Promotora Spotlight: Arlen Caro of Campesinos Sin Fronteras

Healthcare plays an important role in supporting survivors of gender-based violence and in Latin@ communities, that often means promotoras (or “community health workers”). They can be volunteers or professionals but their mission is the same – to help the community improve their health. And they were particularly important during the first years of the pandemic when Latin@ communities were disproportionately serving as essential workers and being targeted with misinformation.

To find out more about this important model, Esperanza United sat down with Arlen Caro of Campesinos Sin Fronteras. She defined her work as a promotora like this (translated from her Spanish), “More than anything, promotoras are the ones who know the area, know the people, and already have the connections so the community trust them to explain medical things even though they’re usually distrustful of the medical establishment.”

Caro explains how her organization stayed open when so many closed their doors, noting how the farmworkers in Arizona where she works never stayed home: “They never stopped working and because they didn’t stop, we didn’t either.” Instead, Campesinos Sin Fronteras did what they could to stay safe and got busy providing protective gear like masks, information about the pandemic, and events like free vaccine clinics.

Of course, as we know, the rise in COVID corresponded with a rise in gender-based violence and people like Caro were lifelines at that time. She talks about seeing stressed and depressed community members and the importance of technologies like Zoom to connect across barriers. 

Still the main thing in her work – whether it’s encouraging folks to get vaccines or supporting survivors of gender-based violence – is showing up regularly. Campesinos Sin Fronteras didn’t collaborate on just one health fair during the pandemic – they were doing it every two weeks and at times when they knew farmworkers would be available. That type of customization to the community is key and something we at Esperanza United are always pushing for.

In fact, Caro attended one of our webinars for promotoras and was struck to see how many people do the work on a volunteer basis, saying, “Gracias a Dios, here where we work, we have a salary.”

Promotora work is extremely valuable, whether our society rewards it with wages or not. Caro knows it and so do we. As she shares, “Almost always, the doctors or those with more professionalized medical positions, they don’t see promotoras as people who should have a voice or who make an impact. But in reality, we are the ones who are having the real impact on society.”

Esperanza United recognizes the impact promotor@s have across the country in serve Latin@ survivors and their communities. You can learn more about promotoras and the importance of their work in addressing gender-based violence via Esperanza United’s series on the subject.