Sioux City hosts community conversation with Latino and Indigenous residents
Latino and Indigenous Iowans got the opportunity to share their lived experiences at an event in Sioux City on Thursday evening.
The city hosted a community conversation with panelists from diverse backgrounds at the Sioux City Art Museum. It’s the city’s effort to not only identify barriers, but to celebrate diversity in western Iowa.
The event’s a part of a series called “The Difference is Dialogue.” It gives minority groups the opportunity to share their stories and to talk about how the community can better support them.
“I want to be able to pull the people who've never gotten the chance to speak publicly, who've never been able to get the chance to tell their story,” said Sioux City’s community liaison Semehar Ghebrekidan. “I can help bridge that gap for some people so that they can be able to get to where they need and tell their story to who they need to tell it to. Let's do it.”
At Thursday’s event, Victor Diaz Galindo shared his experience as a queer Latino growing up in Sioux City. He said he wishes his community was highlighted more often.
“The conversations aren't being had,” he said. “I think this dialogue was so important to start planting seeds in people's heads, to really start considering the communities around them, because it's such a multicultural community.”
One fifth of the Sioux City population is Latino, according to the 2020 census. Another 2 percent identify as Native American.
But, Cristobal Francisquez said he has not observed that same diversity in its teaching workforce. Francisquez is a Latino substitute teacher in Sioux City and served as a panelist at the event.
He said he sees firsthand families, who are new to the country, struggling to learn the education system. Francisquez said it reminds him of his own parents, who immigrated from Guatemala.
“Representation matters. People like us that have experienced those kinds of things, let us come in and deal with these things,” he said. “We have that power to take back and to empower these kids.”
"I think this dialogue was so important to start planting seeds in people's heads, to really start considering the communities around them."Victor Diaz Galindo
More than a third of students in the Sioux City Community School District are Hispanic. Francisquez says he wants to be the role model for them, that he didn’t feel he had.
Panelist Trisha Etringer, who serves on Sioux City’s inclusivity advisory committee, said she felt like the community also needs to invest in more resources for Indigenous populations.
“I think when it comes to Indigenous representation here, that we are really behind,” she said. “It would just be nice, as a Native woman here living in Sioux City, to be able to go somewhere downtown that represents me.”
Audience members got the opportunity to ask questions about the five panelists’ experiences in Sioux City. The panel took place in the art museum’s “Turn of the Sea” exhibition – which features the work of Colombia-American artist Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez. Her work celebrates her Latino and Indigenous roots.
In the past, “The Difference is Dialogue” series has tackled topics such as stigma, faith and poverty. The community conversations will continue each month until the end of the year.