Hosffman Ospino
Hosffman Ospino
BOSTON — The early days of September afford us the opportunity to turn our attention to one of the noblest activities: human labor.

We work to support our families, fulfill our vocations, live better lives and ensure that our nation thrives. We work to have a decent present and to secure a stable future for our children.

In an ideal world, we work doing what we like. Education puts us closer to that ideal. Millions of people, however, must simply work in whatever is available to make ends meet. For them a job is a job, and that alone is a blessing.

Allow me to bring some attention to the many brave Hispanic workers who are the backbone of core industries in the U.S., such as farming, fishing, construction, hospitality, restaurants, child and personal care, cleaning services, medical assistance and mining, among others.

Why speak of these workers as brave? Besides the obvious physical and mental exigencies of these jobs, the current pandemic placed millions of Hispanic workers face-to-face with the highly contagious and lethal COVID-19 virus.

Workers such as doctors, nurses, teachers and others in similar professions are also exposed regularly to this virus. Yet, their industries are more likely to offer safety protections that are not always available to, say, farmers, hotel workers and people performing cleaning services.

It is no secret that workers in mining, farming, service and hospitality industries are often poorly paid. Many need two or three jobs to make ends meet. The impact of such circumstances on personal and family life is dear. COVID-19, in a matter of months, made tough jobs even tougher.

Many of the jobs Hispanics perform are survival jobs, literally. COVID-19 has given a new meaning to the term survival. Millions of Hispanics do not have the luxury of working from their homes, from their computers or in properly ventilated offices.

Picking up crops, taking care of the elderly in nursing homes, cleaning spaces, babysitting, cooking and serving food in restaurants, etc., are tasks that Hispanics and other on-the-ground workers cannot do remotely. They must be on site and thus risk everything, including health and life. They also risk the well-being of their families and friends.

Hispanics are three to four times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than white people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that more than 26% of deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. were among Hispanics.

About 70% of Hispanics identified COVID-19 as the most urgent issue threatening their lives and well-being. More urgent than immigration, the economy and racism. Nearly 60% of Hispanics live in households where someone recently lost a job or had a significant salary reduction.

Mindful that about half of all Hispanics self-identify as Catholic, chances are that many of these brave workers share our parishes. Many of them bring their babies to be baptized, go to Mass to be sustained with the Eucharist and seek spiritual support from Catholic pastoral leaders.

Have we met with them? Have we told them, "Thank you for what you do"? Have we expressed our solidarity with them by saying, "How can I support you?"

Those Hispanic workers who risk their lives to survive and ensure that our economy thrives must not go unnoticed by our Catholic community. We need to engage in Catholic solidarity with these brave workers. They are our sisters and brothers. With them, we are nation and church.

We pray with gratitude for these workers, millions of them immigrants and refugees, and all others who labor every day with love and sacrifice.

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Ospino is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.