by Charlotte Pope
The Latino advocacy group JUNTOS celebrated its 10-year anniversary Thursday with a night of live music, dancing children, and soulful speeches for progress.
Commemorating years of fighting for Latinos' rights as workers, parents, youths, and immigrants, JUNTOS presented photographs documenting the lives and faces of the group and recognized active leaders in the JUNTOS community for bringing change to Philadelphia.
“We’re having this event because we want to take the opportunity to celebrate the 10 years of work,” said Adriana Arvizo, an organizer for JUNTOS.
“And not only that, but because it’s a community organization, we wanted to celebrate the community and the leaders that made this possible.”
The organization was born from a new wave of Mexican immigrants to South Philadelphia in the early 2000s. Today, JUNTOS has grown to include people from broader Latin America, including Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay. And the group now operates across the entire city of Philadelphia.
JUNTOS advocates for Latino immigrants by creating strong leadership, pushing back against anti-immigrant laws, and engaging parents to make sure their children have equal access to schools. This year, a JUNTOS youth group held a campaign to raise awareness for opportunities for undocumented students.
“We found that counselors at many high schools were telling the students that they could not go to college, and they were telling them not to apply because they may get deported," said Arvizo. "So this was creating a lot of dropouts and our youth were saying, 'If I cannot go to college, then why am I here? I should go to work.'”
But an undocumented student can go to college, Arvizo said, debunking that myth. JUNTOS has worked with interpreters to help parents get involved in their children’s education.
Next year, JUNTOS hopes to hold a series of leadership workshops to have more community members playing important roles.
"We want to grow," said Erika Almiron, the executive director of JUNTOS.
"We hope to change the conditions of our community, so that in 10 more years our communities aren’t struggling the way they are now. We work to include anybody who wants to fight for their rights, from age 13 to age 80.”