City council passes proclamation about Hispanic Heritage Month

Jessica Perez, Staff Reporter

On Sept. 21, the Ellensburg City Council (ECC) passed a proclamation intended to recognize the achievements of Hispanic Americans in Ellensburg. This proclamation also declared Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 Hispanic Heritage Month.

This proclamation was issued after Mayor Bruce Tabb, Council Member Nancy Goodloe and Council Member Nancy Lillquist went on listening tours intended to connect them with people living in marginalized communities in Ellensburg. A common theme heard during these tours was recognition of other cultures and traditions present in Ellensburg. 

Since Hispanic Heritage is celebrated during the month of September, ECC decided to make this proclamation, which encourages people in the community to recognize the achievements of Hispanic Americans living in Ellensburg. 

Margaret Reich, the communication and government relations officer for the City of Ellensburg, said this proclamation stemmed from the council’s awareness of changing demographics.

“As a city, we need to do a better job of letting all people know that they are welcome here and that we would like to provide the resources each person needs to fulfill whatever dream they have while they are here,” Reich said.

Hispanic student and MeCHA club member Jennifer Rios said having a proclamation honoring Hispanic heritage in Ellensburg makes her feel good.

“I think it’s really cool,” Rios said. “It makes the community notice what the council is really for and not just what the community is showing because we do have the protestors that go out and support Trump.”

According to the City of Ellensburg’s community profile in their comprehensive plan, the Hispanic/Latino population was 2.8% of the Ellenburg population in 1990. This number rose to 10.5% in 2015. According to the World Population Review, the current Hispanic/Latino population living in Ellenburg is 12% of the city’s population and it will likely continue to grow.  

“Ellensburg is one of the top 10 microregions in the nation for population growth. That’s per the census,” Reich said. “What we are seeing with that population growth is an increase in diversity in the people who choose to make Ellensburg their home.”

In efforts to help recognize the diversity in town, The ECC created a subcommittee called Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (IDE). This group is responsible for going on the listening tours and determining common things residents of Ellensburg would like to see happen. When these listening tours are complete, the subcommittee will file a report and present it to the council for review. 

They will also request IDE become a commission that is dedicated to inclusion and equity in Ellensburg. This report is expected to be presented to the city council in November. 

“I’ll be very honest, this is a starting point for us,” Reich said. “We know from the listening sessions that one of the things we can do better is to raise awareness and to raise visibility and we’re taking steps in that direction.”

Rios said she would be all for the formation of this commission and the creation of a multicultural center on CWU’s campus.

Another goal ECC has is to increase accessibility to the information the city provides. In efforts to provide more accessibility, this proclamation was also printed in Spanish.

“We know that we can do better as far as ensuring accessibility in language and for people with disabilities as well, to the information that we share with the public,” Reich said. “We know that’s an area we can work on and will be working on.”

Rios said she’d like to see more places in town have signs and other information in multiple languages, so that everyone can understand what they are putting out.

“I know school districts try to send things home in various languages but throughout the town, there could be more inclusivity towards Latinos,” Rios said. 

Rios added that this should have already been done.

“I think we’re at a time where everything should be in different languages,” Rios said.

Other specific actions the city will take to recognize minorities in town will be dependent on the formation of the IDE commission. Some of their plans include having celebrations to honor different groups in town.

“We’ve got the rodeo, which celebrates the western culture, and we’ve got the Climber, which celebrates the western culture,” Reich said. “We don’t have anything that adds depth to our community.” 

Reich said the IDE wants to create depth in a sustainable way. An example she gave was if the city hosts a pride parade to do it every year, not once and then again five years later.

Rios said she’d like to see events celebrating Hispanic heritage in Ellenburg like they do in other cities, when the city is able to do so.

“I know at the Puyallup fair they have a whole mariachi and folklore dances there, and it’s really cool,” Rios said. “So, if Ellensburg were to have something like that I feel like that would be pretty cool.”

Reich also said people in Ellensburg are not exposed to other cultures very often and by including visual cues like a pride flag outside a door or a celebration, this increases their exposure and awareness of other people in town.

“So many in our community may not have ever left Ellensburg, let alone Kittitas County, so their exposure to others is limited,” Reich said. “How can we provide them with information and raise awareness so they can understand the celebrations that we hope to have in the future?”

You can watch the video of the proclamation passing, in both English and Spanish, here.