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Language Justice + Land Justice

FrontLine Farming has been developing our values and practices of language justice for years and are blessed with the ability to work with Rosa Roja to ensure farm education classes, HR documents, public meetings and more can be available to both Spanish and English speakers. Being able to offer language accessibility for both Spanish and English speakers further helps our communities in representing themselves across spaces and in creating meaningful solutions to the issues in the food system that often burden these very same communities. For language justice we always work to advertise in both Spanish and English and offer both Spanish and English for classes and workshops, even when we don't know who will attend. In this way we aim to ensure all feel welcome and not as though they are a burden. We have found alignment, and shared passions and experiences, across land and work with Vida Rivera Santos and Hector Alvarez Mendez, the husband and wife team who own and run La Casa Publicadora Rosa Roja. Below Vida and Hector share their story of Rosa Roja, their lives, and their passion for FrontLine's work and mission.

About La Casa Publicadora Rosa Roja

La Casa Publicadora Rosa Roja is a publishing company that was first conceived in 2019.

Vida Rivera Santos and Hector Alvarez Mendez wanted to start an interpretation, publication, and translation company that would be flexible and full of great ideas to solve problems in communication and in publishing, teaching, and education for a diverse community of Latin American workers, teachers, and people. Our mission is unity, love, and diversity in our founding principles in the work of communication, interpretation, and publication.

Hector Alvarez was born in Santurce (a part of Metropolitan San Juan, Puerto Rico) in 1960 and studied theater, and psychology, his major is in Spanish. He studied and graduated in 1983 in Spanish from the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón (the University of the Sacred Heart) in Puerto Rico. He has been a field organizer for a union, a middle school teacher, a life skills coach, and a medical case manager for various well-known non-profits in the state of Colorado. He has been translating for decades within his various roles throughout his career in Denver, Colorado, and in Boulder, Colorado.

Hector identifies with the Latin American immigrant reality in the USA, specifically because of his working-class roots. Before he could speak English fluently he did a lot of work that was about cleaning offices and garage shops, and restaurants, he worked various jobs often done by many immigrants who had bills to pay and who had to find a way of making a living.

Those experiences helped him to understand firsthand the problems immigrants face and helped him in his work as an organizer and case manager. As many great immigrants from all over Latin America continue to do this with the struggles that they face every day in their daily lives, hoping for better circumstances in the USA. He sees himself in the many Latinos who work very hard for their daily bread. He became a field organizer with LIUNA and with COWINS (both unions one international and one for the state of Colorado).

Vida Rivera was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1966. She attended the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras where she studied general studies and transferred to the University of Colorado in Boulder and graduated in Anthropology. She also studied graduate studies at Regis University in adult education and anthropology. She has translated and interpreted professionally for the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University, the University of Colorado at Denver, Colorado Free University, and many other well-known nonprofits in the Denver metro area. She also was a Bilingual Medical Case Manager for a major nonprofit in Denver. Vida also has worked for Safeco Insurance as a bilingual representative where she translated for years for auto claims, and home claims and had to be certified in translations and interpretations every year. She also worked in the past for public school systems and as a teacher for years.

Why Hector Alvarez and Vida Rivera love their work with Frontline Farming.

Hector Alvarez has always believed in the connection between plants and the Earth and that keeping our planet healthy and strong is of primary importance. He has always been conscious of wanting to use art and language as a form of communication and loves theater, music, writing, and poetry and feels that growing up on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico near the beach, and the forests were something that shaped his relationship with nature tremendously. He commented recently that seeing almonds falling off an almond tree along with mangos, avocados, limes and oranges here in the Yucatán was something that brought him back to his younger years when he took for granted that trees that gave us such wonderful food would always be there for us. Now, he realizes that unless we consciously cultivate those relationships with the trees, the earth, and the plants that give us medicine, flavor, and sustainable food for many generations to come—we would all lose out and be lost forever without the trees, the plants, and the Earth.

Frontline is not a luxury organization. It is a vital organization in today’s world. It is about life or death, our relationship with each other, and the Earth we depend on. Hector wants to contribute to a choice that is about living and leaving a better tomorrow for all of us.

Vida Rivera Santos loves working with Frontline Farming. Foremost due to its mission that is about this:

Why is generational healing so important to Vida? Vida's mother died due to depleted uranium poisoning that the US Navy created in its war exercises. They used some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world located in Puerto Rico to experiment on before the invasions. Since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory of the USA and has no voice or vote in congress or the senate in Washington DC it is a very easy target to pollute its land or beaches without any political consequences in the mainland Washington DC government.

Many Puerto Ricans protested the misuse and abuse of Puerto Rican land for war purposes. It created cancer in many Puerto Ricans residing in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and in the protesters as well. Vida's mother was a protester. And she got contaminated with the depleted uranium. Her mother wanted to protect the land of Puerto Rico for future generations of Puerto Ricans. She died of cancer directly related to the depleted uranium present in the little island of Vieques Iris Santos Rivera died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma fighting for human rights in September 2007. Iris was awarded a United Nations Oklahoma Chapter Human Rights award in 2012 posthumously. Vida’s mother worked with Native American tribes to help save their language, and history and develop a curriculum that was relevant to their own history and people. Puerto Rico, Guam, and many Native American reservations along with American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and others all are under the Department of the Interior and are either US possessions or unincorporated territories. And the United States government has ignored all the needs of the many Native communities in favor of corporations like Monsanto, and polluters like the US Navy in Vieques.

For Vida, seeing her mother die of that contamination is something that has affected her deeply, and she wants the Earth to be protected and for people of color to get justice and to take back the land to grow food that is healthy and life-giving. Turning something so painful and difficult into something positive and full of hope and justice is what Vida’s mother would have wanted for all people. Vida’s mother was recognized posthumously by the NAACP, the American Red Cross, and by the United Nations and was featured in the Latino community’s newspapers in Oklahoma City as well as in Univisión on local television. Iris was a fighter for democracy, justice, and human rights. Iris was working on an education project with a Catholic priest in Shawnee Oklahoma when she passed away to help developmentally disabled children learn. She was a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, San Diego State University, and the University of San Francisco. In general studies, Bilingual Education, and Multicultural Education as well as advanced studies in social psychology. She fought for equality her entire life. Frontline Farming’s values align with Vida’s and with her family completely and fully, and her mother would approve from wherever she is now in the Universe.

Vida also loves tourism and the ancient Mayan civilization. Iris rarely went on vacation but in 2005 two years before her passing Vida asked her mother where she would like to go on vacation. And Iris said, ¨Merida Yucatan. I want to see the ancient Mayan civilizations.” And she told Vida, “Vida, this city is so pretty. Wouldn’t you like to come and live here someday?” And Vida never forgot that comment. She lives in Merida Yucatán Mexico now. Her mother Iris is responsible for choosing the city. Vida named her house that is in downtown Merida and is about tourism, after her mother-in-law and her own mother. It is called Casa Angélica Violeta. Angélica Mendez is Hector’s mother and Iris Violeta is Vida´s mother. Our mothers are very wonderful and we wanted to honor them.

Vida’s family were originally farmers from two rural towns in Puerto Rico. Naranjito where her mother Iris Violeta Santos Rivera was born in 1940. And Barranquitas Puerto Rico where her maternal grandmother was born in 1902. Vida’s father’s family (David Rivera) were landless peasants who worked for a big coffee-growing family in Barranquitas. Her maternal grandmother loved the Earth and missed it when she, like many hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, had to move to a big city like New York City and leave behind their beloved fertile land in the Caribbean. In those towns, they grew coffee, citrus, tubers, and many other crops with ease. All of that tradition was lost when the push for moving to the city and discouraging farming started in the WWII years when the push for industrialization and mass sugar centrales were pushed through US banks and investors.

Many rural Puerto Ricans lost their land to banks and US corporations and migrated to NYC. That was the story of Vida’s family. Now Puerto Rico imports more than 85% of all its food from other nations and is forced to use the US Merchant Marine (due to a law called the Jones Act from 1920), which is the most expensive one in the world and hikes prices. After Hurricanes Irma and María in 2017, Puerto Rico faced a crisis of food sovereignty and a totally broken system of food production that only benefitted large corporations and mainland-based banks and interest groups and ignored the local needs of Puerto Ricans. Frontline’s mission is Puerto Rico’s issue in a big way.

If you want to learn more about the protests that were finally successful in ceasing the US Navy’s activities in Vieques and Culebra islands in Puerto Rico–please watch the following videos. Also, take the time to inform yourselves about the current challenges facing Puerto Rican farmers in Puerto Rico. Fatuma Emmad and all of the leadership at Frontline are part of a greater community of people fighting for the right to grow food sustainably and equitably.

It is a just fight! And it is the reason why Casa Publicadora Rosa Roja is very proud to be part of the interpretation team bringing together all the members and workers who are part of Frontline Farming. Casa Publicadora Rosa Roja is part of the mission of bringing language justice and a great way of communicating better and clearer that is part of the growing force of the many for justice. A cause that is dear to both Hector and Vida’s hearts!

Planting food that is full of flavor, nutrients, and LOVE for all of us to lead healthy lives and for our children to be healthy too is an act of LOVE. GO FRONTLINE FARMING!!

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