To see our Latinx & Indigenous community of the Rogue Valley thrive. We work towards a future where the Latinx and Indigenous families in our community can actualize our collective power to shape our destiny and create our own solutions.
Our Pathway to Liberation
For decades our communities have been the economic backbone of the largest economies in the Rogue Valley, yet we have been left out of socioeconomic, environmental and political decisions that impact our everyday lives. In the midst of a global pandemic, on September 8th of 2020 the Almeda Fire scorched over 2,600 homes displacing our historically low-income, Latinx and Indigenous neighborhoods and revealing just how climate vulnerable, economically exploited and politically underrepresented our communities have been. A month after the Almeda Fire we found ourselves in a High School gym at a Northwest Seasonal Workers Association (NSWA) membership meeting with many families who were growing frustrated with the lack of answers from landlords and government officials. We sat there brainstorming solutions to our collective nightmare and in the middle of our meeting, one of our community elders who is now an ancestor, Don Leonso Solis, stood up and asked, “why don’t we just buy our neighborhoods back?”
That day was significant because we all remembered that we have the skills to create our own solutions and that we have each other. We also took power into our own hands and led a community-driven participatory action research project to understand the extent of our loss and damage. It has been the findings and the personal stories of our communities' grief and Spirit of perseverance that have shaped our vision and grounded our work.
We are driven by the hope that we have the power to create something better than what we lost.
We are a Latino/a/x (hispanic/latino)-led, inter-generational coalition of community members, leaders, volunteers, and organizations in the Rogue Valley. We represent a mixed-status, working-class community with deep roots here. We are of many ages, abilities, faiths, and cultural backgrounds. We have decades of experience responding to exploitation, discrimination, environmental injustice, racism, poverty, and housing inequality. We are experts in our fields of supporting the economic liberation of Latino/a/x communities.
Araceli Jimenez (she/ella)
Cultural Leadership Organizer
First generation xicana born and raised in Southern Oregon, Araceli Jimenez has spent countless hours doing community outreach from tabling to canvassing. She brings over five years of experience serving as a volunteer coordinator, community organizer, and advocate with organizations such as Rogue Climate and Northwest Seasonal Workers Association. Araceli proudly comes from a long line of agricultural and restaurant workers, who have contributed to the growing economy for over 20 years. Her father was part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 providing new opportunities for Araceli and her family. Growing up in Southern Oregon Araceli says “I felt robbed from celebrating my culture as a kid, and it took me until my adult life to really feel proud to be Mexicana”. That is why while working with Coalición Fortaleza as the Cultural Event Organizer Araceli's hopes that she not only builds a stronger community through celebrating culture, but that she can also be part of building something for future generations to feel proud of.
Celines Garcia [she/her] is a first-generation Xicana whose parents have contributed to maintaining the largest local economic industries in the Rogue Valley such as agriculture and forestry. She is bilingual and bicultural and graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in General Social Science with a focus in crime, law and society and two minors in legal studies and business administration. She comes to Coalición Fortaleza with a fierce passion to lead the recovery and advocacy efforts as well as is equipped to advocate for her community and push forward our communities needs, priorities and demands. Prior to doing community organizing, Celines served as a Social Worker for the State of Oregon and understands the intricacies of policies at the state, we know will fortify her efforts to advance our mission. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, exploring the outdoors, and taking care of her houseplants.
Diana Ramos Alonzo serves as the Organizational Wellbeing Manager for Coalición Fortaleza. In 2010, Diana emigrated from México along with her family and currently resides in Southern Oregon. She is a proud immigrant, mexicana, woman, and first-generation college graduate. She has served in different leadership roles such as Interim President for the Latino Student Union at SOU, the 20-21 Multicultural Affairs Senator for ASSOU, as well as Social Media Coordinator for Project de la Raíz. Her work is dedicated to the empowerment of the Latinx community, centering advocacy for women and youth. Diana is also a multi-medium artist, her work ranges from sculpture to painting. Her artistry is often inspired by social issues and each piece aims to uplift the voice of the community she represents. She believes that art can be a powerful tool to fight for justice and positive change in her community and in the world. Diana received her Bachelor's degree in Spanish with a minor in Art from Southern Oregon University.
Erica Alexia Ledesma is a first-generation xicana born and raised in Southern Oregon with ancestral roots in Nayarit and Zacatecas, Mexico. Erica is a visual artist, story keeper, youth mentor, and community organizer currently based in Takelma Land (Medford, Oregon). Her work centers visual art and story sharing to build community and address her cultural identity. In 2018, Erica co-founded a project called Noche de cuentos (Night of Stories), which creates a Latinx space for the community to come together and practice remembering and telling their stories. In 2019 Erica partnered up with The Hearth– becoming the director of the Latinx Story Project creating a project called De La Raíz (From The Roots) that focuses on centering and uplifting the stories of her Latinx communities. She believes in the power of telling and reclaiming our stories as a means of remembering and spiritual healing. Erica received Bachelors degrees in Ethnic Studies, Cultural Anthropology and Spanish from the University of Oregon. But she would say that a lot of her experience comes from being chismosa and curious. She is currently the Executive Director of Coalicion Fortaleza, a community-based organization focused on rebuilding the BIPOC solidarity economy and resident-owned communities in southern Oregon from the ashes of wildfires.
Dani Leonardo is a facilitator, organizer, and consultant, born and raised in Southern Oregon in a mixed family, their mother a daughter of Filipino immigrants. Dani brings a background in permaculture design and a grounding in anti-oppressive practice, currently working as Director of Equity at the Post Growth Institute and communications consultant at Coalición Fortaleza. She has been working in movement spaces in a variety of roles including volunteer coordinator, youth mentor, community facilitator, administrative assistant, and social media support for the past seven years, with a myriad of organizations and community projects. Dwelling in spaces where creativity and art meet movement work and change-making, Dani’s work centers around collaboration, co-liberation and justice, employing tools such as sociocracy (dynamic governance), lean methodology, and asset-based approaches. Dani is a musician, a lover of the color purple, and a nerd for plants, polyrhythms and Hayao Miyazaki movies. She lives and works on Shasta and Takelma land in the Rogue Valley, and in her free time you can find her at the piano or in the garden.
Niria Alicia is a Xicana climate justice organizer, educator and storyteller dedicated to protecting the sacredness of Mother Earth and the dignity of historically oppressed peoples. Born in a migrant farmworker community, her struggle for liberation and justice exists at the intersections of migrant justice, climate justice and indigenous rights. She works to bring spirit and culture into everything she does. Niria has worked nationally and internationally designing and implementing holistic curriculum and programs with an environmental justice and spiritual foundation which works to bring about social transformation by centering healing and care. Niria has worked with an array of groups and organizations designing stories and campaigns that encourage everyday people to actualize their potential and power. Her heart has guided her to be in service on the Run4Salmon journey; to the US-Mexico border providing humanitarian aid; to Standing Rock and Mauna Kea; and to the halls of the United Nations where she has been a speaker, has led healing circles, indigenous youth delegations, and has been a part of organizing historical direct actions. In 2019 she received the national ‘Emerging Leader Award’ from GreenLatinos’ and the internationally recognized ‘EE 30 under 30’ award from the North American Association for Environmental Education.
Teresa is an Indian Education Facilitator with Southern Oregon Education Service District, working to bridge the institutional gap for Indigenous students and families in the education system. With a rich history of participation in social justice initiatives, and herself being Esto’kna (Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas tribal member), Teresa is committed to supporting a decolonized approach for housing and income, and contributing to the healing of the original people of this land.
A belief in housing as a human right drives Rose’s commitment to creating healthy homes in thriving communities. A stint with the US Department of HUD and immersion in federal housing policy reinforced that commitment. Rose brings more than 27 years in the real estate industry as broker, developer, and asset manager. She holds a BA from Linfield College and maintains an active real estate license in Oregon. She has served as a volunteer board member on numerous non-profit boards and advisory committees. Rose has worked with CASA of Oregon to help expand an innovative affordable housing program in predominantly rural communities, the Manufactured Housing and Cooperative Development Center, an affiliate program of the national ROC USA® model. She helped develop CASA’s initial five manufactured housing cooperative developments, preserving almost 400 manufactured housing spaces. She also preserved existing Farm Labor and other rural affordable housing throughout Oregon.
In 2017 she served as the Director of Real Estate Development for Hacienda CDC, and led the redevelopment of the Phase 1 Las Adelitas project, a 145 unit, new construction, affordable housing mixed-use development with over 9000 square feet of community center space. Rose also led other development activities including the mixed-use redevelopment of the Villa de Clara Vista, Hacienda’s oldest housing project, acquisition of the Arbor Mobile Home Park with Saint Vincent DePaul Center, the innovative Equity First Affordable Small Home’s project, and initiated the Phase II Las Adelitas commercial project with plans to include a child care center and affordable commercial spaces for local non-profits or social enterprises.
Judith Corona is a woman entrepreneur and NLP life coach, preschool assistant, event organizer and decorator at Melody's Party Events. Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, and now calls Southern Oregon her home. Mother of three children and the youngest was diagnosed with autism, which has led her to be more aware, empathetic and advocate with other mothers whose children are diagnosed with disabilities and chronic diseases. Judith is a woman of faith and hope for a better world and has used her voice as a volunteer broadcaster for community station KSKQ in Ashland, OR where she focused on sharing useful information for the people. Judith is a survivor of the Almeda fire and has been active in recovery efforts, including being a part of the NSWA meetings where the vision for the cooperative housing project that pave the way for Coalición Fortaleza.
AnaByersis the Executive Director of Rogue World Music (an Ashland, OR-based arts nonprofit), and has spent over a decade working in the nonprofit sector of the Rogue Valley and in the arts. Ana brings a wealth of experience in witnessing the power of and participating in cross-cultural connection via storytelling, music, and dance from her upbringing in a community that is rural, agricultural, predominantly migrant, mixed-status, Latinx, Native American, and Filipino, on the Yakama Reservation, in Washington State. Her education includes a B.A. in Theater Arts and a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management (Southern Oregon University). Outside of her day job, Ana serves on the governing council for the City of Talent, the board of directors for the Talent Urban Renewal Agency, and as the council liaison for the Talent Parks and Recreation Commission.
Keep an eye out for updates on what we're up to here!
We look at how during the winter season the trees return their focus to the roots to tend to their foundation. We remember the moments in 2021 where our roots were fortified and just about every one of those memories involved gathering with our community.
What would you do for the places you love? We’ve sat with this question for the past 13 months and have been moved to tears by the bravery, loyalty, love and commitment that everyone on our team has demonstrated this past year.
Coalición Fortalezais conducting a survey to gather information that will help strengthen our community-led efforts to restore our neighborhoods, keep our families' needs a priority, and help inform policy makers to understand the impacts of the wildfires on the Latinx/farmworker community in Southern Oregon.
La Coalición will give you a $50 gift card to take this 15-20-minute survey. All of your personal information will be kept confidential. To qualify you must be Latinx.
If you wish to participate, contact Erica:
In the news
Articles and other media regarding the Fire that swept through our communities in September of 2020 and the recovery since
CASA of Oregon, JP Morgan Chase, Latino Partnership Program, Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Humanities, PacifiCorp, Redtail Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Rogue Valley Relief Fund, Seeding Justice, The Ford Family Foundation, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette Valley, and the Walker Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation.
Thank you for believing in us and enabling us to grow the organizational capacity of Coalición Fortaleza.
Please reach out here with any questions or comments, and you can also sign up for our mailing list just below this form!