Information lacking on Spanish-language resources for Highland Park victims, advocates say

Community members cite a lack of access to computers in the Latino community.

SHARE Information lacking on Spanish-language resources for Highland Park victims, advocates say
Highland Park High School at 433 Vine Ave which has been turned into a grief and counseling center in Highland Park, Illinois, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

Highland Park High School was turned into a grief and counseling center.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Advocates and residents say Highland Park hasn’t done enough to inform Spanish-speakers about resources available to residents after the July Fourth parade shooting.

The Highland Park website lists counseling services, a crisis text line, a crisis phone line, financial and legal assistance. And while there is an option to translate the webpage into Spanish, some say that approach overlooks the nuances of the Spanish-speaking community.

“It’s not helpful,” said Dulce Ortiz, Mano a Mano executive director. “Our community members do not go to websites to get their information.”

Mano a Mano is one organization providing translators and social workers in the aftermath of the mass shooting.

Community members raised similar issues at a meeting Thursday called by Highland Park.

“The effort to communicate in Spanish, it’s been limited,” said Luis Gonzalez, 46, of Highland Park. Many paradegoers were Hispanic, and two of the seven people shot to death, Nicolas Toledo and Eduardo Uvaldo, were born in Mexico.

Roughly 5,000 Hispanic people live in Highland Park and Highwood, a small city to the north.

Community members noted not everyone has a computer, and in this case, a cell phone won’t help, either; the translate function isn’t available in the website’s mobile version.

Luisa Lara, a 22-year resident of Highland Park, proposed distributing information via text message, which she has had success with in her role as a community liaison for the local school district. “We can’t take a phone call while we’re working, but a text message, sure.”

Lara also proposed sharing the information in a video format on Facebook.

“We have people that don’t know how to read, people that don’t like to read.”

She also said Spanish-language messaging often is far down on a webpage, discouraging potential readers.

In response to complaints, Highland Park City Manager Ghida Neukirch said the feedback is appreciated.

“The city is taking concrete steps to make sure that the information that we have available reaches our entire community, which also includes Highwood,” she said. (Highwood itself is 44% Hispanic, according to census data.)

More specifically, Neukirch said the city has started looking at sharing information via text message and will seek the input of partner organizations.

“The city has an excellent professional relationship with our government partners and community partners, and they have always helped us to amplify information that we are sharing with the public.”

At the back of the meeting, there were fliers in Spanish. Gonzalez proposed distributing the fliers and planning more meetings.

“By proposing the meeting, they did a good job,” Gonzalez said. “But we need to do more to communicate the information to the Latino community.”

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