Margarita de Nevarez spans the border
July 22, 2004
For Margarita de Nevarez, representing the region’s Mexicans at a national conference in Mexico City was an honor. But for the many who know her, the trip was fitting recognition of Nevarez’s decades of involvement with the area’s children, families and immigrants.Nevarez visited the Mexican capital last week as part of the 15th annual conference of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, an organization that works to link Mexicans in the U.S. with Mexico and assure that their basic needs, like health care and education, are met. She was the sole representative from Nevada County and one of four from the Sacramento area.Nevarez is a native of Durango, Mexico, who came to Truckee 42 years ago, learned the language, became integrally involved in the community and raised five children in town. She is both a true Truckee local and an immigrant who has experienced the cultural and language barriers that new immigrants face every day. These qualities make her the perfect ambassador to represent Truckee’s Latinos, say those that know her.”I think that the people of that community, whether Mexican or not, should be very proud to have her represent them,” said Arnoldo Torres, Northern California’s representative for the Institute of Mexicans Abroad. “I think that she is a great person.”
Today, Nevarez, 67, works as an advocate out of the Truckee Family Resource Center office, tucked to one side of the colorful interior of Truckee’s KidZone. As an advocate, Nevarez continually serves as an invaluable link between the Latino community and vital services like education and health care. A normal day could have Nevarez rustling up a free carseat for a mother, referring families to county or community health services, or working on immigration papers for an immigrant family.Ruth Hall, the eastern Nevada County director of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, has known Nevarez for 22 years, ever since they shared an office for five years. Nevarez was starting up a program called Bilingual Information Referral and Hall was the single staff member of the eastern county wing of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services. “She will do anything that she can to help anyone that walks in her office,” said Hall. “People that just came here will go to see her and more and more people have found out where she is.”Hall said that Nevarez is so effective because “she was an immigrant herself and raised her family here.” Since 1962, when Margarita moved to Truckee with her husband, Manuel, who worked constructing Interstate 80, she has seen many changes within the Mexican community. Not all of the signs are positive, said Nevarez. She sees kids dropping out of school and families struggling to afford the area’s escalating housing prices.
Her week-long trip to Mexico City, which she attended with Mexican leaders from across the United States, exposed her to new ideas on how to tackle these problems.”We learn more about what is going on in Mexico and Mexico learns more about what’s going on in the U.S.,” said Nevarez.In the capital, Nevarez met people from the Institute of Adult Education, a program she hopes to bring to Truckee through the Internet. The program guides adults without high school education through a GED equivalency program.But much of the conference was focused on what Mexicans living outside of the United States can do to help Mexico. The Institute focuses on both sides of the issue: What Mexico can do to retain its workers, and what networks within the United States can do to assure the immigrants a better life.”Mexico must work diligently to bring about those internal changes if they want to bring about immigration policy changes,” said Torres.
Torres said that Nevarez’s trip to Mexico City was important because different people from different parts of the country need to represent immigrants at the conference.”It’s important that Mexico hear it from as many people from this side of the border as possible,” said Torres.Nevarez also got a better understanding of the Mexican system, and, as Torres says, “how it works and how it doesn’t work.” All the new ideas and ties with Mexican leaders from leaders across the country are now funneled back into Nevarez’s Family Resource Center office, where Torres says she will ” be in a better position to bridge between [Mexicans] and American society.”And Nevarez is excited about the progress in that connection.”Now I don’t think that it is possible to say that we are invisible,” Nevarez said of the Mexican community. “We are not invisible. We’ve started speaking for ourselves.”