safe, and protected through this pandemic," he said.

Protecting the most vulnerable community in a city where Latinos make up 15 percent of San Francisco's population, yet account for 51 percent of COVID-19 cases.
"We have all come together as a community...from our elders to our youngsters," Jacobo said. "We have had to fight for a lot of what we have."

WATCH: Virtual town hall addressing COVID-19 impact on Latino community
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ABC7 News has partnered with the Latino Community Foundation to present, "Race and Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation" a virtual and interactive town hall addressing the impact of COVID-19 on Latinos.



Jacobo explained that passion is continuing in the form of help - starting at the Mission Vocational School.

"You have volunteers that are there all week, either distributing boxes of food for families that lost their jobs or simply can't afford it," he said.

Jacobo said around 7,000 boxes of food are delivered to Latino communities in the Bay Area each week.

"We are also helping with rent relief for those struggling with affordable housing," he said. "These families need us."

ABC7 spoke with Christian Arana, the policy director for the Latino Community Foundation.

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"Over the course of these past six months of the pandemic...we have been some of the most invisible people, we are the essential workers," said Arana. "We are a community in crisis."
As Arana put it, there's less need for thoughts and prayers, but more for policy and change.

"We are less than 50 days away from one of the most important elections of our lifetime," he said. "To really recognize and honor all the Latinos in our community we ask that you go out and vote."

Arana emphasized voting will be a key part in dictating the future for the Latino community.

"Voting on things like Proposition 16... which would open the doors to higher education and finally end the ban on affirmative action for our community," he said. "All of these issues will make a difference for Latinos."

There are more than 15 million Latinos across the state of California that make up our doctors, nurses, teachers, and artists.

"We need our voice to be heard."

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