A Voice of OC article as told to Norberto Santana, Jr. by Reyna Gonzalez is one of three finalist digital entries in the statewide Ruben Salazar Awards.

The award is bestowed by the Latino Journalists of California for journalists in the state “who have exemplified journalistic excellence while contributing to a better understanding of Latinos in the United States through fair and accurate reporting.”

The story “I Hope They Put Themselves in Our Shoes” by Gonzalez and arranged by Santana was part of a nationwide series on unemployment gathered by the New York Times to document the lives of Americans without work during Coronavirus. Santana’s prior column on Gonzalez can be seen here. Award ranking will be announced in a virtual ceremony Saturday and announced publicly Monday.

The award is named in honor of the trailblazing Ruben Salazar who was a reporter and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, as well as news director at KMEX (LA’s pioneering Spanish-language TV station). The Latino Journalists of California write that Salazar “was the city’s leading Latino media voice when he was killed in August 1970 by a sheriff’s deputy who shot a projectile into an East LA bar.”

In the Voice of OC story by Gonzalez, she begins: “This is all so hard. I had my security, working 30 years without stopping. This is the first time I ever applied for unemployment. I’ve never, ever lived off the government — always off my own hard work.”

Reyna, as Santana would write last year, lives in a house in Santa Ana minutes from John Wayne Airport, where she worked as a cook. In 2020 Reyna was one of 50,000 local food service and hospitality workers who were laid off statewide.

As Santana wrote:

“Overall, there’s about a 12 percent downturn in jobs from last year, about the same amount of local unemployment during the Great Recession of 2008.

Except, this contraction landed all at once.

And for people like Reyna, it’s landed right on them.”

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