Lisa Muñoz: Talking steps toward broadening community

‘THERE are widely different amounts of privilege’ in the Latino community, said Lisa Muñoz, left, at Sense of Place. With her are fellow panelists Ubaldo Hernandez and Eduardo Bello in front of a projected images of Gorge Latinos, including Juana Dominquez of Juanita’s. Muñoz, a Lewis and Clark College graduate who currently manages Dog River Coffee, spoke along with Mexican-born Gorge residents Bello and Hernandez at the “Sense of Place” forum, facilitated by Dr. Lynn Orr, executive director of the Hood River History Museum, and Oregon State University’s Natalia Maria Fernandez.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
‘THERE are widely different amounts of privilege’ in the Latino community, said Lisa Muñoz, left, at Sense of Place. With her are fellow panelists Ubaldo Hernandez and Eduardo Bello in front of a projected images of Gorge Latinos, including Juana Dominquez of Juanita’s. Muñoz, a Lewis and Clark College graduate who currently manages Dog River Coffee, spoke along with Mexican-born Gorge residents Bello and Hernandez at the “Sense of Place” forum, facilitated by Dr. Lynn Orr, executive director of the Hood River History Museum, and Oregon State University’s Natalia Maria Fernandez.

Latina Lisa Muñoz spoke Nov. 8 at Hood River forum from the perspective of a native Hood Riverite who grew up doing orchard work, went on to gain two degrees in college, and returned to her community to do oral history work at The History Museum of Hood River County.

“I just hope this project we’re working on will help the Anglo community realize that the people you pick and choose to spend your time with, the people you choose to interact with, your community goes beyond that, even the people you choose not to see, the illegal immigrant who picks the fruit and does indeed pay taxes.

‘This project is a really important step in broadening our interpretation of what community is.’

— LISA MUÑOZ

“This project is a really important step in broadening our interpretation of what community is,” Muñoz said.

Muñoz volunteers as oral history coordinator for Museum’s Latino outreach program, which includes coordinating and conducting oral histories with Spanish-speaking community members.

For the past two years, Dr. Lynn Orr, museum executive director, and Natalia Maria Fernandez, curator/archivist with Oregon Multicultural Archives, have been collaborating on an exhibition entitled, “Talking History/Talking Spanish.”

“(Oral histories) are a wonderful way for community members to realize they have shared struggles and shared achievements, and that can really be a powerful tool,” Fernandez said.

After graduating, Muñoz chose to return home out of love for the community and her family. She fondly remembers the hard work in the orchards and what it did for her.

“I was sorting pears in the hot sun for eight hours, bent over a huge bin of fruit, and you learn how to take care of it, because if you damage fruit, unless it’s clear it’s the measuring ring, the picker will be blamed for it. It taught me how to be a really good co-worker,” Muñoz said.

“I realized I wanted to give back and be part of the Latino community as well as participate in the community as a whole,” she said.

The outreach program, and oral histories, has been a big part of that.

“Meeting all these undocumented people who do want to share their stories is really motivating for me and eye-opening,” Muñoz said. “I don’t look like what most people think of in a Latina and don’t speak with an accent, but when I first meet a member of the Latino community, they are at first hesitant. They don’t know. And that makes me worry about the community as a whole, when their instinct is to hesitate to speak to me.”

She grew up watching her family pick fruit, and considers herself among “lucky ones,” as her father was a farm foreman.

“It’s really important to take note of the fact that within the Latino community, there are widely different amounts of privilege,” Muñoz said. “For me as a young person who just came out of college, looking back, I never had to hesitate to apply to university — is this university a Sanctuary school? I was able to apply to a multitude of scholarships, but that was because I was a U.S. citizen,” Muñoz said.

“I see a lot of people of my generation who are young and eager and want to learn, but there is something standing in their path, which is a piece of paper,” she said, referring to the embattled DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy.

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