HENDERSON — Over the past two decades, Vance County has seen its small Hispanic and Latino demographic grow substantially, from 4.6% in 2000 to 8.3% of the population in the 2010 U.S. census.
Henderson Fuerza Activa, more commonly known as Hendfact, is led by Antelmo Salazar, who has worked to ensure that the growing Hispanic and Latino demographics have a voice within Vance County by building strong relationships in the community and providing resources to those who need them.
“We’re helping the community in so many different ways,” Salazar said. “If someone needs a lawyer, we provide them some people to contact. We also want to combat racism against the Latino community by speaking up for others and encouraging people to not be scared.”
Founded in 2009, Salazar witnessed the struggles that the Hispanic and Latinos in Henderson faced on a daily basis and how they were unable to turn to many people for help. That motivated him to start Hendfact to help address those needs and problems.
Although Hispanics and Lations are two of the fastest-growing populations in the United States, they are more likely to hold low-paying jobs and are more likely to live in neighborhoods with lower homeownership rates and higher poverty rates than Caucasians, according to a 2009 report by the Pew Research Center.
That same report also said that Hispanics and Latinos face multiple barriers when it comes to accessing quality health care and are disproportionately impacted in the United States criminal justice system, with incarceration rates doubling those of Caucasians.
Although poverty for Hispanics and Latinos hit an all-time low of 15.7%, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report in September, other challenges have surfaced, including an increase in the number of victims in anti-Hispanic/Latino hate crimes.
While Salazar has been disappointed by some of the challenges and recent hostility that Hispanics and Latinos have faced all around the United States, he believes Hendfact has helped his community take gradual steps towards local representation by engaging in talks with many prominent figures around the city and county.
“Things are a little bit easier now because we’ve had conversations and built relationships [in Vance County],” Salazar said. “We’ve done this with the court, with the mayor, the police department and the sheriff’s department. We need inclusion in this community and having those relationships really help[s] us out.”
In recent months, Hendfact has worked to ensure that Hispanics and Latinos are taken care of during the COVID-19 pandemic. Salazar and his staff have distributed masks to local residents and joined with organizations like the Salvation Army and Gang Free Inc. to hand out food.
Hendfact also took part in protests against systemic racism during the summer following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, but Salazar said that the decision was also made to remember Vanessa Guillen and Enrique Roman-Martinez, who both died under suspicious circumstances while serving in the military.
As for representation, Hendfact has organized several events that encouraged Hispanic and Latino residents to take part in the 2020 U.S. Census and register to vote for the upcoming elections, all of which Salazar believes were successful with their mission to get those demographics more influence in Henderson and Vance County.
He would like to see Hendfact obtain formal nonprofit status in the near future and take on a more expanded role in Henderson. But Salazar said he’s proud of what he and his staff have been able to accomplish during the last decade and hopes Hendfact will continue to have a positive effect on the lives of local Hispanic and Latino residents.
“Hendfact is a very important place for the [Hispanic] community,” Salazar said. “Many people have come through this door telling us that they have a problem and have asked us to help. Sometimes I have the answer, sometimes I don’t, but so many people know about what we do now and we are here to help in any way that we can.”