Finding solutions – and solace – in tragic death
Did you notice Truckee didn’t work so well last Friday between 10 a.m. and noon?Nearly all of our Latino community was attending the funeral for Mario Zarate, a four-year-old boy who was killed by a car while playing in the narrow streets that wind through Donner Creek Mobile Home Park.The census says Truckee is about 13 percent Latino, but general consensus is that the actual figure is closer to 20 percent. Take that many people out of Truckee’s employment pool for a few hours and the impact becomes pretty far reaching. While some may have noticed that businesses ran a little slower, we should all feel the impact when a four year old dies.Over the past week since this tragic accident, I’ve been thinking about how we can best honor the short life of Mario. There’s the easy solution of building a safe playground at Donner Creek Mobile Home Park. If you want to contribute to making that happen, call me at 587-1776 or Margarita de Nevarez at the Truckee Family Resource Center at 587-2513.Then there’s the hard work to be done. It’s the delicate dance of working collaboratively: Latino and Anglo, richer and poorer, English speaking and Spanish speaking. Is there a way we can honor the short life of Mario by creating a community that more effectively integrates the Anglo and Latino community in Truckee? Not by the dominate culture coming in and “fixing things” – that’s not the answer. But solving problems by working side-by-side to make sure all children in Truckee have access to a safe community park and that all people in Truckee live in safe, decent, affordable, and dignified housing.In the academic world, this work is called social justice. In the simplest of terms, social justice focuses on individual beliefs as to what is right and wrong, fair and unfair, deserved and undeserved. All of us have beliefs about which of our own actions is right and fair, and how we should be treated by others. When we apply those values and ideas to a community or a town, then we are in the realm of social justice. Ultimately, it has to do with our vision of what kind of community we want to create and live in.The curriculum is ourselves and our community. I want to live in a community that grinds to a halt with the death of a child.Residents of Donner Creek Mobile Home Park have expressed frustrations for years on the poor living conditions. Many people, Latino and not, have voiced concerns over the safety of DCMHP residents walking through the “mousehole.” There are examples of community activities that benefit all residents of Truckee – bike lanes, public transportation, stronger schools, and affordable child care. As we move forward with these activities, we should intentionally seek the input and help in planning from the Latino community and insure that these public services are working for all.Let’s make this tragedy one we can point to in the future as a pivotal event in defining our vision of Truckee as a place where we not only live around people of different cultures, but also actively learn from, appreciate, and incorporate all viewpoints into our everyday lives and understandings.Lisa Dobey is CEO of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, whose mission is connect people and opportunities, generating resources to build a more caring, creative, and effective community. She can be reached at 587-1776 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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