HBPA promotes Hispanic businesses, education and cultural events
As president of the Hispanic Business and Professional Association (HBPA) since 2018, Isabel Mazcot de Torres understands the struggles and cultures of many Hispanic people in the region.
She was born in Mexico and emigrated when she was eight with her family who came in the late 1980s to Wenatchee seeking opportunities. Her father worked in the fields and orchards. Her mother worked in a warehouse.
Crossing the border without documents, they were granted amnesty and filed to be residents. She and her two sisters are citizens and are helping their mother become a citizen. Her family moved for a few years to Arizona where her father worked in construction. He died there in 2011.
In Arizona, Isabel worked with a school district, enrolling Spanish speaking students and interpreting for parents. She began working with a credit union.
In 2009, she moved to Spokane with her two children to work with a credit union as the point of contact for Spanish speakers. She earned a degree in human services in 2017 at Spokane Falls Community College. Her two sisters and mother now live in Spokane, too.
"I volunteer with the HBPA because I understand the struggles of many Latinx people. I know where they are coming from," Isabel said.
When she first came to Spokane in 2009, she met only a few Hispanic people, including her husband, until HBPA invited her to participate. She volunteered to represent Mexico in the Unity in the Community "Cultural Village."
"When I did that, I had a sense of connection and felt involved, seeing people from other countries who were part of the cultural village," she said.
After that, she became a member of HBPA. Now as she volunteers, she learns about what it offers and what she can offer.
"Since I found HBPA, I have felt better living in Spokane. We are seeing the Hispanic population in Spokane grow and the need to provide services," said Isabel.
HBPA, which was started in the 1980s under a different name, is an association and a foundation that has offered scholarships since 1993. It also does a Hispanic graduation ceremony.
"That's big for me. We are underrepresented in higher education because it's hard for parents to help pay for their children to go to college," said Isabel, who is one of eight officers for the association and foundation, along with two foundation directors.
HBPA's mission is to promote Hispanic/Latinx cultural, business, professional, educational and social justice interests in the area. It works to connect members to build professional and personal relationships, offer professional development, provide access to resources, develop cultural education and increase community involvement.
In a recent statement, it said it stands with the Black community against racism and inequality, supporting Black Lives Matter, recognizing that communities of color have been victims of a system that oppresses people.
This year, HBPA established an office at the Lorraine Building, at 308 W. First Ave., at the invitation of the building's owner.
The office has become a Latinx resource center, offering different services. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays, staffed by a receptionist who is a student at Eastern Washington University.
During COVID-19, HBPA has been helping families with food, health kits and financial services with funds from a grant.
"While other organizations do help families with food, we were the first Hispanic organization to receive a grant to deliver food that we are accustomed to, like beans, rice, jalapenos and tortillas," she said.
HBPA held four food drives from April through May in collaboration with other Latinx organizations and gave away more than 350 boxes of food. By mid-September, it had given away more than 500 boxes of food.
HBPA publicized needs on social media and now has a food pantry in their new office space. The food pantry is open from noon to 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays. It also offers other services during this time of COVID.
From 10 to 22 families come each week. Isabel said many need other services, so they help them find resources. Some of the 57 HBPA members are attorneys, doctors, educators, business owners and other professionals who offer their services to people in need.
HBPA also helps Hispanic business owners learn how to work with city and other government leaders to gain access to resources.
"Hispanic business people trust us," said Isabel, who has visited several and chatted with them to learn of their struggles and to tell them of the Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the Paycheck Protection Programs, offering small loans and grants during COVID-19. By informing them of their rights and helping them apply, Isabel enabled eight businesses to receive funds.
Member meetings on second Wednesdays are for anyone and have guest speakers. They are now virtual, announced to their email list of 310 and in their bimonthly newsletter.
One annual cultural event they sponsor is Dia de los Muertos, a Latin American holiday remembering and celebrating people who have died. It will be on Sunday, Nov. 1. Last year, 400 came to Spokane Valley Hazen & Jaeger Funeral Home.
"We plan a virtual ceremony with a video production featuring interviews with people in the community who tell the history of Dia de los Muertos. A mariachi band from Eastern Washington University will play. The video feed will last about four hours," Isabel said.
In addition, families will set up altars in the Hazen & Jaeger parking lot with objects related to those who died. Some will set up altars virtually. There will be a drive through to see the altars from noon to 5:30 p.m., Nov. 1.
Isabel said it's a family event, but open for anyone to come to learn about the culture. Information will be at hbpaspokane.net and on Facebook.
HBPA has also drawn 400 people to its Viva Vino and Brew event raising funds for scholarships. Usually in February, it was moved to April 2021 because of COVID, and may be virtual.
Many in the business community support scholarships. HBPA granted $15,500 in 2020 and $12,000 last year.
In social justice work, HBPA collaborates with other organizations, like the Spokane Immigrant Rights Coalition, RAIZ and others working on policies and issues affecting communities of color.
HBPA helped start the Spokane Coalition of Color four years ago with the Asia Pacific Islander Coalition and the NAACP. It holds nonpartisan candidate forums and forums on issues which impact communities of color.
"I'm proud HBPA is growing because of the work of previous and current board, the members and supporters. I thank my family in the U.S., many who were undocumented, needed resources, and now are citizens," said Isabel, who grew up Catholic.
She also is bookkeeper five hours a week at a local parish. For her, the Spanish Mass is a way to connect with the Latinx community. The church allows workshops on immigrant rights and business practices.
"Faith is part of my commitment to work with Hispanic people. It's in my heart, guiding me in what I should do," she said. "My father told me to give and not expect to receive. I pass that on to my children. Challenges come. At times I question if I am doing the right thing or doing enough. I turn to my faith and pray, talking to the Creator. That helps me continue.
"Faith and hope are important," she said, adding, "Jesus accepted people regardless of their faith. Without faith and religion, I would not be who I am."
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2020