Rocio Munoz gives a whole new meaning to the word activist, emphasis on “active.”
Although ostensibly her main role in Corvallis is as a health navigator with the Benton County Health Department, that role sends her far and wide.
You might see her at a meeting of the Linn-Benton Health Equity Alliance or the Hispanic Advisory Committee or a tri-county group working on coordinated care organizations.
• She translated for Latino community members at a City Council meeting in which residents wanted to discuss the benefits of Osborn Aquatic Center.
• She helped work on community outreach with a neighborhood association and the Corvallis Parks and Recreation Department on Tunison Park remodeling.
• She translated signs and fliers into Spanish during the election campaign on Measure 02-86, the local option levy voters passed in November.
And she is also involved with the newest city commission, the Public Participation Task Force, where she often has her newborn son, Andres, in tow.
Like we said, she’s everywhere.
“I’m way out there in the community. It feels like I am never in the office,” said Munoz, who sometimes attends 15 to 20 meetings per week. “It hasn’t been easy. I have been working on this for five years. Building the trust and raising awareness.
“To get people to City Council meetings ... it’s definitely not easy, but I think it’s going well. Our Latino families know more about what is going on in the city.”
Helping the cause, Munoz said, is the willingness of Corvallis to listen.
“The good thing about Corvallis is it’s so welcoming,” said Munoz, who grew up in Hood River as the daughter of farmworkers. “It’s ready for change and acknowledges the need for change.
“We’re at a different place now. The community is ready for more.”
The challenges are everywhere.
“If you don’t have a driver’s license you can’t drive. Then you can’t go to the grocery store or the doctor’s office and can’t drive the kids to school. You have to walk in the rain.
“I have lived it myself. I am from an immigrant family. My mom and dad picked cherries and apples and we lived in a cabin. I had to pave the way for a lot of Latinos. Moving out. Going to school. It’s harder for a woman.
“My father wanted me to succeed, but he didn’t want me to leave home. I was the first one to move out. I got a scholarship at PSU (Portland State University). My dad said, ‘You’re not going.’ I said, ‘Yes, I am.’
“When I talk to parents in the Latino community I can tell them it’s OK because I know. I’ve been there.
“I won’t forget who I am and where I come from.”