Arvin community unveils Census mural as last push to encourage residents to get counted

September 22, 2020 /

Arvin community members came together Tuesday morning to make a last-minute push, encouraging the community to respond to the 2020 Census, with the unveiling of a Census-themed mural in Arvin. 

The deadline to respond to the 2020 Census is eight days away. As of Sunday,  Arvin’s self-response rate was below 60 percent, more than 10 percent below its 2010 rate. As of September 20, 37 percent of Kern County or 112,961 households have not self-responded. 

“Right now, we are on the deadline for the Census,” said Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola. “Arvin’s self-response rate is lower than it was 10 years ago, and lower than the state average.” 

He continued: “The Census is important because it helps provide more funding for the city. It helps provide better representation for the people, and it helps attract more businesses locally. This mural is here to provide promotion and to encourage people to fill out the census.”

The colorful mural, painted by the local youth artist, Juan Gonzales, 29, is meant to act as a constant reminder to Arvin residents that it’s not too late to complete the census questionnaire.

The mural depicts a farmworking family. The man in the mural is carrying an ice chest as he heads off to work, while his sister, who is pregnant, waves goodbye. The mural says in Spanish, “I do it for them.” 

The mural is a reflection of the “hard-working community of Arvin,” Gonzalez said.  It is rooted in Latin American cultural traditions, where it is usual to see advertisements on walls — all in an effort to speak to the local majority Latino community. It is one of five census murals funded by the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund as part of its community-based census outreach efforts across the San Joaquin Valley.

The U.S. Census Bureau originally extended the Census deadline to Oct. 30 because of the pandemic; however, the agency announced a few months ago it is cutting the deadline short to Sept. 30. 

With the deadline just a little over a week away, Gurrola acknowledged the challenges Arvin is facing to get an accurate count; however, he has hope more people will be counted in the next week. 

“I do believe in the power of organizing and in people power, so I think this last minute push will help us get closer to a more complete count,” Gurrola said. “But ultimately, I think if we stuck with the normal deadline and the normal process, I think we would have had a fuller count and a more complete count, but we are doing the best we can.”

The decennial census determines how $883 billion will be distributed to communities across the country for roads, hospitals, schools, parks, among other resources.

Gurrola said he would like to see funding go towards Arvin’s infrastructure, including roads, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. 

“Not just for capital improvement, but also for maintenance as well,” Gurrola said. “That’s where the long-term costs are.” 

Gonzalez agreed with Gurrola regarding infrastructure and added after-school programs. 

“We need more stuff for the kids, since they are the future,” Gonzalez said. “We need to focus on them and inspire them more.” 

Households can still respond now by responding online at 2020census.gov or 2020census.gov/es (Spanish website) by phone at 844-330-2020 or the Spanish line at 844-468-2020, or by completing and mailing back the paper questionnaire they received.

Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.