Monthly calendar spreads awareness of activities of diverse cultures
Since 2008, Yvonne Montoya Zamora has prepared a community cultural diversity calendar for Spokane.
She began doing it as part of her work in human resources at Washington State University (WSU)-Spokane where part of her role was to recruit and retain diverse faculty and staff.
Yvonne, who retired last winter, emails the calendar to about 100 people, and plans to continue doing it at least another year.
Her calendar has been a source of calendar items for The Fig Tree, which shares its calendar with her.
The calendar includes Spokane events, national and international celebrations, and resources and organizations of different cultural groups in Spokane. In September, she focused on Hispanic groups.
Yvonne, who is Mestiza—of mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry—is named in the Spanish traditional way with her father's name, Montoya, and mother's name, Zamora. She grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., where the majority of her family still live.
She graduated from the University of Albuquerque, a private Catholic College where she and her husband, John Murphy, earned degrees in criminology in 1976. They married in 1977. He came to Washington State University to complete a master's in criminal justice and then worked for the WSU police. In 1984, he accepted a promotion and moved to the Eastern Washington University (EWU) police department in Cheney, retiring 10 years ago. They raised their two children there.
Yvonne worked five years in another department before working in human resources with EWU 10 years, Community Colleges of Spokane eight years and WSU Spokane 10 years.
Along with classification, compensation, recruitment, advertising positions, employee relations and other tasks, she was to foster diversity and inclusion.
The idea for the cultural calendar arose when she served on the Chamber of Commerce Workforce Diversity Committee and The Task Force on Race Relations. They shared activities and thought it would be good to have a calendar with events from diverse communities.
Her work at WSU Spokane by then had grown into being the diversity initiatives coordinator, coordinating diversity and inclusion with human resources functions, as the economy dropped in 2008 and WSU was doing less hiring.
Initially, she sent the multicultural calendar by email to WSU employees. They forwarded it to colleagues and friends. She invited diverse communities to tell her about events.
Yvonne enjoys discovering how much diversity there is.
"There are pockets all over Spokane, but it's not visible," she said. "There are many events. We are more diverse than we think based on the demographic numbers. Communities of color, multicultural and multi-ethnic communities are strong and engaged."
In Spokane County, she said, communities of color are about 13 percent of the population. The Hispanic community is about 5 percent and growing.
The cultural communities use technology, Facebook and websites to connect. That's where she finds what is going on. They want the wider community to know they are invited to attend the events, Yvonne said.
In September, she included events offered by the Spokane City and County libraries for Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Over many years during that period, Mexico and countries in Central and South America gained independence from Spain.
Yvonne is active in the Hispanic/Latinx community. In addition to editing the Hispanic Business and Professional Association (HBPA) newsletter twice a month, she is part of an HBPA group partnering with the Spokane Regional Health District on a grant from Empire Health Foundation and Providence Health Services to do a health survey of the Latinx community.
The group asked the community what they want to know about health issues, are composing survey questions and plan to distribute it in the Latinx community from Nov. 1 to mid-December, hoping 500 will respond.
Questions focus on youth care, mental health care, diabetes services and other health care issues defined by Latinx stakeholders.
Yvonne is also helping plan a Hispanic celebration of the Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, on Friday Nov. 3, at Hazen & Jaeger, 1300 N. Pines. The day honors loved ones who have passed.
There will be activities for children and adults, with music by Mariachi Las Aguilas from the EWU Music Department and placing photos of family and friends who have passed on the altar.
Another annual Hispanic event is Viva Vino and Brew, an auction fundraiser in February at the Shriners Event Center. It raises $8,000 to $10,000 for scholarships for Hispanic high school and college students.
In 2018, 13 scholarships were given in Spokane County and one to a Wenatchee high school student coming to EWU and playing in the Mariachi band.
Yvonne's understanding of her Mestizo heritage—as well as diversity, inclusion and equity—expanded after a 2006 three-week internship with the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication.
The institute told the 36 interns from China, Japan, the U.S., Canada, Iran, Ireland and other countries that to be effective in multiculturalism and intercultural communication, they needed to understand their own genealogy.
Until then, she considered herself Mestiza, expressed in the hierarchy of the times as Spanish New Mexican, Mexican American and Mescalero Apache and Pueblo. Results from a recent DNA test show a different order—Native American (Mescalero Apache and Pueblo), Portuguese and Spanish.
Yvonne had been jealous she had no family in Mexico, as many Latinx in Spokane do.
Since retiring, she traced her ancestors beyond the 1800s to the 1600s, when New Spain included what is now New Mexico.
When Mexico gained independence in 1821, New Mexico was considered Northern Mexico. It became New Mexico after the Mexican-American War—the American-Mexican War as she calls it—when the area where her ancestors lived in present-day New Mexico became part of the U.S.
"We did not come to the U.S. from Mexico, but the U.S. came to us," Yvonne said. "In New Mexico at that time, many people were a mix of Pueblo, Apache, Navajo, other indigenous communities and Spanish, a different mix than in Texas, Arizona and California, because both cultures were more entwined."
Her husband is German Irish. Their children, Kim Richards and Ashley Murphy, continue to intermix within their various cultures.
As Yvonne explores her roots, she is learning names of people left out of history books. For example, as a teen, she had heard in her family of the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II, but their story was lost until recent years.
So Yvonne, who is on the Spokane NAACP education committee, is helping plan a "Hidden History Bowl" Saturday, April 20, 2019, at the downtown library with Spokane and Mead high school students.
"Much history for communities of color is left out of history books," she said. "I love history and grew up exposed to the one-sided history those in power wanted us to know. For example, in New Mexico, we did not read of Cesar Chavez's work with farm workers."
Yvonne shares what she learns of her history with her five grandchildren, ranging from ages three to 18.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2018