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Graciela Gomez in front of her Cascade Locks fruit stand, underneath Bridge of the Gods. Her cabin is also known as “East West." 

‘This is really, really important' says advocate Graciella Gomez

The latest Census score at Gracie’s Fruit is 72 yes, 11 no.

“Have you responded to the U.S. Census?” Gomez asks everyone who comes to purchase pears, peaches and plums from her stand beneath Cascade Locks, which she has operated for nine years. On the corner of her awning she keeps a tally on a white board, prominently displayed along with the website.

The Census, held every 10 years, is on a shortened timeline through mid-September to collect information that is used to determine how tax money is spent and how political representation is apportioned. Anyone who has not taken the census can do so online, via the wecountoregon website.

On behalf of “the count,” Gomez has created a forum for one-on-one discussions. Gomez, a Hood River resident, has worked in many ways over the last 30 years to advocate for immigrants and the community, and has found one more way to raise awareness of a social need.

Over carefully-arranged stacks of fruit, “Many people say, ‘I’m so busy with the COVID, and I don’t even have time.’

“I say, ‘Well, the COVID is right now. But then we need the money for our kids,” Gomez said.

“A lot of people say ‘yes' and a lot of them say ‘I don’t believe in that.’ I say ‘why not?’” she said. “And they say that’s all government crap. And I tell them this is the money we earned, and we need it for the families, and a lot of times we start a conversations, yes with these questions.”

Asked if she is convincing people. Gomez said, “A lot of them.”

She displays whiteboards with census-question tallies dating to March.

“It’s a lot of days and it’s about how important it is to do it,” Gomez said.

One thing Gomez stresses to people about the Census is that there is no citizenship question on it, despite last year’s attempt by the Trump Administration to add it,

“It’s a lot of fear in the community about a lot of issues, and a lot of people don’t understand how important is the Census,” Gomez said. “It’s a lot of work to tell them why and to convince them ‘don’t be scared.’ And time to heal.

“I say, ‘Let’s get together and keep going, because this is really, really important’.”

The Gomez fruit stand will remain open a few more weeks. Gomez also works as a health promoter with The Next Door, Inc., and delivers food to families in the need throughout the Gorge

Gomez provides hand sanitizer and masks to her friends at the food stands near hers at Bridge of the Gods, including Native Americans selling salmon.

The cabin at Gracie’s Fruit may be familiar to some. The food truck, owned by Riverside Grill/ Hood River Inn Best Western Plus, was hand-painted with words and images several years ago by May Street School students, under direction of artist-in-residence Alison Fox and Riverside Chef Mark DeResta.

“They let me use it this year to be more comfortable,” Gomez said. “Chuck Hinman brought it and put it here for me,” Gomez said, referring to the long-time general manager at Hood River Inn. “He’s my angel. He really is.”

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