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A recent climate change study has revealed that Latin Americans and Tampa Bay Hispanics are finally being heard.

A recent climate change study has revealed that Latin Americans and Tampa Bay Hispanics are finally being heard.

To determine the attitudes of Hispanics in Florida and Latin Americans about environmental issues affecting their communities, we surveyed them in 2021.

Members Chispa Florida, a community organizing program, surveyed over 1,000 Floridians who identified with Latin American or Hispanic heritage.

They also held focus groups at Tampa’s Braulio-Alonso High School, where approximately 60 students between 17 and 18 participated.

Slideshow of graph depicting top issues affecting Hispanics in Florida.

Chispa Florida

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Courtesy

This slideshow graph by Chispa Florida shows that financial concerns dominated the environment for Hispanics, Latin Americans. However 93% of the participants identified themselves as people who care about it.

Getulio Gonzalez-Mulattieri, Chispa Florida’s regional community organizer in the Tampa Bay area, said the main concern among the teenagers was global warming and sea level rise.

“They are aware that they will have to accept that reality. But they don’t see the adults doing anything about this because they’re too busy working, or the day-today, the rat-race. He said that that’s where the frustration and despair comes from.

But Gonzalez-Mulattieri said the teens’ whole mentality shifted when he explained their role in a democracy.

“The only way that we can move these policies forward is if you participate in the democratic process. That doesn’t mean just showing up to vote every four years or two years,” he said. “That means going to the to the city council meetings, going to the school board meetings and demanding sustainable policies.”

Brianna Gonzalez (18) is a Hillsborough Community College student majoring in biology with a pre-med track. She completed the Chispa Florida survey and is particularly concerned about rising seas since she moved to Florida when she was 11.

“It’s scary to think that certain parts of where you live can be an underwater,” she said. “The lack of urgency that a lot of people feel is just extremely concerning for me, especially around hurricane season there’s floods and all of that,” she said. “I’m no stranger to hurricanes, that’s for sure.”

Gonzalez said the opinions of Hispanics and Latin Americans were “finally” being heard through this study.

Related: Study finds that Hispanics are more concerned with their political climate than their environmental concerns.

“I think that there are a lot of people, not just Latinos, but I like in my personal experience within the Latino community, that tend to almost ignore the bigger issue and not see it as urgently,” she said. “For example, when Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, basically, a lot of people kind of woke up.”

Maria Elena Villar was a research consultant for the project and participated in another summer focus group. She learned that immigrants had a different perspective. She stated that some respondents believed Americans take clean water as a given.

“They don’t know what it’s like to be in a place where suddenly the water doesn’t come or the water isn’t drinkable. And that’s something that they really worry about… and that a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of,” she said.

Villar quoted one person in Tampa who said, “The government hasn’t done anything to protect Tampa’s water sources.”

Chispa Florida slideshow graph ranking Hispanic and Latin Americans' concern for effects of climate change and importance of legislation.

Chispa Florida

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Courtesy

Slideshow of key findings from the study was presented in the project slideshow

“Although 93% of participants identified themselves as environmentally conscious, the polarized politics and economic threats (jobs wages housing costs) were identified by most as pressing issues over environmental issues.

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“Participants are also concerned about all possible impacts of climate-change and identified diseases, epidemics, and loss of wildlife as their primary concerns. This was closely followed by pollution and mega-hurricanes.

Maria Revelles is the director of Chispa Florida. She said that they plan to make use of their first-hand accounts and identify the language Latin Americans and Hispanics will use.

She questioned: “How do they perceive climate change? How do they see climate justice? Do they even use those terms, or are they foreign to them?”

Revelles stated that another way to use this information is as a roadmap when they meet with county commissioners or city councilors or school board members. Also, for future legislative priorities.

“I’m not talking about what I think, about perception or my opinion. Now, I have 1,000 conversations to prove it,” she said.



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